Space Hulk. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May
The Space Marines are looking for a few good men. So are the Genestealers, though admittedly not for the same purpose. Welcome to the dark, feral world of Space Hulk, a fast-paced, ultraviolent adaptation of the Games Workshop's popular tabletop game. Fans of the movie Alien will quickly identify the action as a bug-hunt supreme, playing space tag against the deadliest of prey. The winners move on to greater glory; losers decorate the walls with red.
The manual sets up the savage story line about a race of superbeings bent on universal domination. Hidden in huge, abandoned ships known as Space Hulks, the Genestealers spread their mutated seed throughout the galaxies. Summoned by the Emperor, you play an Imperial Captain, charged with leading squads of elite Terminators on ship-to-ship missions to "cleanse and burn."
There's plenty here to keep you busy: five basic and nine advanced tutorials, 16 single and multisquad, scenarios, and the exhausting 22-mission Deathwing Campaign. Mission objectives vary but usually require securing specific areas; retrieving artifacts; and, most importantly, getting them before they get you.
Your role is to direct the action from two distinct vantage points: first-person tactical and top-down strategic views. The first offers the standard 3-D look down dark, uninviting corridors of doom. You control one marine at a time but supervise or switch control between nine others via small closed-circuit monitors. Realistic lighting effects limit your forward vision, forcing you to rely on sometimes unreliable local-area scanners. Your best clues are often based on sounds: creaks and rattles, hissing steam, low throaty growls, and distant screams, all crisply digitized for maximum goosebump quotient. Sometimes you see the attacks coming, while often these fleet, multi-clawed creatures seem to jump right out of the bulkhead and into your face. As expected, you have outrageous short- and long-range weaponry at your side, with names like Lightning Claws, Heavy Flamer, and Storm Bolter. Victims explode with a sickly satisfying belch of blood and body parts that don't magically disappear but pile up like last week's garbage. It's demented, to be sure, yet irresistibly exhilarating when the action erupts in nonstop, heart-pounding carnage.
The realtime strategic planning screen offers an overall view of each mission. Here you can program movement and firing commands for each Terminator in your assigned squads. This multi-tasking feature is not only a tremendous boon to your mission success but also cranks up the intensity several notches. The Freeze Time tool momentarily suspends the action, allowing you to dry your palms and gather what's left of your wits.
Armed with a slick, stream-lined interface and wondrously deranged special effects, Space Hulk is a bug blaster's nightmare come true.
(800) 245-4525 $59.95
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