SPACE HULK / Electronic Arts / PC
 
 
Space Hulk is one of those games that's great conceptually, but the actual execution leaves a lot to be desired, probably because it was just too ambitious for the technology and programming expertise of the time. The game is set in the Warhammer 40k universe (perhaps the first computer game to do so?), and you control a squad of up to five Doomed Space Marines as they explore "space hulks", abandoned floating vessels riddled with the Alien-like creatures called Genestealers. You control the entire squad in real-time, switching between them on the fly using a monitor that shows all of their perspectives simultaneously; it's kinda like playing an old dungeon crawl like Eye of the Beholder, just managing five parties simultaneously in the same dungeon.

Again, interesting idea, but the price for trying to do this in 1993 is that it's very slow and clunky. Marines move and turn ridiculously slow. Part of this is intentional for atmospheric purposes, but the Genestealers (who respawn infinitely from pre-set spawn points) are just way the hell too fast and numerous for the slow and weak Space Marines (there's no visible health bar but generally two to three hits offs them.) The Space Marines currently not under your control will also only fire if something pops up in front of them; enemies suddenly approaching a unit you're not controlling from the side or back usually means death for them, and another problem with the auto-fire is that the "flamers" (guys with flamethrowers) seem to shoot right through fellow Space Marines and kill them in a panic when an alien approaches.
 


The only thing that makes this all halfway manageable is "planning mode", where you can freeze the action at any time and go into an overhead, table-top-like view from which you can give each of your units orders to execute automatically. However, to adapt to aliens coming from new directions, you still have to manually turn them and fire while the action is ongoing. So the "strategy" here really boils down to foreknowledge of where the aliens are going to come from and where the objectives are, to move your troops from one optimal spot to the next. So you're looking at a lot of repetitive try-and-die in the mechanics.

The game does look very nice and is chock full of digitized sound, including rudimentary lines of speech during the Dune 2-esque mission briefings. Nice atmosphere, but the gameplay was already clunky and difficult when it came out and 20 years hasn't improved that at all.
 
 
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