So I've put about 3 hours in on this game now, taking me to the point of no refund, and here are my thoughts thus far.
I was never really interested in D&D style gaming as a kid, but Warhammer40k lore always fascinated me. Something about the mixture of weird technology, enhanced super warriors battling in space with exotic weaponry revered as quasi religious totems, the notion of a near immortal emperor worshipped as a God, all pitted against a race terrifying mutant beasts swarming out of Warp space; it just seemed so awesome. I bought the figures, got my paints and set to work creating my own little chapter of miniature marines. I had no intention of engaging with other fans of the lore on a table top battleground. Rather I was simply content to sit back, admire my artistry and daydream of epic wars raging through time across the expanse of the cosmos via the twisted dimension of the Warp.
So it goes without saying that this is very much the game I've fantasised about for many years now. Even as a relatively mature adult nearing middle age the love of the W40K world has never really waned and the thought of an FPS running on a high performance PC with the latest Unreal engine is a gaming dream come true for me.
Great news it is then to report that I'm really happy with what's on offer here. This absolutely is the Warhammer 40k FPS Ive been waiting for since my teenage years. I was concerned that the swaying motion and heavy metallic stomping of my boots might get tiresome early on but I find it really reinforces the sense of weight and sheer presence that I have in the environment. Stomping around in my sacred armour I absolutely feel like a Terminator doing the emperor's divine bidding as I mercilessly scythe the Genestealer hordes bearing down on my squad. As I look around I can see the edges of my armour infringing very slightly on my field of vision, a touch which adds to the immersion without being intrusive.
My squad mates look superb and I've spent a fair bit of time just gawking in admiration at these beautfully detailed models wielding their assorted weaponry. Watching the pasable AI turning mobs of Genestealers to paste is a joy to behold. Like all game AI they do have moments of stupidity but all in all they're better than most I have experienced in other much bigger titles. No getting stuck in doorways here, and they generally respond well to unexpected threats so the single player experience works well enough that I'm happy to have my team around me.
At any point during a mission you can warp to a special chamber to heal and change your loadouts. I think this is limited to 4 warps in any mission. It's really useful to switch loadouts at various stages, plus your fellow Adeptus Astartes will get fully healed. Given how quickly a surprise attack can decimate your squad this is tremendously useful.
The space hulk environments thus far look simply fantastic. Gothic cathedral architecture sprouts from the walls of giant chambers and halls that throb with bizarre looking machinary, crackling with blue electrical energy. Religious scriptures adorn the walls and charcoal braziers and torches juxtapose against holographic displays and monitors displaying diagnostic data, dimly lighting the corners of these vast spaces while the detritus of war litters the floor around you. Although some of the textures are bit weak and generic the overall effect is convincing and immersive. The complexity of the chambers and corridors leave you wondering where the next swarm will spring from, fuelling the sense of unease. There is never really a moment when you feel completely safe in the space hulk. Genestealer swarms are largely scripted/triggered, but there seems to be some randomness thrown in to the mix as well, so playing through an area the second time round can result in a surprise attack from the rear or flanks when you thought that zone would be safe.
The combat is basic, in this early stage at least, but great fun. The environments are designed such that there is nearly always the possibility that the enemy will come at you from multiple directions in three dimensions. The game does force you to think tactically, attempting to force the enemy into confined killing zones as much as possible. This can be augmented by sealing doors behind you and hacking the ship defences to work to your advantage, but you always feel that there is a vulnerability outside your field of vision. Careful placement of your squad means that they can cover the clear fields of fire while you assist and watch out for flanking attacks that might compromise your position. Inevitably at some point the swarms will overwhelm you and you will find yourself in midst of a wild melee while firing your psyker powers to push the horde back in the hope that you can buy a few seconds to reload your weapon. Some people have criticised certain details of the weaponry, for example complaining that the bolter should be less of an automatic weapon and more of a cannon. However it's easy to see why the devs chose not to follow the specifications of the weapons exactly. In real time combat you desperately need to be able to mow down Genestealer mobs as they can overpower your squad in seconds if you miss just one or two targets during an attack. It's not a case of 'if' your defences crumble, but rather 'when'. So far I've only encountered Genestealers and their hybrid colleagues so I'm not sure how combat will pan out going forwards. The current mixture of incoming rocket fire and close combat swarming is more than entertaining enough for the moment.
Overall a commendable effort has been made to immerse the player in a sense of the game lore from startup onwards. The voice acting is solid and takes itself seriously, sensibly making appropriate use of British accents. The in game tutorial is set in a training environment appropriate to the world, but is also concise and brief so you aren't having to waste time listening to lengthy and pointless monologues. I did the tutorial in about 4 minutes with a bit of wandering round and that was me ready to rock and roll.
My PC usually munches every game I throw at it for breakfast. The catch is that the card is a dual GPU Crossfire configuration, so it's very driver dependent if a game is to make full use of it. Fully maxed out at 3440 x 1440 resolution it runs quite smoothly until some of the bigger mobs of genestealers leap all over you, at which point the framerate drops significantly. Given the quality of the textures and the fact that this can occur in confined areas with limited draw distance I'm confident that driver updates and game patches will improve this issue. For the most part it doesnt bother me as this is often during a chaotic wild melee so pinpoint accuracy isn't required in these situations anyway.
As for longevity, that's a hard one to comment on. I think this is probably going to be a fairly basic formula that doesn't deviate much throughout the game. I'm not expecting much character driven story development, but that can be overrated anyway. Doom's plot was basically one sentence long and we loved it regardless so go figure. I think this is a game I'm going to play through and then return to again simply for the joy of being a Space Marine Terminator tasked the glorious mission of squishing genestealers by the dozen.
I hope you find the above useful. All in all I fully approve and recommend this game to anyone who wants some basic tactical action with lots and lots of lovely beasties to mow down.
Intel Core i7 4790k 4.00Ghz , 32 Gb Kingston HyperX Fury, Asus Radeon R9 295X2 8GB, Samsung 500gb SSD, Windows 8.1 64 bit.