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Space Hulk

For: Mobile

Back when I was your age...

Product: Warhammer 40,000 Space Hulk | Developer: Mnemonic Studios | Publisher: THQ Wireless | Format: Mobile | Genre: Card/ board game, Shooter, Strategy | Players: 1-2 | Networking: on one device | Format: J2ME | Reviewed on: N-Gage QD other handsets | Network: 3, Easy Mobile, Fresh, O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Virgin, Vodafone | Version: Europe
Warhammer 40,000 Space Hulk Mobile, thumbnail 1
As hard as we think we might have it in the early years of the 21st century, we’ve actually got a pretty comfortable life. As the old folks delight in telling you on a daily basis, things were harder in their day. Back in their day there was no TV, food was rationed, the Hun was gathering across the English channel and pocket gaming amounted to little more than a pack of playing cards and, if you were lucky, a conker or two. And, if Space Hulk is anything to go by, matters are going to go downhill again any time soon, as the future’s bleak. Yep, enjoy it while it lasts: right here, right now, might be as good as it gets.

Because THQ Wireless’ rendition of the Games Workshop board game of the same name will send you forward into the 41st millennium (some point in the 40,000s, we’re assured), where humanity is beset on all sides by nasty creatures which invariably have large, sharp claws and teeth. You’re dropped into the relative safety of a suit of large armour, given a gun (which, frankly, could be bigger), and told to clear out a derelict spaceship floating through the galaxy. This ship – the titular space hulk – is infested with genestealers, an irksome species with a penchant for disembowelling anything coming their way.

Space Hulk actually contains two games: an action mode and a tactical mode that both offer you the chance to play as either the heroic Space Marine Terminators or the evil genestealers. Side chosen, you’re given a mission to complete and then it’s off into the dark corridors of the hulk. Play the action mode and you’ll experience a first-person shooter style game, viewing the action through the eyes of your chosen protagonist. The action takes place in real-time and you’ll have genestealers swarming all over you in minutes in what amounts to a clunky, if atmospheric, sci-fi thriller that’s not unlike the movie Aliens.

The tactical mode, though, is the undisputed highlight of Space Hulk; here you play as if it were a board game, with each side taking turns to move and fight with their players. Each character, whether it be the endlessly-spawning genestealers or one of the five-man Terminator squads, has a limited number of action points that dictate what you can do in your turn. This means you have to seriously consider your moves and it’s not unlike chess – you need to be able to see three or four moves ahead if you’re going to win. When you’ve used up the action points of your Terminators/genestealers, your turn ends and it’s the enemy’s go. This style of play might sound slow and tedious and, in places, it is. But the majority of the time it serves to build tension by seeing if the genestealers will fall into your ambush or whether that last Terminator will have enough action points to escape before the pursuing monsters can catch up. The turn-based play also means that two pocket gamers can play at once, facing off against each other in a hot-seat game.

The game looks good, too. While the first-person perspective action mode undoubtedly goes for the big bangs with it’s 3D levels, the top-down tactical game actually looks better. The on-screen characters are crisp and detailed, and while there’s not a lot of detail or difference in the levels you’ll explore, it’s in keeping with the mood of the game, so you don’t mind. There’s certainly enough to occupy your attention: there are 3 difficulty levels and 22 missions for you to complete, which you can attempt as either side. So you could almost say that there are 44.

Of course, you are going to need a certain amount of patience. It’ll take you time to get into the mood and on the first few missions you’re liable to get hacked or blown to pieces in short order. But persevere and you’ll find a hugely satisfying and challenging game that's even more fun than playing with a stick and hoop.
Space Hulk
Reviewer photo
Mike Abolins | 22 January 2006
Forget the action shooter and revel instead in a cerebral, strategic challenge that's rare to find
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