Since Space Hulk drifted its way into the Gamer igloo (it's grim this time of year up north), it's received a fair amount of attention. As we crouched around the fire the other night discussing tactics, I drifted into a slumber and dreamed we were all space marines... There we were, a lethal squad of terminators aboard the Space Hulk, our mission to destroy the genestealers before deadline.
Our mission briefing commenced, with a morale-
Sitting there, quaking in my oversized Burtons spacesuit, my expression drooped further as our squad leader continued his briefing.
"Right, we've got no choice, it's our job. Anyone who complains I'll personally take out to the fighting tree and beat seven shades out of them, so no whinging, let's get on with it! Any comments?"
From the corner of the room a timid hand slowly broke the line of stooped heads. It was technical officer Colon, trembling as he spoke.
"I think it would be a good idea if were were all a bit quieter..." he stuttered, adjusting his fluorescent shoulder band.
Before anyone could comment he was floored, one fatal blow from hard ex-con Dazza Biggs. I gulped hard and quickly started moving boxes with my Gamer colleague Biff.
I don't recall how long we lumped parcels into the silo, but that's dreams for you. Time seemed an impossible quantity to measure, everything became translucent and before I knew it we were assembled at the main entrance to the Hulk.
The hardest, finest set of marines this side of Macclesfield and me. I eyed them one by one looking into the steely grit of their vacant pupils.
Squad leader Ste-Vee, a veteran with psychopathic tendencies. Big Ozzie, second in command, a huge beast of a man and not to be trifled with. Buttux, a brutal individual with masochistic tendencies towards the young or infirm.
Then came Dazza Biggs, wanted in four separate start systems for felonies against the state. Next in line Choons Morse, who wears a sound system in battle and goes into a blood-
The silence was abruptly broken by the dulcet bark of Ste-Vee.
"Biff, Clays, lead the assault!"
I swallowed hard and nervously cocked the firing pin on my Bolter. Its sound resonated around the Hulk like the drop of the hangman's noose, cold and final.
The door of the hulk slid open and a cold wind blew at your visors. Simultaneously we both gulped, then stepped forward into the gloomy half light, shaking. Seeing the fright in our petrified eyes the others laughed, and taunted us as we switched to radio contact only.
Amid the noise of the intercom abuse, the others fell back and we explored the dark recesses of the corridor. It smelled, the stench of death lingering on the mouldy walls.
Ahead, a bend in the passage and the prospect of trouble. We don't want to move but we must. Every muscle and fibre in our bodies locked out with tension, telling us not to proceed further, but there's no choice. The corner looms, the trigger finger shakes nervously and eyes burn into the darkness searching for shapes. Then from nowhere, a screech and it's on you, violating your space. Four clawed arms scratching and tearing with no remorse. We scream but it's to no avail.
A red hue deepens over my sleep and suddenly I'm drawn from Lady Moprhine's world, slumped in front of a frosty monitor in the Gamer igloo. Rising to my feet I'm suddenly filled with calm and the realisation that this dream has given birth to an introduction which both sets the scene and shows some of the atmosphere that Space Hulk generates.
Based loosely on the role-
The game gets its name from the battleground for all the missions, the Space Hulks. These floating ghost ships are the results of cross currents in the warp drive which left them trapped. These abandoned nightmares have long been the bane of the Empire as they have become the breeding ground for the Genestealers.
The first thing to say about Space Hulk si that it's a very indepth game. In the normal 'eager to get into the action' fashion I jumped straight into one of the mission settings. Needless to say each campaign lasted about 15 seconds, with all five of the Terminators having eaten space vacuum and me me staring blankly at the screen, listening to the haunting loading tune.
Never has it been so imperative to sit down with the manual and study it. In fact, in Space Hulk there are two to peruse and they're well worth a throughscan.
The game also contains an in-depth tutorial mode which comprehensively guides you through each aspect of control and tactics. Basically, it runs off two main screens, both of which are accessed by your favourite pal the mouse. The main screen contains 3D windows of your team and an overhead scanner view.
There are five windows in all, the largest being the central one which normally contains the character you wish to control. This isn't to say that control isn't possible within the four smaller windows, it's just that due to the size, control is easier to instigate in the central one.
Movement and firing within the graphic window is via a cursor which alters depending upon its position within the window. At the edges of the window it moves you in the relative direction to its position and in a more central position it changes into a crosshair and fires your weapon.
Due to the nature of Space Hulk and the speed of which the Genestealers attack, a number of strategical options have been implemented. Clicking on the right mouse buttonw hen the cursor is on the overhead scanner transfers you to a control screen, where team orders can be given. Here icons allow you to order your squad members to move, open and close doors, and most importantly, put down fire.
Another feature is overwatch mode. This adds an extra dimension of intelligence to your team and should be treated as a default mode for moving.
For example, when one of your marines is following your orders and something attacks him, it would be quite natural for hims to react - overwatch implements this for your automatically.
Obviously with five or even ten marines at your disposal, planning and ordres can take quite a while, so a freeze time facility is included.
Unfortunately for you, freeze time is limited so you can't take a light year deliberating over strategy. However, the longer you play in real time, the quicker your freeze builds up again.
Once you've completed the tutorial, there are over 50 missions to pit your wits against, including the ominous Deathwing campaign.
In the Deathwing campaign you can make the decision over which squad to take into battle and which type of weaponry you fancy kitting your Terminators out with. There are 12 in total and they vary from the rocket-
Once you've established how to control Space Hulk, it becomes a fairly atmospheric, addictive title. All right, it drags most of its inspiration form Aliens, but it's for you to decide whether that's a good thing or not.
Most of the Hulks are very similar in style and the graphics aren't that well rendered. However, they're effective enough and coupled with the moody soundtrack give enough of an overall effect.
The main problem with Space Hulk is that it really is difficult. The Genestealers move quicker than Sooty would do if Harry Corbett's hand was cryo
For worse though is the amount of disk accessing you have to go through and the fact that the program isn't hard drive installable. You might think I'm being pedantic, but after the seventh mission failure it starts to grate a little. You've spent a total of 45 seconds getting annihilated and 35 minutes disk swapping to the sound of something off Scooby Doo.
This aside though, once you've mastered the control you'll really get into Space Hulk and find it addictively challenging for a long while.