Preview: Space Hulk: Deathwing

With the future of virtual reality (VR) within reach it was perhaps only a matter of time until AAA franchises began revealing their aspirations to become part of the upcoming wash. While the likes of Valve and id Software have seen a number of their past successes given a VR makeover the announcement of such a high profile release making use of the modern headset devices has been eagerly anticipated: first out of the gate is Focus Home Interactive’s Space Hulk: Deathwing.

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A first-person shooter (FPS) set in Games Workshops’ cherished Warhammer 40,000 universe, Space Hulk: Deathwing is as promising to deliver equal parts action and atmosphere; the perfect mix for a VR experience. The videogame places the player in the role of a Terminator – a single soldier encased in thick layers of heavy steel – who’s fighting against a horde of Genestealers. These alien creatures prove to be a powerful enemy, varying from pack hunters to solitary stalkers: the hive mind of a brood will allow all Genestealers within the area to become aware of your location once one sees you, creating a threatening atmosphere as you mow wait to see whether a pack will come storming through the vents or whether the next corner will have you turn asunder by a solitary enemy lying in wait.

Mixing up the combat somewhat are the Genestealer-human hybrids, able to take weapons into battle but far from as capable as using them as human players. The arsenal already revealed includes the familiar sword and bolt gun combination as well as the likes of the Plasma Cannon, Storm Bolter, Assault Cannon, Vengeance Assault Cannon and Flamethrower. Players can choose to balance their weapons between their squad, as while Space Hulk: Deathwing is currently being shown as a single-player experience the final build promises to include full co-operative gameplay for up to four players.

Sadly, along the lack of co-operative gameplay there was actually very little else available to experience. Combat, exploration, story and all other aspects by which you would judge the worth of a videogame remain locked-up tight. What was on show however was a single area in which the player was free to move throughout. A single Genestealer was in the room, showcasing the high quality of the real-time lighting animation, though it could not be engaged or interacted with in any way. Instead, it was a simple walkway that gave the most thrilling experience: moving towards the edge and looking into the hundred-story abyss below genuinely presenting a feeling of vertigo. There was a genuine fear that one false step would leave you without hope of anything but a sudden and very painful impact with a floor that is so distant it’s beyond your view. This, of course, is what VR is all about.

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The development team presenting Space Hulk: Deathwing were keen to emphasise the fact that Oculus Rift compatibility may not be ready on time for launch; that at present it’s something they ‘hope’ to provide as standard. Given that the preview build was only presented using Oculus Rift there’s a very good chance that creating a VR experience will remain a high priority throughout the videogame’s development. VRFocus will keep you updated with all the latest details on Space Hulk: Deathwing.

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