I must admit that our hearts sank when we heard that Space Hulk: Deathwing was in production. Though Warhammer 40K has spawned its fair share of great games (Relic Entertainment are still annoyingly coy about the next Dawn Of War, damn them), the announcement that Focus Home Interactive were publishing a first-person shooter wasn't what we wanted to hear.
You know, because Focus Home's track record is... inconsistent... outside of Blood Bowl and Sherlock Holmes. And Full Control's Space Hulk reboot was a load of old cobblers.
However, a clutch of new screenshots and the specific developer involved have piqued our interest considerably - perhaps enough to get cautiously optimistic about what could be a fiercely unique tie-in.
First up: the new screenshots. Though likely airbrushed and optimised to within an inch of their lives, they're a shiny look at what Unreal Engine 4 could bring to the property. We'll spread them out across the article
so you're forced to read it because symmetry is beautiful.
As you can see, it's clear that StreumOn Studio has focused on getting the atmosphere just right; the claustrophobic horror of stalking the nightmarish Tyranids throughout treacherous ancient starships. UE4's lighting effects are clearly paying dividends, which will be key for setting the tone.
After all, Full Control's Space Hulk managed to ruin any sense of tension with its hilarious animations that made all the Blood Angels look desperate for a toilet break and Genestealers resemble shambling idiots.
That's more like it. Of course, it's important to take early screenshots like these with a huge grain of salt, and to make sure that any excitement is tempered with an enormous dose of stoic pragmatism. Or in other words: expect much airbrushing and lies.
However, our main reason for remaining cautiously upbeat about the project is actually StreumOn themselves.
See, Terminator armour lends itself to unique gameplay when it comes to first-person shooting. Rather than a cover-seeking grunt, you're a self-assured veteran of countless wars stuffed into the equivalent of a Main Battle Tank: a hulking death fortress that walks like a man. The Deathwing don't retreat, they don't budge one inch, rather they step into the fray with fearless intractable force no matter the odds, backed up by versatile Librarian force skills and trailing in the wake of lightning-fast Ravenwing squads.
As such, it requires a totally different way of thinking compared to other first person shooters. Which is where StreumOn Studio come to the fore, since their resume includes the ridiculously ambitious EYE: Divine Cybermancy.
EYE: Divine Cybermancy cannot be described as a great game. In fact, you can make a compelling argument for being an empirically bad game if you're particularly closed-minded. But there's no denying that it's fiercely unique, draped in a darkly rich gothic art style, real atmosphere and including more gameplay variety and choice than the Deus Ex sequels.
From sniping and psychics to hacking and limitless multiplayer, StreumOn fearlessly innovated on a shoestring budget even when they far outreached the limits of their engine, creating something wonderful, hilariously broken and frankly fantastic in my humble opinion. Plus, again, it's clear that they're already overqualified in the art direction department...
With Unreal Engine 4, better funding and a much clearer focus on what they're supposed to be creating, there's a good chance that they'll deliver something stylish and staggeringly innovative that's also solid from a technical standpoint.
Mind you, there's also a good chance that it could go horribly wrong. We'll have to get hands-on before making any value judgements, but for now, file Deathwing under "cautiously optimistic."
Can we have a Grey Knights game next, please?