Space Hulk PS Vita review

I love writing reviews about games that I like. In fact it feels really good to write a positive review about a game I really love and share it with people. Unfortunately I also believe in honest reviews and I can’t give this game a good review for the Vita.

Now I love Game Workshop. They make some of the best table top war games. Both the Warhammer and Warhammer 40k games are the most popular but Games Workshop also makes other games. In fact one of the most popular board games they ever released was called Space Hulk. It was one of my favorite games when I was younger and I would still play it today if I had it. The basic idea of the game is that you lead a squad of Space Marines from the Blood Angels chapter, or occasionally an other chapter like the Space Wolves, through a giant derelict ship called a space hulk. You attempt to complete a mission against almost impossible odds to accomplish some goal like finding a lost treasure or resource. The main threat to the Space Marines are Tyranid Gene Stealers. An alien race similar to the Xenomorphs from the Alien™ movie franchise.

Sounds like a great premise for a game right? Honestly it is and there have been successful video game adaptations made before.

Overview

The Vita version of Space Hulk was recently released on the PSN store for the PS Vita. It recreates the claustrophobic corridors and tight turn based strategy gameplay of the original board game fairly well. That’s the only good thing I could say about the version released for the vita. Now when the game was originally released (for iPad) it was not that bad. Smooth animations, clear menus and, and challenging gameplay. The Vita version is an exact port of the iOS version of the game including all of the DLC from the iOS version. The problem is when the game was played on an iPad the large screen made the menus clear to read and the touch screen was intuitive. By releasing the game exactly as it was on the iPad with no improvements or optimization was a big mistake by the developers. The menus are very difficult to read, the mix of requiring the touch screen for some actions and the physical buttons for others makes it confusing to play, and the game is just poorly translated to the smaller screen. Another issue is that the load times are some of the longest I’ve seen on the Vita, the Graphics are subpar, and there is a lot of stuttering when there is any action on the screen.

Not as engaging as advertised due to the low quality of the port.

Not as engaging as advertised due to the low quality of the port.

Gameplay

The gameplay is not terrible for what it is.The game is actually very faithful to the source material. Some of the missions are even the same as the original board game. The controls on the iPad version worked really well. Unfortunately they are terrible on the Vita. The buttons are very small on the Vita screen and difficult to press, especially if you have big fingers. The buttons on the menus are touch screen only. While the in game controls are a mix of touch screen and the physical buttons. For example if you want to have a marine face a specific direction you have to hold the X button while pressing in the direction you want to face. But moving is much each by touching. Selecting an action to do is easier on the physical controls since the on screen buttons are incredibly small. If you could get past that then the game is somewhat playable. That is if you don’t mind the game stuttering after an action is completed.

Graphics

The visuals in this game are hit and miss. There is a first person camera in the top right corner which is a nice feature. The atmosphere is dark and fits the theme of the game perfectly. The graphics are not up to current standards for a Vita game though. In fact the PSP has games with better graphics. The mini cut scenes that occur sometimes during a fight are similar to cutscene quality on the PS1. The menus are very small and it is very difficult to read any text on the screen. The reason for this is the game was designed for the larger iPad screen originally and the port to the Vita is very poor. With a little tweaking like increasing the font size and making the HUD a little bigger would have increased the playability of the game considerably. Also the load times are very long for a game with such poor graphics. The first few stages are very basic and small. There are not a lot of environmental factors, few Gene Stealers and Marines, and still the gameplay is slow and stutters a lot.

This is what the action cut scenes look like. Not bad as a still image but these stutter so badly in the actual game that you can't really enjoy it

This is what the action cut scenes look like. Not bad as a still image but these stutter so badly in the actual game that you can’t really enjoy it

Sound

The sound is not bad and is pretty much on par with the iPad version. The sound is better with headphones on. Voices are pretty clear and the sound effects are not bad. The music is like most of the games based on the Warhammer 40k universe, somewhat epic and operatic with choruses in the background. This is limited to some of the cut scenes and the start screen and menus however. During the missions you only sound effects and voices. It adds to the atmosphere though which is a positive. music would probably ruin the mood.

Replay Value

There are a lot of missions to keep you occupied. There is also a “hotseat” mode where you can play with another player who plays as the Gene Stealers. You play by handing the Vita back and forth because there is no online capabilities during the game and no AdHoc mode. This brings up another point about the game. During the game all WiFi is diabled. So you will you not receive notifications or be able to message people. More than once after turning off the system I had to hard reset the Vita to get the WiFi to turn on again. Just a weird thing that I don’t understand about the game.