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GDC 2013: Space Hulk lurches towards release


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Since I'm a huge Warhammer 40k fan, I was very excited to hear that a company named Full Control is planning to port the old Space Hulk board game to iOS, and I was even more excited to find the game up and running on the floor of GDC last week in San Francisco. Unfortunately, Full Control's game has quite a bit of development yet to go. It's definitely working, and the team is moving towards an iOS-playable version of the famous Warhammer board game. But the animations and the balance both need a lot of work yet before the title is set to arrive this fall.

If you've never played Space Hulk, it's essentially a very condensed, close-quarters battle simulation set in the Warhammer 40k universe. You play as a crew of Space Marines (big, hulking soldiers equipped with heavy armor) aboard a giant ship, with monstrous creatures called genestealers in between you and certain objectives. Turn by turn, you move your Space Marines tactically down crowded corridors, trying to break through the genestealer lines in a series of scenarios.

I saw the game played on a PC, though Full Control says it's hoping to release on PC, Mac and iPad all at the same time, and it's even trying to get an iPhone version done, though the game's controls aren't really viable at the moment for a screen that small. It definitely looked cramped and dingy, which is what you want in a game like this, though lots of the graphical elements weren't done, including the animation of the Space Marines moving around. The team may have a bit of an issue getting the graphics running on the iPad, too: Full Control's rep said a lot of the dynamic lighting might have to be removed to run the game on the tablet.

The other major issue with Space Hulk right now is that the game is hard. Really hard. Obviously, a tactical board game shouldn't be a walk in the park, but even in the short demo I saw, the developer got rushed by genestealers very quickly, and only by luck was able to take one or two of them down. His whole party was soon overwhelmed as the Space Marines moved across the grid-based board trying to shore up the lines, and we lost on the very first level.

Obviously, the game is a long way out from release, and the team has plenty of time to streamline the title down a bit to make sure that new players can at least figure things out. But Space Hulk looks like a relatively faithful version of the old board game, and Warhammer 40k enthusiasts will undoubtedly be happy to hear the Marines call each other "brother" and stomp around the dark spaceship's hallways. We'll look for a more refined version of the title later on this year.

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