Have You Played… Space Hulk?

I mean the 90s EA version, not the boardgame-faithful but divisive recent adaptation. Sure, it doesn’t play so well today, but I think it’s too overlooked in discussions of that great early-90s surge of PC shooters. This was one of all too few which eschewed the Doom model in favour of something altogether more ambitious.

It was a squad shooter for starters, but it also wove in strategy elements, particularly in a pause-time overmap mode. The idea of limited pause – i.e. you could only use so much of it per mission – to provide breathing space during times of crisis remains a great idea, and one I keep trying to work into things I try/fail to make. Slam on the brakes in order to try and deal with a situation – by which I mean a slavering horde of Genestealers – and even if you can get yourself out of trouble, you’ve squandered precious pause-time that you will almost certainly need later on.

It threaded into a broader sense of fragility, and the ongoing oddity of heavily-armoured Space Marine Terminators being terrifyingly vulnerable and awkward. A Genestealer’s claw is a hot knife through butter; conversely, taking a step is slow and cumbersome. Simply turning ninety degrees takes an age, and is laced with dread about what you might see once the move is completed.

These were not supermen: they were just men being kept barely alive by their power-armour. In dispensing with dice rolls and an overhead view, Space Hulk might have played entirely differently than the boardgame, but the atmosphere of fear and fragility was masterful. Can the more overtly actiony Deathwing possibly come close to that all-encompassing sense of menace?

Also: the Genestealer art was so good.

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    distantlurker says:

    Eat metal” *punchy-face* *punchy-face*


    • apa says:

      Incoming on one! Incoming on three! DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA AAARGH Die! AAARGH BURN!

  2. theapeofnaples says:

    Played this on the Amiga as a small child and died horribly, over and over again.

    I remember it being a really stressful experience.

  3. aoanla says:

    As with theapeofnaples, I distinctly remember this from the Amiga, and I distinctly remember it being both incredibly difficult and incredibly stressful – the “limited duration pause” ticked down all too fast, and without it, you tended to get ripped apart by Genestealers because dividing your attention between multiple viewpoints is hard for puny humans.
    That said, it was also brilliant, in that sense – it’s an experience which stuck with me more than many other games, and definitely evoked the emotional state it was going for…

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    caff says:


  5. hurrakan says:

    Yep, I loved that game. Wasn’t it one of the first 3D games? I was hoping the recent Space Hulk game was a re-master of this version, but it wasn’t :( I haven’t played the new one as it didn’t sound anywhere near as good – might try it someday when it’s on sale though.

    The original was quite difficult and unforgiving. And very tense and harrowing – coordinating the movement of different squad members so you had the right weapons in the right places at the right time. The movement was klunky but it fit perfectly with the lumbering Terminators.

    Sometimes you had to sacrifice a squad member, putting them in an unrecoverable position to cover the escape of the rest of the squad.

    It was extemely satsifying when your plan works out, or when the Assault Cannon guy is about to run out of ammo, and you manage to get a melee guy back to help them just in time :)

    Vote for GoG to bring it back! link to gog.com

  6. JB says:

    I remember being at Games Day ’93 (at the NEC in Birmingham if memory serves) and seeing Space Hulk running on a couple of PCs there. I never did get to play it. Looked fantastic though!

  7. unacom says:

    I loved it.
    My Brother and I pooled our pocket money and got it even though we knew our pc wasn´t up to it, yet. When it finally was, we played the heck out of it.
    Those corridors. One of the first real horror-games.
    Onslaught. Would the storm-bolters jam? would I be able regroup and pull back once I met my objective or would the genestealers massacre my team to the last man (the guy with the lightning claws or the chainfist usually)?
    So few games make backtracking an integral part of the quest and reward it. Still love it.
    Never played Vengeance of the Blood Angels though.

  8. TomxJ says:


  9. TheApologist says:

    Was there a PlayStation version of this? I have a distinct memory of playing a console version of a Spacehulk game at a friend’s house. We both loved the game, and died a lot, and I never managed to pick up my own copy…

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      Mungrul says:

      Yup, there was a PS1 version of this; I had the demo but never owned the full game. On a related tangent, my first X-COM experience was also on PS1, as were my first Descent and Command & Conquer ones. I couldn’t afford a full-on gaming capable PC at the time, and the PS1 proved a great alternative

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      daktaklakpak says:

      I believe I had this on my 3DO. Controls were terrible, but still a lot of fun.

  10. Banyan says:

    I’ve been waiting for this game to be remade for over 20 years. So much awesomeness.

  11. hurrakan says:

    It was cool how you could see the view of each squad member, just like in the Aliens movie :)

  12. Lord Byte says:

    A lot of people are mixing this up with Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels, which was technically Space Hulk 2, much better tighter sequel, better graphics and the atmosphere and voice acting was incredible! “Zachariel you’re in my way!” – “They’re behind us!” – and the dreaded “My bolter’s jammed!”…

  13. mechavolt says:

    Urgent correction to headline:


    • Victor A Yorke says:

      Superhot 40,000 does not yet exist. Although it might work well as an Eversor Assassin sim…

      • merzbau says:


      • aoanla says:

        I honestly thought you had gotten the joke… because Eversor Assassin sim in the style of Superhot sounds awesome.

        (In fact, Imperial Assassin: The Game, with different game types for each type – maybe Spy Party-esque for the Vindicare – would definitely get my money.)

        • Victor A Yorke says:

          Callidus – Hitman mechanics, maybe with an additional system for surgical disguises?
          Culexus – I have no idea, but some kind of Dishonored-in-reverse would suit their anti-psyker and phase shifting powers.

  14. fuggles says:

    Come on rps, no link to the intro with THAT song?. Such a well drawn intro.

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    Thulsa Hex says:

    I’m not sure where it came from but I had Vengeance of the Blood Angels was on my PC as a kid. I think it was my first exposure to 40K and I absolutely loved the atmosphere and setting, even if I didn’t quite understand what anything meant. It was one of the few games I had at the time that was pretty much beyond my capabilities. It scared the living hell out of me and I never got very far, but I do remember battling my way through many a genestealer nonetheless. One of the scariest gaming moments of my life happened when I opened a door only to be blown away by this new, terrifyingly-formidable foe — one that effectively put a halt to my campaign. Was it a Chaos Marine? I’m not sure if they featured, but that’s what my brain has since decided it was.

  16. Jetsetlemming says:

    I played this as a kid on PS1. I had very little idea of how it worked, and wasted my limited pause at the beginning of every mission just looking at the map and making plans in my head.
    Then, everyone but one soldier would die and I’d play as him.

  17. apa says:

    Played this and the first tabletop roughly at the same time. Both were and are still awesome! I think this game captured the essence of the original tabletop game best.

  18. FroshKiller says:

    I never played this, but I remember reading Electronic Gaming Monthly’s short reviews of Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels for the 3DO back in 1995. There were, like, two screenshots, but the game looked so amazingly moody and atmospheric. Always wondered whether I might have liked it better than the reviewers.

  19. PancakeWizard says:

    I never got into it, I was more into the GW miniatures at that point. Reminds me of Hired Guns though.

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    ffordesoon says:

    I believe I had the 3DO or PS1 version of this, possibly both. It remains one of my favorite “never learned how to play or got more than like five minutes in and didn’t care because it was awesome” games. The claustrophobia, the simultaneous squad member feeds, the limited pause time… It’s a game that deserves to be shamelessly copied, and I say that knowing it’s probably not nearly as good as I remember.

    If someone could kindly make a spiritual successor to this that is as good as I remember, I’d be much obliged.

  21. KastaRules says:

    The main theme for the Amiga version was spectacular, it gave me the chills as a kid!

  22. Borsook says:

    The article is misleading as to how the pause system worked, it was not limited per mission, playing in real time gave you more pause time, and even in real time you could ignore shooter elements and play on the strategy map. Which was a faithful thing, as in the boardgame Space Marine player plays with a timer.