In 1995 we had seen First Person Shooters and action games from Blake Stone to PO’ed, titles that experimented or tried refining the genre. We wouldn’t see any real huge leaps in design until after 1996, however Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels on the 3DO is a game that stands out quite well from the other First Person Action games of the day.
Based on Warhammer 40k, SHV is an ambitious game. From commanding troops, to weapon variety, and a hint of survival horror, you have a product that attempts to bring in new life to the genre.
(A fellow blood angel)
The plot of the game is fairly standard. A giant ship is about to collide into a planet, and you are the Blood Angels, armored units who are tasked with intercepting the ship. Once on board, you find out that aliens have infiltrated the ship and killed the people on board. The Aliens are called the Genestealers. You communicate with your team throughout the game.
This is where it gets interesting. Space hulk is a First Person Action game that involves a bit of strategy to tackle the different missions. You have a variety of weapons from standard projectile to flame thrower, along with the “ability” for your weapon to “jam” and “overheat”. The enemies in the game are much faster than you and also hit harder. You want to try as much as possible to avoid melee combat. However your weapons having more realistic durability and the maps being very maze like keep you focused. Things get intense when you are about to complete an objective and you fear that around the corner you have to deal with maybe even more than one Genestealer.
You can give commands to your partners, as well as place them in strategic locations; you can even switch to another angel and play as them directly in some cases. But there is a catch to this; the game freezes when using map mode. Keep in mind that everything moves in the game so while you are killing an enemy, one of your allies could also be killed by an enemy at the same time on the other side of the map. This makes you think to continue to use the map to get your barrings. The issue is the limitation as to how long you can freeze so once you run out and even when fixing up your strategy, everything still keeps on moving.
The game puts you on the edge of your seat as you try to conserve weapons, command your troops, and finish the objective. Which can range from “escorting”, destroying certain objects, and more.
In this game there isn’t any music. It is replaced with communications among your allies and “let’s move across the haunted house while not knowing whats around the corner breathing heavily” sound. It makes the game intense and keeps you on your feet. I will say though you have to in multiple scenarios, be aiming on the dot to hit some targets or complete objectives, any rapid misuse of any weapon can backfire on you and your allies will need to face the enemy to attack them. The game becomes relentless later on.
The game was released on the PSX/SAT as well as PC. While I have no experience with the PC version the PSX/SAT versions of the game, which are the same, have odd frame-rate issues and worse collision detection. This makes the game highly frustrating and nearly unplayable. I would stick with 3DO and PC versions if you can access them.
The game differs from other FPS titles with it’s environment, strategy, and rules for how to use it’s mechanics. It is a real treat and one of the first big deviations from the Doom or the more common Wolfenstein formula. For 3DO owners this game is a real treat. If you are not the patient type and don’t want to think and prefer the quick gameplay of fast-paced FPS, then this game may not be for you. But if you want something with a lot of variety, strategy, and quick thinking, this is the game for you!
“An amazing game that makes you think ahead and conserve your weapons. Not just for ammo alone, but in case your weapons jam or overheat as well. The horror like atmosphere keeps you on your toes, and gives fans of DOOM and Blake Stone a completely different take on the FPS genre.”- Verzu Chase