The Games Workshop universe, futuristic or fantasy, is absolutely ripe for video game fodder. We had the game based on Heroquest years ago, Space Hulk was also pretty cool, and of course there have been the RTS games such as Dawn of War. This time though, the universe has moved to the action game, with Warhammer 40K Space Marine. Relic, the developers behind the aforementioned Dawn of War games and Company of heroes, throw themselves into the 3rd-person genre, and is it actually any good? Continue dear reader, and hear my thoughts.
In the future, there is only war. There are probably also parties, but this game doesn’t cover them. A huge battalion of stinking Orks have invaded an Imperial forge world, where weapons, including the massive battle titans that are used to kick so much alien ass, are constructed on mass. Losing the planet is not an option, but the liberation fleet en-route to the planet may not arrive in time, so a squad of Ultramarines, led by Captain Titus, have to capture key locations on the planet and hold out until back up arrives. As always, things don’t go to plan….
What I liked:
The Warhammer universe is one that’s been painstakingly crafted over the last 30 odd years, and Relic have done a fantastic job realising that world on a vast scale. Buildings crumble, ships lie smashed where they crashed into the floor, plumes of smoke rise from distant buildings….it almost looks like the aftermath of the recent London riots. The scale is immense, from ravaged battlefields to the vast chambers of the Manufactorum that holds the Titans…it really is huge, but there are also smaller, more cramped parts of the game that in battle really get messy, in a good way. Captain Titus, voiced by the always awesome Mark Strong, is a great frontman in the game, barking orders to his squad and imperial guardsmen in a determined way, chopping his way through hordes of the enemy quoting lines from the Emperor as he does so. The Orks are also well done, sounding like cockney barrow boys for the most part, and it’s very rare that you’re only fighting a couple of them….they usually attack in the dozens with various weapons, from axes to guns, rocket launchers to explosives tied onto the back of squigs.
Gameplay is typical 3rd person fare, triggers taking up the aim and fire functions, action and reload buttons are where you would expect, and weapon swaps are mapped to the D-pad. It’s drawn lots of comparisons to Gears of War, but to be honest, it reminded me more of the awesome game, Transformers: War for Cybertron…the characters move around and have weight to them that’s very reminiscent of that game, rather than Gears. Combat is fast and furious, with the various hand weapons such as chainswords and battle axes giving the player the most satisfaction. Certain weapons are suited to different enemies, and you’ll soon find your favourite combinations for your battles. A couple of stages in the game sees the on foot action broken up with the help of jump packs, which will see you raining death from above in an oh so satisfying way, and killing enough enemies gives you the option of unlocking a rage move which almost leaves you invincible for ten seconds or so, and you can really go to town on the greenskins when that happens.
The plot plods along nicely, which will see you go through the game in around 6-7 hours, and introduces some other characters which sees the game take on a bit of a new twist that doesn’t really play out to it’s full potential, but it still does it’s job. Bare bones multiplayer is included, which feels pretty cool and it’s fun to play, and graphically it does the job well. The internal structures are a bit basic, but the external levels, at times, are something to behold.
What I loathed:
Well…not really that much. One bug bear that I had was the damage/health system. You have health, and your armour carries a shield system, so being attacked sees the shield drop before your health takes a hit. The only way to gain health back is to pull of an execution move on a stunned enemy. Sound simple, and it is. At times though, when you’re battering your way through 20+ bad guys armed with various weapons it can be a struggle, as you’re down to your last 1/4 of health, desperately trying to drag your armoured ass to a stunned bad guy while you have 10 orks trying to cave your head in, still chipping down your health. In later levels, where the enemies can actually kill you in a couple of hits, the health system can be extremely frustrating.
Some combat glitches can also be a bit shitty, such as grabbing an enemy for a takedown and some environmental feature gets in the way, which then sees you perform that takedown on mid air as the person you did it on gets chopped in half three feet away from you. The jump pack and gunship levels break up the action a little, but combat does take on a somewhat predictable form….shoot from distance, wait until they close in, go to close combat…..rinse….repeat. Multiplayer modes are phoned in, if still enjoyable, and with a few more modes it could have been something quite distracting.
Warhammer 40K Space Marine is a solid title. The weight feels perfect, the gameplay is tough, violent and varied, and the story is captivating enough to keep you invested in the game. With added multiplayer, which is functional at best, it’s a great start for Relic if they choose to continue with the action style of this game, and with many other Space Marine chapters, and many more aliens to fight, I can’t see it being that long before another chapter in the Space Marine saga is unleashed. There is work to be done, but if you’re into Warhammer 40K, you’ll like it.
“FOR THE EMPEROR!”
Space Marine is available on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
Visit the official site of the game right here.