Review: Warhammer 40’000: Space Marine
With an enjoyable singleplayer campaign, epic combat and a well-crafted multiplayer, Relic's newest addition to the 40k series will surely please both fanboys and newcomers alike.
- Worth The Time?Yes.
- Things LovedGory, highly entertaining combat. Transition between melee and ranged is extremely smooth. Captured the essence of the 40k universe beautifully. Dynamic level design and gameplay variety ensures that boredom shouldn't be an issue during singleplayer.
- Things HatedHorde battles in the later stages of the game on higher difficulty became ridiculously difficult. One or two anti-climatic boss fights.
- RecommendationIf you have spare money and time, or you are a fan of the 40k franchise, pick it up without a doubt. If you don't, rather save for one of the bigger releases coming out soon.
- Name: Warhammer 40'000: Space Marine
- Genre: Third-Person Shooter
- Players: 1 - 16
- Multiplayer: Co-op incoming, 2 - 16 (Multiplayer)
- Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
- Developer: Relic Entertainment
- Publisher: THQ
- Price: PC: R350, Console: R500
- Reviewed On: PC
In my Space Marine preview, I told you that Relic Entertainment had created a high-quality framework for Space Marine, but we had yet to see whether they would actually be able to use that framework to create a game worth playing. To be honest, I pre-ordered Space Marine more out of a knee-jerk reaction as a fan of the Warhammer 40’000 franchise than anything else, and didn’t really expect Space Marine to deliver much on top of the aforementioned framework.
I can proudly announce, however, that I’ve never been happier about being wrong.
This review is going to cover aspects of the game which correlate directly to its enjoyability (apparently that’s a word), such as linearity, storyline, difficulty and what not. If you want to know more about the gameplay aspects of Space Marine, I suggest you check out my preview which goes into all of that nonsense in pretty meticulous detail (bitches gotta know ’bout them crosshairs).
The game takes place in the Warhammer 40’000 universe, where the Imperium of Man is trying to both expand their inter-planetary empire and defend the thousands of planets which are already under their control. Space Marines, genetically engineered super-humans who dispense both death and ass-kickings to the Imperium’s enemies at a rate which exceeds both the speed and efficiency of an AIDS activist handing out condoms on a university campus. Arguably inappropriate metaphors aside, these are the badasses who spearhead humanity’s conquests and purvey righteous fury upon those audacious enough to attempt to conquest back.
In Space Marine, we’re looking at the latter case. A bunch (where ‘bunch’ is roughly equal to a million — give or take a couple of hundred) of Orks have invaded Forgeworld Graia (a planet devoted to making big, shiny weapons to kill things like Orks for the Imperium of Man). The problem is that that which kills Orks kills humans just as well, so the Imperium would prefer it if the Orks didn’t manage to get hold of some of the more strategically valuable wares found on Graia — the skyscraper-high walking mech of doom, dubbed the ‘Titan’, for example. If you’ve seen Megas XLR, you’ll know what I’m getting at here. If you haven’t… why are you alive?
During the course of you holding off the aforementioned Ork army, the Chaos Marines also start invading. Chaos Marines are basically Space Marines who went a tad nutty after succumbing to the taint of the Warp. Before you ask, the Warp is basically this really trippy inter-dimensional energy, through which the Gods of Chaos see their less-than-desirable work done. Which is just as fun as it sounds.
So, long story short, you, Captain Titus of the Ultramarines (a specific order of Space Marines who follow the Codex Astartes) and your two buddies are dispatched to Graia to essentially stop two invading armies from securing one of the most valuable military assets in the Imperium of Man until the main fleet can arrive — probably to pat you on the back, or something, seeing as all the work is going to be done by the time they get there.
In case the plot introduction didn’t allude to it enough already, there is quite a bit of combat in Space Marine. I mean, I’m not going to say that it’s a combat-centric game, but there is a fair amount to kill. And by a fair amount, I mean the following:
You know that million-strong Ork army I mentioned ealier? Yeah, I killed about half of that. And that was before I unlocked the Thunder Hammer.
Luckily, there is a pretty simple method we can use to judge combat-centric (damn, I’ve said it now, haven’t I?) games: if the combat sucks, the game will too.
Luckily, Space Marine’s combat doesn’t suck. I can’t stress enough just how enjoyable it is, and just how manly you feel when you shred the head off of a particularly unlucky Ork with your chainsword.
So many games put you in positions where they either try to convince you that you are a one-man army, when in gameplay terms you actually aren’t, or where you end up being a one-man army when, according to logic, you aren’t supposed to be. The amazing thing about Space Marine is that the game tells you that you are a one-man army, and you actually are one.
The game manages to balance the difficulty in this regard very well, as well. While you may be able to dispense the rough equivalent of a metric tonne of ass-whipping all over the battlefield, you have to do so with a decent amount of finesse to avoid a painful, embarrassing death. In the later stages of the game especially, dealing with large hordes of enemies can be particularly challenging, especially given all of the different abilities you have to avoid in order to not die. That said, higher difficulties in later stages of the game may lead to some very frustrating deaths due to the fact that you can still be damaged while performing executions to regain life.
On top of being fast-paced, challenging and more fun than punching dolphins in the face, combat definitely doesn’t lack variety, either. The game throws a number of different enemies at you in a number of different scenarios, meaning that despite its linearity, Space Marine certainly does not become monotonous.
There is also a lot of variety in terms of how you want to approach combat. Throughout the game, the player has a number of different weapons at their disposal, and is given regular opportunities to switch their arsenal around. What this means is that in most cases, a re-enactment of the Texas Chainsword massacre and a long-range slug-fest are equally viable options. There is a lot of weapon variety in between those two extremes, as well, so the player certainly won’t be left bored in terms of their own capabilities.
At the end of the day, the true test of a combat-centric game is how manly you feel both during and just after combat. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the one below sums up pretty much everything I could possibly say in response to my above criteria:
A game cannot stand on good combat alone, however, so here are the other aspects of Space Marine which make it as good as it is:
Level design and collectibles. There are some reviewers who have cried about the linearity of Space Marine, specifically in terms of level design. Don’t listen to them. They’re the same people who, if the game wasn’t designed as ‘linearly’ as it is, would cry about how the game is a maze, which breaks the flow of the game and makes the player piss around trying to find the right direction to go in. Space Marine is a combat-centric game, and, thankfully, Relic knows that, and have designed their levels around it. They (the levels) are logically and intuitively designed, making combat ebb and flow appropriately. That said, Relic haven’t just copy-pasted different corridors for you to run down while they throw generic bunches of enemies as you — the game shines in terms of how varied the levels are, and the player never feels as if they are simply repeating the same design over and over again. Relic throws jump-pack (read: jet pack) sections of gameplay in every now and then to spice things up a bit. It works. They’re awesome.
The player also needs to do a bit of exploring on each level, however, to find the audio logs scattered therein. The audio logs are pretty plentiful, telling the story of the invasion, and other plot-specific aspects from perspectives of guardsmen, factory workers and one or two more main characters as well. The logs are very well done, as well as being well hidden in most cases, and they really add a lot to the overall feel of the game… if you ignore the likelihood of them being conveniently placed where you found them, that is.
Voice acting. To put it simply: good. To elaborate on that adjective a tad, the voice acting is believable and varied, with each character having been given a voice which fits the personality Relic creates around them. Good show.
Funnily enough, that leads me into my next point quite well, as well. As I mentioned earlier, Titus has two other Ultramarine buddies who hang around with him, as well. I quite enjoyed how Relic developed their personalities over time, and by the end of the game they had certainly become more than just two random tag-alongs. I’m honestly really impressed by how they added that dynamic to the game; it gives it a level of depth which many shooters lack.
Storyline. The game crafts a relatively simple yet interesting storyline, with a number of twists which keep the player interested throughout the game’s 8-12 hours of gameplay. Those without a background knowledge of the 40k universe may be left in the dark a tad, as many aspects of the story inherent to the 40k universe aren’t really explained (the relationship between Space Marines and the Chaos, for example. And what the hell the warp is). If you have a head on your shoulders, though, you should be able to grasp what is going on relatively well.
Fanboys. Longstanding (hell, even shortstanding) fans of the Warhammer franchise will be very pleased with the representation of the universe in this game, and will enjoy the singleplayer storyline even more, as they will be able to appreciate the true magnitude of the events transpiring. There are also quite a few “I see what you did there,” moments, as plenty of references are made to the lore and other general aspects of the 40k universe.
Bugs. In the time I spent playing, I only encountered two bugs in terms of the game not proceding to the next objective after I had completed the last one, but reloading the last checkpoint (which generally wasn’t too far away) fixed that.
Multiplayer. It too is great fun, managing to bring the aspects which made combat awesome in singleplayer to the table, while maintaining balance. As the player levels up by completing objectives and getting kills, they unlock more powerful weapons and perks, which they can use to kill the poor bastards who oppose them even more effectively. By levelling up and completing challenges, the player can also unlock a whole host of shiny armour sets and individual armour pieces, which they can use to customise both their Space Marine and Chaos Marine avatars.
Overall, the multiplayer really is a barrel of laughs, and will surely promise you many more hours of satisfied game time. Unfortunately, there isn’t a particularly huge South African community going, but the game copes extremely well with high pings (on PC, at least) and I was able to play on European servers without much hassle — in fact, they hardly hindered my experience at all. On that note, there is a Steam community for Space Marine, which organises regular multiplayer matches. I’ve jammed with them. They’re cool guys. Searching ‘Warhammer Space Marine South Africa’ will take you to the group with minimum hassle.
Ultimately, Warhammer 40’000: Space Marine is a very entertaining game and an admirable offering from Relic, especially considering that this is their first outing into the Third-Person Shooter genre. The combat makes you feel like the man you are from start to finish, and the game’s story is an engaging one, which keeps you interested throughout the singleplayer campaign. The multiplayer is a hoot as well, though a lack of community may hinder your experience somewhat. Fanboys will no doubt be pleased with the portrayal of their favourite fictional Sci-fi setting.
Were this June or July, I would tell you to pick up this game without any shadow of a doubt. The tragedy of Space Marine, however, is that it is a double A (I think that exists) game being released in a season of triple A titles, which probably means that it isn’t going to be given the love or recognition it deserves. A pity, too, because it really was an achievement for Relic.
Lastly, those interested in Co-op and free DLC will be excited to hear that Space Marine has a free Co-op DLC mode being released in October, where the players teaming up must fight off waves of increasingly more hardcore enemies. Think Horde mode, but with bolters and Orks.