REVIEWS -- Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine -- PC
And we shall no-no fear?
by Gregory Aiello
Fun factor: Average
Worth to: Buy/Rent
Who has the best power armor? These guys do.
When the idea of a Ďspace marineí is presented, there are many images that might fill our minds. Space marines have been warriors that have manifested in popular movies, literature, tabletop games, graphic novels, and video games. When someone says the words Ďspace marineí to you, which do you think of? Aliens? Doom? Halo? StarCraft?
Warhammer 40000 has been around since the late 1980s and can be said to have fathered all of the above space marines with their iconic look and galaxy gallivanting job. Thereís plenty of obvious similarities that you can find in the apparent inspirations that Blizzard took in making StarCraft, or in the creation of the power armor enthusiasm that is widely seen in video games, like Gears of War or Halo, to this day. It could be strongly argued that Games Workshop did the space marine first and therefore they did it right, but how does a game about them stack up to all their bastard sons?
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is a game that follows the actions and events that surround a small group of, umÖ well, space marines who have been beset with the task of stopping an alien invasion. These aliens are orks, and if anyone knows orks they know that thereís a lot of them and they like sharp objects. Led by Captain Titus, three space marines are charged with spearheading a counter attack to the ork invasion to save a city-world that manufactures really, really big weapons called titans.
Now, you donít need me spewing lore and throwing Warhammer vocabulary at you. Iím not here to explain the tactics of orks and space marines, and Iím not here to educate you on the back-history of any of the content you see in the game. You can find that information anywhere, and Iím looking to save you some time. What you will see here is the laymanís breakdown of the game itself.
All you need to accept about Space Marine, in terms of how it remains true to its IP, is that it doesnít need to make any exaggerations or changes to itself, and so it doesnít. Thanks to about thirty years of some of the most complete lore available for a video game, THQ had no problem creating the universe for Space Marine to exist. In fact, itís arguable that all the developers had to do was to illustrate the thousands upon thousands of pages of text available to them and digitize the miniatures that have been painted for decades... as if that was a small task in itself. Luckily, they get it right.
A timid attempt
Space Marine (on and offline), looks, feels, sounds, and excites in the exact way it would be imagined on the tabletop or in one of the novels. Itís easy to truly feel engrossed into this world and it feels complete and full. The chainsword sounds like it should and bites into enemies as you would imagine; the manufactorums are huge, looming cathedrals that inspire awe; and the enemies are savage and fierce as they are meant to be. Rest assured, if you know anything about the Warhammer 40000 universe, you will feel as if you have stepped inside of it with this game.
However, outside of this, Space Marine actually doesnít have a whole lot to offer thatís new. One of the most disappointing parts of the game is in how much it borrows from its own bastard sons. If youíve played other popular titles, such as Gears of War or Halo, you will see the elements that made those games fresh just stuck onto Space Marine in an unoriginal fashion. Right down to ripping turrets off of their stations, Space Marine borrows more than it innovates.
What Space Marine does offer thatís a little refreshing is seamless action from shooting to melee in an instant. It also introduces the concept of pulling off finisher moves in order to regenerate health. Honestly, the versatility of combat that Space Marine puts forward is the better of these two concepts. Pulling off finishers while being swarmed by orks is not only lost in the crowd of battle, but also highly impractical on the harder difficulties the game has to offer. Mostly, because you are still vulnerable during these finishers, you lose more health than you gain back unless you leave this mechanic for the end... at which point everything is dead anyway.
Yet even the combat system gets tiresome very quickly in the campaign. There are only so many ork hordes you can slaughter in slow-motion before tedium sets in. Every so often the game will introduce a vehicle sequence or some other special event to break up the endless marching. However, these events rarely come throughout the game and are over very quickly, all the while you may be asking for more.
This is a shame because the Warhammer universe has so much more to offer. There are a dozen vehicles that Captain Titus could have crawled into, just in the Space Marines army alone, and used in lengthy sequences to spice things up. You may have expected some boss fights against larger foes such as dreadnaughts or tanks, but these elements are MIA. Just putting in more of the common elements found with this IP would have also made it feel fuller. Even the sequence that involves the massive and powerful titan is over in a matter of five minutes at the apex of it firingÖ one shot. Perhaps even more depressing about this sequence is that you simply stand on top of the thing while it takes a dozen lumbering steps.
This is where Space Marine falls very short of its full potential. With all of the races, weapons, vehicles, characters, and history available to it, the game only makes use of a very small percentage. Chaos Space Marines come into the story too late to keep things lively and donít really add anything new to the combat. Really, the story could have been expanded even further if another army, like the Tau, caught an interest too and jumped into the fray around part two of the plot.
Be all that you can beÖ
Even the companions that trail you around lack the ability to be all they could be. Every so often you will find a cache of weapons with plenty enough for a dozen men. Captain Titus is the only one who bothers to pick anything up without even an order to his men to man up on the weapons. Space Marine could have really taken off to new heights if it allowed you to dictate the weapons carried by your companions and the roles they fulfilled. One could be a devastator, another an assault marine, or one could just hold a damned plasma rifle and throw away that old bolter for a change. Itís unfortunate that these options are unavailable, and the game once again does not take full advantage of the recourses at its disposal. Your immortal followers just end up being more of window dressing than anything of great use.
All the while, the story is rather bland. Itís difficult not to be bland, though, considering that all of the main characters are strict military types or pious warrior-monks. Some flavor is added here and there when the ork warboss jumps into things, but there are no consistent characters to make juxtaposition with the space marine faÁade. Everyone is simply reverent and reserved, and thatís not entirely interesting. The story could have made great use out of a surly and sarcastic scout or even snarky guardsman.
Online play, on the other hand, has a lot of draw to it for the usual addictive and repetitive means. Customizing the look of your space marine/chaos marine is a lot of fun and working toward the goal of having better gear is a time-proven way to keep a player coming back for more. The combat controls are very easy to learn and as seamless as they are found in the campaign. Good players learn the three classes quickly and master them all, picking from tactical, assault/raptor, and devastator/havoc. The usual perks can be found by completing Modern Warfare-type challenges, and all add up to make your abilities quite formidable. Skill may make up the basics of online play, but gear is certainly the deciding factor.
Thereís plenty of satisfaction to be had when battling it out online, and the maps and class systems are designed so that no one stays supremely on top. Deaths usually balance out with kills and you wonít find any player totally dominating the field, as in other games. There are very, very few places on the maps to exploit, and just about every corner of the map is prone to counterattack, leaving the possibility of an exciting seesaw match wide open. Things never feel unfair, and you will progress by the blood of your enemies or your own.
Overall, things could have been a whole lot better with Space Marine, but that doesnít mean itís totally lost or broken. Mostly the letdowns are seen by the fan who knows more than the game allows a player to see, and the rest of the disappointments are within the borrowed gameplay ideas. Thereís enough to get you through at least one romp of the campaign and plenty more to keep you addicted online. The popular belief is that Space Marine is a good start to something bigger and a promised sequel that could bring more to the table, but for the time being itís just lukewarm and waiting to get hot.
Developer: Relic Entertainment
Release Date: September 6, 2011
Review Date: 19-09-2011
Numbers of Players: 1
Players Online: 2-16
Notes: Leaderboards, Downloadable Content
The game looks great and performs amazingly. Everything looks smooth and polished with hardly a blemish or texture pop-in to be found. The animations are fantastic.
Itís disappointing to see how much was borrowed in the gameplay of Space Marine. Things are all too familiarly tied to other ideas from other titles. Most of what you do is a marching slaughter.
For a game that many were eager to get their hands on it boasts prestige and backs it up with solid production.
One of the best aspects of this game is the sound and it certainly does a great job at pulling you into the Warhammer universe.
The campaign isn't really worthwhile or fun enough to play through more than a few times for completionists, but the online game has plenty of addictive and fun aspects that will call gamers back for more.