We’ve killed so many orks, it’s not even funny. According to our achievement progress, we’ve killed about 2,000 of them. We’ve cut them in half, blasted off heads, and stomped them into the ground. And we put Chaos through the ringer too. But now it’s time to set Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine aside and recollect upon its achievements and its failures.
Dashing aside real-time strategy and donning on the armor of a third person shooter, Space Marine stars Captain Titus, leader of the Ultramarines’ Second Company in defense of the world Graia. Titus is deployed to a forge world currently under invasion by the Orks, and since the main human fleet is too far away to intercept, he and his fireteam of two other Ultramarines try to ebb the tide of Ork tyranny. For the non-initiated, Ultramarines are genetically modified super soldiers under direct control of the emperor with the task to defend mankind.
You don’t need to be a Warhammer fan to enjoy Space Marine, but it doesn’t hurt. It is, at its core, a very simplified 3rd person shooter. The premise is simple. Find guns and ammo and shoot everything until it’s dead. If your enemies get too close, you have the option to use your sword, axe or hammer to engage in melee combat.
That’s it. Not much else to know.
Space Marine is graphically ample for the generation, but it doesn’t really do much to push the envelope either. The color palette is on the bland side, to say the least. Most objects in the game aside from the Space Marines are either brown or a grayish brown most likely because the environement doesn’t change much. It goes from ruins to battlefields to dank industrial buildings and back to ruins. Considering Relic’s pedigree and the colorfulness of the Warhammer games themselves, it would have been great to see a wider spectrum of visuals.
However, the character models are all very well done. And we didn’t find any real issues with clipping or jagged edges. The style of design is very typical of Warhammer games, so there’s really not much room for artistic license.
The audio is wonderful as one would expect from Relic. The guns all sound satisfying, the explosions reverberate with appropriate bass, and it gives the player a deeper sense of being immersed in war. The voice acting is more than competent with Mark Strong leading the way as the battle-hardened and dutiful Titus.
Our one complaint about the audio is actually one of our largest gripes with the game. Enemies feel the need to call out the presence of Space Marines incessantly from start to finish, especially the Orks. During any particular wave of enemy encounters, you’ll probably hear the words “Space Marines” said a dozen times and it gets tiring.
The few original elements that Space Marine brings to the table aren’t fleshed out to their full potential. Or at least, they aren’t used enough, particularly, the jump suits. Using the jump packs adds a very interesting and downright fun vertical element to the game, something that a lot of 3rd person shooters go completely without. But the jump suits only appear a few times and their lifespan is sadly cut short.
We were happy to see that health does NOT regenerate. But your shield does, which is an interesting take on the mechanic. To regain health, you need to pull off brutal melee finisher moves. It is a creative way to avoid needing to search for health packs, but it doesn’t pull the player out of the game by making the main character overpowered.
Multiplayer is a healthy mix of modern and classic matches. The maps are reminiscent of old Quake and Doom maps, but the perk system adds some modern flair. Not only can you unlock skill perks, but you can aesthetically change your Space Marine or Chaos Marine in a multitude of different armors and colors, making the characters feel like your own. The matches are 8 on 8, in smaller arenas. With jump packs and heavy machineguns available from the first few levels, the conflicts can get very dynamic very fast. Unfortunately, the few maps that come loaded with the launch title aren’t enough to add much replay value. But there are already map packs on the way. It’s a twitchier experience than Call of Duty and Battlefield titles. So, know what you’re getting into.
Space Marines is a fair game that doesn’t do anything particularly wrong, but at the same time, it doesn’t soar to new heights either. If you’ve played a third person shooter in the past, you know exactly what you’re getting into. We would have loved a co-operative campaign for players. And considering there are two Space Marines following you almost every step of the way, its curious why a co-operative campaign wasn’t included.
Warhammer fans may be unhappy with what they consider a dumbing-down of the Warhammer experience, and non-Warhammer fans may feel a bit out of the loop. Either way, Space Marine is here, but you may want to hold onto your $60 until the other third person shooters of this year hit the market. It’s an admirable attempt to take this successful tabletop and RTS series into the shooter market. It’ll make for a great weekend rental, but we can’t recommend paying full price.
– – – – – – –
Name: Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
Available on: PC
Developed by: Relic Entertainment
Published by: THQ
Release date: September 5, 2011
EG Score: 3 out of 5 / “Worth Trying”