Space Marine Review
|Third Person Shooter
|September 9th, 2011 (UK)
|Andy Hepmphill (Bandit)
It's the 41st millennium, and there is only war. The Imperium of Man, which has stood for 10,000 years, is crumbling as dozens of worlds fall every year to alien incursions, heresy and the forces of Chaos. However, like a beacon in the darkness of space, standing in the way of mankind's enemies are the armies of the vast government - and first among them are the Space Marines.
Superhuman warriors capable of incredible speed and feats of strength, the 1,000 chapters of the Adeptus Astartes - 100,000 Space Marines in total - are the elite strike force of the Emperor of Mankind's huge military forces, the best of the best
But, when you think about it, the Space Marines have some serious overtones of Helghast-style Nazi space fascism: "Purge the unclean, kill the heretic, eradicate the xenos!" Sounds a lot like the mindset of a fascist soldier to me.
It's a good thing, then, that the Space Marines of the Ultramarines legion are around when the Orks come to call. As the scourge of the galaxy - the ancient enemy, the green tide - there is little that can stand against an Ork WAAAAAAAGH! But if you want to make a last stand, you couldn't do much better than the Ultramarines.
Placing the gamer in the ceramite battle plate of Ultramarine Captain Titus, Space Marine tasks the player with liberating the forge world of Graia (basically a planet-sized factory turning out the myriad weapons the Imperium's endless battle needs), by beating the snot out of anything that gets in the way - and this he does, with great aplomb.
Sitting comfortably between Gears of War's control system and gunplay, Devil May Cry's gory close combat and the tabletop wargame that spawned this universe, Space Marine is a simple, yet effective, hack-and-slash-and-shoot-em-up which proves entertaining fun, despite its limited scope. The singleplayer campaign is light on plot but heavy on action, featuring Captain Titus and his fireteam (a grizzled veteran and a young buck, respectively) blasting their way across the planet, levelling swathes of greenskins and the evil forces of Chaos (traitor Space Marines and demons) alike in an effort to bring the forgeworld back under control.
To do this, the gamer has to blast his way through reams of enemies with bolter and chainsword in hand, smearing greenskin blood wherever you go. As I mentioned, the gameplay will seem familiar to Gears fans, though there is no cover dynamic - Space Marine power armour is a mobile cover save - and the only way you can regain health is by stunning and then brutally executing your enemies - not easy when there are a horde of greenskins crawling all over you. Basically: expect to die. A lot.
Thankfully there are plenty of weapons to play with, ranging from the traditional Space Marine bolter (a rifle that fires miniature, mass-reactive, explosive rockets) to a laser cannon, grenade launcher and a jet afterburner with a trigger - a 'meltagun'. That said, the game's heavy slant towards close combat has also furnished Titus with a selection of bladed and electrically-powered weapons, including an axe that courses with lightning and a massive hammer.
While the game is light on combos to carry out, the action makes up for it with slow motion kills, cool camera work and 'fury' mode - which is like bullet time, if Neo was wearing two tonnes of armour. As well as the senseless bloodletting, the game also takes pains to include set moments of crazyness where Titus is forced to use other items, such as heavy bolters, plasma cannons and even a jetpack - naturally, jetpack plus massive hammer = win.
However, these 'wow' moments are pretty few and far between, and the majority of the game revolves around blasting your way through an endless stream of enemies - cathartic, but repetitive. That said, the environments you explore are pretty stunning. The 40K universe is rife with towering, Gothic architecture and dark industrial dystopia, and as you fight, you may often find yourself stopping to admire the scenery. There are, however, more than a few levels which spend far, far too long in sewer tunnels. Nobody likes sewer tunnels.
Clocking in at a rather short five hours, depending on difficulty, the singleplayer campaign is a simple but enjoyable blast, but sadly lacking in depth despite the fun one can get from bloodletting on such a scale.
Outside of the singleplayer, Space Marine offers a robust multiplayer mode, again following the lines of Gears of War, pitting a team of Marines against their Chaos counterparts across a good variety of battlegrounds.
The action is fast and intense, with Marines jetting about high above, even as 'Devastator' Marines unleash their heavy firepower and Tactical Marines sprint from objective to objective, hacking enemies apart with power-charged swords and axes.
There's a pretty decent upgrade system in place as well, offering regular perks and weapons for getting kills and capturing objectives, as well as a ridiculous amount of armour choices, allowing you to craft your perfect Marine, complete with a colour scheme of your own devising.
That said, the lag can be pretty horrific, and the action is often moving so fast that the game's graphics engine struggles, leading to dodgy textures and pop-in aplenty.
This is often seen in the singleplayer campaign as well, and cheapens the experience somewhat, especially when you were admiring the landscape only moments before.
The AI also spoils the game's intensity - your allies in the Imperial Guard (the regular human army) love to get stuck on the scenery, or spend a good ten minutes walking face-first into a wall. It's just a bit bothersome, sticking in your mind even as you slaughter the beautifully animated enemies around you.
Overall, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine ticks all the right boxers for a shooter: it has intense, gritty, playable blasting, with a robust close combat system and a decent multiplayer. While the poor AI and frequent graphical bugs are a problem - and the weak story doesn't do much for what is a very deep and popular franchise - the game is worth a look, especially if you're a fan of the tabletop war-game that spawned the Imperium of Games Workshop.
- Gratifying, gritty shooting and slashing
- Great environments, enjoyable enemies
- Some great set-piece moments
Not so good stuff
- Not enough set-piece moments
- Dodgy AI and graphical bugs
- Short campaign
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