Genre: First Person Shooter Developer: Relic Entertainment Publisher: THQ Classification: TBC Release Date: 31st Dec 2011 Platforms:
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Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is the latest video game addition to the Warhammer 40,000 universe - a third person action game developed by Relic Entertainment and published by THQ. Relic Entertainment are the premier games developers of the Warhammer 40k universe, having developed the excellent Dawn of War and it's various innovative sequels - but Space Marine marks a risky venture for the veteran developers, as it is only the second time they have developed for a console and outside of the Strategy genre - and their previous excursion "The Outfit" received mixed reviews at best.
When I first heard Relic's new Warhammer 40k title would be third person action and centred around Space Marines, I automatically assumed it would bear a lot in common with Gears of War. A small group of super soldiers taking on hordes of enemies with guns and chain swords? Warhammer 40k definitely had its influences in the best selling cover shooter series and it seemed possible the favour would be returned when Space Marines moved to the third person perspective. For better or worse however, this is not the case.
Space Marine has no cover mechanics and combat has more of a focus on melee combat than shooting - which is primarily reserved for taking out enemies who can't be reached by hand. Because of this, battles in Space Marine feel very intense and cinematic. Square and Triangle are your primary melee buttons, with Cross evading and Circle activating special events. Ranged combat is laid out on the shoulder buttons in the way found in most shooters, making them comfortable to use when you do.
Space Marine has no major flaws in its gameplay, but it doesn't do anything outstanding either. If you aren't a Warhammer 40k fan, it's nothing more than a generic third person beat-em-up with a small amount of strategy required when your opponents are out of reach. The action looks nice, but it doesn't have the flair of something like God of War - you are just mashing Orks into the ground. The only really exciting parts of combat lie in the finisher moves - activated by pressing Circle on a stunned enemy - which change depending on the weapon you hold. There's something about forcing a chain sword into your opponent's chest, then ramming it home so he disintegrates into a mess of blood which makes you feel bad ass.
The voice acting is good throughout most of Space Marine - naturally Mark Strong does a great job as Captain Titus - although fans of the Dawn of War titles will be a little thrown. Captain Titus speaks a lot more softly than is usually attributed to Space Marines, but he sounds just as dangerous. Orks voices throughout the game vary between ok and bad however, sounding confusingly like red shirt humans at times. The only real problem comes from the sound design - many times when the main characters talk outside of cut scenes, they will go completely unheard beneath the background sounds - and while subtitles are turned on by default, they only display during cut scenes.
For fans of the Warhammer 40k universe, Space Marine is a treat. It’s as you’d expect from Relic, who have spent most of their time immersed in the Warhammer 40k universe - every detail is worked out. You are an Ultramarine - a giant, imposing, impossibly well aged elite warrior of the Emperor and it’s impossible not to feel a sense of giddiness when you pick up a chain sword or a thunder hammer for the first time. You can only hold one melee and one ranged weapon at a time, but Relic have done an excellent job spacing out through the campaign when you pick up each weapon, ensuring you have a good amount of time with everything from the Ultramarine’s arsenal.
The characters and story lack energy at times, but it has its share of twists and turns - like when the forces of Chaos enter the fray. Space Marine doesn’t do a lot in the way of hand holding either, with the characters discussing the Codex Astartes and the Warp without explaining what they are - exactly as they should. The dialogue explains enough to make clear the significance of objects those not familiar with the Warhammer 40k universe won’t know about however.
The story follows Titus, the Captain of the 2nd Company of Ultramarines who goes to the Forge World of Graia with his Sergeant Sidonis and Battle-Brother Leandros. They are there to take out the Ork WAAAGH! who have invaded in an attempt to loot the Warlord class Battle Titan located on the planet. Titus considers the Codex Astartes good guidelines as opposed to strict rules, which makes him adept in combat but puts him at odds with Leandros. As they battle the WAAAGH! Titus notices some oddities and it turns out a Chaos Sorceror has been manipulating events - and things go downhill from there.
Translated into normal english: Titus is a Captain in the 2nd Company of a group of Space Marines known as Ultramarines - one of the biggest and most disciplined of the Space Marine chapters. He goes with Sergeant Sidonis and soldier Leandros to Graia - one of the planets where all of the machinery and weaponry of the human race is created. They are there to take out an Ork army, who have invaded looking for the mechs located on the planet. While Ultramarines traditionally follow the teachings found in the Codex Astartes to the letter, Titus does not. As they fight the Ork army Titus notices some oddities and it is revealed that a Chaos magic man has been manipulating events. It gets worse.
Some things are a little strange about the story - but it does offer up a lot of answers by the end - and it leaves things open for a sequel, which seems like an inevitability - in a good way. Space Marine marks a decent first attempt to make a third person action game without the focus on strategy Relic had even in their previous third person title “The Outfit”, with its squad tactics basis. Apart from being set in the Warhammer 40k universe however, it doesn’t really have its own voice - but Relic now have a basis to build on. If you like the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Space Marine is a must buy - but if you aren’t familiar with it you might want to leave Space Marine aside.
Grabbed it on the PS3 (making the FPS side more challenging). The campaign is very enjoyable so far and W40k fans will have a ball, along with anyone interested in some cheap action, brutal violence and gore (orcs live for war... meaning they live to be diced up by a space marine's chainsword). Although, a bit of open-ended action, where the player has many options on a large battlefield, would've gone a long way.
To the game's credit, success in combat can take a bit of effort - it's not just a matter of facing the generally right direction and mashing buttons.
In the end, few games on PC or PS3 in recent times have given me much fun, but Space Marine has been enjoyable.
I'd one day like to see a game where the player controls a titan or somesuch on a massive battlefield.