There’s a large chunk of younger gamers that I’m sure will look at a Warhammer 40k game, and wonder why it looks like a hodgepodge of just about every other sci-fi game out there. They don’t realize that Warhammer has been around forever, and has has innumerable influences on just about everything that came after it. Like Starcraft? It was originally supposed to be a Warhammer 40k game, but Games Workshop (at that time) didn’t think video games to be a lucrative market and pulled their branding. During the next decade things changed – Games Workshop saw the value of video games, and now we have a few different Warhammer games out there – including Space Marines.
When I first started with Space Marine, I was dismissive – you see I’ve played the table top Warhammer 40k game for the past fifteen years. I have played the various real time strategy games (which work because the game itself is a strategy game), and I was a bit worried about how the game would translate into a third person shooter. My initial impressions in the first five minutes, was that this was going to be another Gears of War clone, but in a few short minutes after that my eyes were opened to everything else this game was.
The melee combat reminded me a lot of Darksiders, and is an extremely fun part of the game. You can pop off a few shots at distant enemies, but more will inevitably get to you – it’s then that the visceral fun begins. Using a simple combo system, you seamlessly flow from enemy to enemy splattering blood and gore everywhere. If you’re using a chain sword, power axe, or power sword – the latter is a special reward for playing Warhammer 40k Kill Team, then you have access to all four weapon slots; if you’re using the Thunder hammer though, you only have access to your pistol and rifle.
No matter which weapon you’re using, the main combos stay the same – it’s just how they look, how much damage they do, and how they’re executed that change. Speaking of execution, that’s one of the most fun aspects of the melee combat. If you’re running low on health, all you need to do is stun an enemy, and then perform an execution on them to regain some – it’s brilliantly simple (especially since there’s no other way to regen health), and while you’re performing said execution, you’re vulnerable to anyone else around you. What that means is you need to time when you’re doing the executions so you’re not gang raped in the process.
Another neat thing about the executions is that if you’re performing one on a larger enemy (nob), when it finishes it produces a shockwave that stuns any smaller enemy around you. With the guns, you’ll only ever have four on you at one time. Yes, there are a number of nice weapons, but because of how the game is set up, you will need to make choices. Do you want the Storm Bolter with more ammo, or a Lascannon with more firepower? Do you want a Vengeance Launcher for some “explosive” results, or would you rather a Melta for some short range area of effect devastation?
The reason you have to make these choices is for one, a balancing issue, but also because the weapon select is mapped to the directional pad. It’s a system that’s extremely simplistic, but it’s amazing how well it works. I found myself numerous times starting with the Storm Bolter sniping enemies from afar, then quickly switching over to the Vengeance launcher to lay out traps for the approaching hordes. Then a quick round of melee combat to wipe out those that made their way through, followed by switching to the Bolter Rifle to pick off the stragglers; that was the majority of the combat that took place. While writing this I know it sounds repetitive, but it was so much fun to pull off that I never noticed it (one of the most fun parts is getting some Jump Jets with a Thunder Hammer – when you’re up in the air you can launch yourself down and wipe everything out easily).
The story in Space Marine is also well crafted, and follows the lore fairly well. I don’t know if someone who’s never actually either played Warhammer 40k before, or read a book about the Warhammer 40k universe will appreciate it though. There are a lot of references to things that, while not imperative to the story, really do a lot to flesh it out. Things like who the Emperor of Man is, and what the Forge Worlds are are mentioned extremely briefly, and there’s a ton that could be said about them. The Tech Priests of Mars are mentioned only in passing, so a player really doesn’t have any idea who they are, or why they’re leaving weapons around. It doesn’t really take away any enjoyment from the game though – just leaves you in the dark on the back story.
The multiplayer has potential, but in its current state it’s pretty “blah”. There only five maps that start to feel old fairly quick – I hope that there’s DLC for it soon in that aspect. The good part of the multiplayer is that it’s class based, so you can switch things up to fit your play style. I mean the multiplayer isn’t bad in any sense, there’s just nothing new to it – maybe I’m just desensitized from reviewing things all the time, but it just didn’t excite me at all.
In the grand scheme of things, Warhammer Space Marine is a great single player experience. The story is great, the voice acting is superb, and the action is pretty intense. Is it the next blockbuster game? Probably not; but is it a great time waster (especially if you’re a fan of the Warhammer 40k Universe? Definitely.
Final review score is four stars out of five.
- The action is extremely intense, and bloody
- The variety of weapons means you’ll be making a lot of choices on what to pick up and what to leave behind
- Great voice acting and a story that could be ripped from one of the Warhammer 40k novels
- Very much a button masher, so it won’t be for everyone
- The multiplayer could use some work
- In order to fully enjoy the game you’ll need to know the background
You can get a copy of Warhammer 40k Space Marine from Amazon for the PS3 or XBOX 360 for $56.99, and $39.99 for the Windows version