Not a great game, but you will occasionally have fun.
I was waiting anxiously for Space Marine. I gave in to the hype, to the advertising, to the epic trailers, screenshots and a life-size Utramarine walking around Gamescom. I always liked the WH40K universe, with its distinct art style and technology design, but you would never find me playing the real tabletop thing. Figurines and heavy tomes of rules, scary stuff.
Imagine my surprise when I realised that Relic Entertainment and THQ had deceived me. After all the promises of ultramarine awesomeness, we got a game where the only thing you will be doing for eight or so hours is blowing up seven varieties of Orks. And then some Chaos Marines, but you will barely feel the difference. There was no story of intergalactic scale here, no complex combat system, no sense of achievement. And not a fresh idea in sight. I have to mention this review is only concerned with the single player portion of the game.
When I first started the game, it welcomed me with stuttering sound. After digging around the web for a solution (and seeing plenty of disgruntled players) I managed to fix the issue. Several patches are already out, and even more are in the works. Space Marine will need some time to get into good release shape. As one fan on game’s blog put it, ” half the game is broken”.
Our hero, baby-faced captain Titus, looks like he just stepped out of an Imperium propaganda poster. He’s blonde, blue-eyed and dressed in huge blue armour, to match the eyes. Accompanying him are two subordinates: one-eyed veteran Sidonus , and a young do-it-by-the-book marine Leandros.
These characters are as emotional as wooden chairs in my grandma’s garden. Both of them are invincible, immortal and have unlimited ammo. Those are some tough marines. The occasional dialogue with them, or any other NPCs is unimaginative and filled with clichés to the point of bursting.
The whole story about Orks destroying everything just for the sake of it, and a creepy inquisitor bringing about a demon invasion is predictable to the point of nodding off . I knew Drogan was bad news just as soon as he appeared on the screen. And the ride on the Titan Invictus, one of galaxy’s most powerful war machines? Inevitable.
The combat is based around a combination of ranged and melee attacks. There are about six sword/axe/hammer combos, and you can carry four guns at a time to punish your enemies from a distance. In your arsenal, you won’t find anything you haven’t seen before. Sure, these guns have Warhammer names, but they basically are: a pistol, a couple of assault rifles, a sniper rifle, a railgun, a shotgun and a grenade launcher. Out of these, the shotgun, locally known as Meltagun, is my favourite. It blasts superheated plasma in a wide cone, burning everything in front of you to a crisp. Extremely effective.
Titus always has more ammo than he needs. Quite often there are no enemies between ammo caches. You just roam around with your guns always loaded. Your first melee weapon is a boring old knife, and the rest differ just by animation and amount of pain they inflict. Under the surface, Chainsword, Power Axe and Thunder Hammer are the same thing.
When Titus wreaks enough havoc, he can enter Fury mode and start dealing simply God-like damage while regaining health. This ability will get you out of many dangerous situations, as the Fury trigger fills up very quickly.
Throughout the combat zones, there’s cover everywhere, and it looks like you could hide behind it in a Gears of War fashion. But you can’t. Instead you just position the cover between yourself and the enemy, and pray he doesn’t see your legs through some kind of hole. Just like a decade ago.
It’s like past ten years in computer games, with Prince of Persia, God Of War, Devil May Cry 3/4, Bayonetta, (insert your third-person action title here) never happened. It’s better to be a Gears of War clone than to end up like Space Marine: a simple repetitive arcade in the Warhammer setting.
The locations are empty, and the visual design is bleak. Space Marine is 16 levels of ruins, sewers and factories. Probably out of respect for the environment, we mostly travel on foot. Even when marines run, they are painfully slow. Must be the heavy suits. And these are definitely the slowest elevators we’ve seen since Mass Effect.
Forge world Graia is a twisted corridor, with the only doors being entrance and exit. There are no choices, other than whether to exchange your weapon for a similar weapon. There are no challenges, other than an occasional close encounter with an exceptionally large Ork, when you need to bash the mouse button at the right time. Miss your timing, and you’ll often have to start playing from a previous checkpoint.
I just spent the last few paragraphs telling you how awful Space Marine is. But it’s not a bad game. My expectations were very high, fuelled by game’s huge PR campaign, so I was disappointed. The truth is, Space Marine feels like an indie title, not a high-budget production from established developers. But it’s a solid indie title, which can be very entertaining at certain points. Because of simplicity and cartoon violence, the kids should love it.
I would also recommend it to a Warhammer fan. The 40K universe does provide an unspectacular game with some redeeming features.
Unless you feel strongly about playing Space Marine, I would advise to give it a miss. At least for a couple of months, until it ends up in a bargain bin with a fair price tag. By that time, Relic will release a co-op enabling patch, which will add the value further. Otherwise, Warhammer 40K: Space Marine is a real rip-off.