The Warhammer series has been the subject of several games for decades now, but Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is probably one of the most anticipated. And it’s a pleasure to say this installment doesn’t disappoint, for the most part.
Playerstake the role of Captain Titus, a member of a one-in-a-billion, genetically modified troop of super soldiers called Ultra Marines, a special division of the Space Marines army.
There’s plenty to like about this game, but first thing’s first - the story here is pretty wafer thin. You're sent in to rid a world overrun by orks, along with a trusted companion and an inexperienced, by the book marine. There’s nothing much beneath the surface for any of them, and that's a shame because the universe is ripe for solid characterization and conflict.
The plot is serviceable. You need to destroy a massive gun and rid this particular planet from being overrun, and there are a couple of neat twists along the way but nothing that will make you pop out of your seat with anticipation for the next scene. Perhaps if the developers had invested more in the characters then the plot would be a bit more surprising, but unfortunately, what you see is what you get.
And that's a shame, because the Warhammer universe is ripe with all these different armies and characters and scenarios. To be sure, the game does a good job of portraying each army accurately,(with some surprises later in the game), and including the rich history of the space marines, but there's a lot more that could have been drawn from her – perhaps room for future installments.
Fortunately, the serviceable story isn't bad enough to detract from the real fun - the combat.
Part of the great thing about playing the Warhammer table top game is feeling that you're in total control, that you have the power to conquer armies and entire planets. You feel exactly the same here.
During the game you'll control one melee weapon, the trusty chainsaw sword, along with a ballistic weapon, both of which are upgraded throughout the game.
And although the combat is mainly compiled of taking down waves and waves of Orks, you're never bored - this game makes you feel like a badass. True word and gun are powerful enough to make combat feel fun instead of a chore, so you look forward to the next wave of enemies.
The game does a good job of introducing new elements to shake things up as well - about an hour into the single player campaign, which lasted about seven or eight hours in total, you'll be given a jet pack, allowing you to climb different levels and take on new enemies.
There’s another aspect to this combat, a clever addition that makes me wonder why other developers haven't done more with this sooner. Your health bar is actually integrated into combat. By stunning an opponent, you can initialise a take-down move that increases your health and stuns nearby opponents as well.
It’s a nice way to make these cool moves actually integral to your survival. A number of combos and take downs keep the combat fresh.
Just as Arkham Asylum aloud players to stalk enemies just like batman, Space Marine actually makes you feel like a powerful, ultimate badass - not an easy feat.
Unfortunately, there are a number of bugs. Characters walk into doors that are still in the process of opening, and I noticed a number of times my squad mates would be thrashing at nothing. They're not persistent enough to make the game unplayable but still – annoying.
But the biggest gripe is that there seems to be two games at play here. The rapid, over the top and graphic fun of the combat and gameplay, and the atrocious overstepping of the cut-scenes.
The voice acting is atrocious, the story wafer thin. It's a shame, because the fluid nature of the mechanics ensures whenever you're actually playing, you're really having a lot of fun. The cut-scenes just take the game far more seriously than it needs to.
The characterization is there - the space marines are noble and soft spoken, always calm and ready to make the right decision. They're portrayed well, but instead of sounding impressive, they just sound bored.
That plays into another problem. This is a planet at war but it never really feels like it. Apart from a few opening cut-scenes, all the soldiers look like they're standing around having a smoke.
Despite all the supposed chaos, there is no sense of urgency. No troops running around, screaming, giving orders. It's too calm and collected for a war zone, which makes the space marines look less impressive as a result.
The gameplay is easy and over the top, so why aren't the cut-scenes? Moving from one to the other feels like in dragged into classroom from recess Hopefully a sequel will embrace the fun instead of trying too hard to make things intense.
That having been said, multiplayer makes up for a few of those shortcomings.
This isn't the biggest multiplayer experience out there, with hundreds of unlocks and combos. But it's fun enough to play for quite long sessions at a time, and a feature that allows you to copy the load out of your killer ensures new players won't be screwed once they start.
This is a game for the fans. If you're a 40k player you'll appreciate the work that’s been it into this game, and will certainly leave you hungry for more.
Even if you're not a Warhammer fan, there’s a lot to like here. The swift and graphically violent gameplay makes you feel incredibly powerful, but maintains a consistent challenge. Despite taking itself a little too seriously than it needs to, this is a fun adventure worth experiencing. For the Emperor!