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Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Review

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  • X360

Space Marine's balance between melee and ranged combat separates this savage and brutal game from so many other copycat shooters.

This ork is very surprised about what is happening to his stomach.

Has any modern franchise had its core creative ideas as repeatedly ripped off as Warhammer 40K? The bleak, vicious world of the future portrayed by the popular tabletop game--where a hyper-advanced humanity fends off total annihilation from all sides thanks to an all-powerful immortal emperor and his legions of devoted, fearless, power-armored disciples--seems ideal for video game adaptation, regardless of genre. The setting was so appealing, in fact, that other game developers were happy to rip off elements of that setting for their games. Whether the universe’s various armies were lifted directly, or the weapons that defined that universe were merely borrowed as an “homage,” 40K has been plundered by other developers while Games Workshop struggled to properly get its universe out there.

Now, developer Relic--who had great success adapting Warhammer 40K in the Dawn of War series--brings the franchise to consoles as a third-person shooter, a genre already teeming with games that sort of look like they're set in the 40K universe. But Space Marine wisely carves out its own unique take on the genre, trading traditional cover-based antics for a balanced mix of satisfying shooting and brutal, effective melee combat. It’s not as interesting a representation of the 40K universe as the Dawn of War games, but Space Marine’s satisfying combat--at range and up close--makes the game stand out.

The titular Space Marine in this game is Ultramarine Captain Titus, member of the Emperor's personal chapter of armor-clad zealots. When one of humanity’s massive forge worlds comes under an invasion of the greenskined orks, Captain Titus and two other chapter members are deployed to hold the planet before the main force arrives on the planet. Upon landing, Titus must turn the tide of the orkish horde and will discover that there are more chaotic forces on the planet than anyone initially expected.

Slamming down on an Orkish horde from the sky is one of Space Marine's primary joys.

Having a ground-level view of Warhammer 40K’s most iconic forces is the real appeal of Space Marine, and it’s on that front that the game delivers with its unique twist on standard shooter tropes. Relic’s savage game asserts that a centuries-old battle hardened super warrior wearing a suit of hyper-advanced and resilient power armor doesn’t really need to concern himself so much with taking cover. As such, Space Marine’s ruthless combat is an up-close and personal affair. Titus comes to battle with the same kind of defenses as Master Chief, a layer of shields protecting a health bar. The shield bar regenerates as you might expect from a modern shooter, but no mere health pack will repair your critical line of defense. Instead, Captain Titus can only regain health by getting in close to his orkish enemies, stunning them and then promptly executing them in some vicious, savage, and awesome way. It’s not the most natural game mechanic, but it forces you to stay closer to your enemies than you would normally get in modern third-person shooters, and it leads to that incredibly satisfying moment when, to save yourself from death, you charge directly into the enemy ranks and begin hacking them to death with chainswords and warhammers. It’s exactly the kind of ridiculous gameplay design that shows how badass the Space Marines are, charging directly into the enemy even at their most dire moments.

Of course, that particular design mechanic wouldn’t matter if the core gameplay didn’t measure up, and Space Marine’s wide arsenal of satisfying weapons sell the action. The default Bolter rifle that forms the core of Titus’ gear is an incredibly satisfying machine gun, good at all ranges and perfect for closing the distance between ranged battes and melee masacres. The rest of 40K’s weaponry also makes the transition to a shooter well. From Lascannon sniper shots that obliterate multiple enemies, to the room-clearing Melta gun sweeps, to the satsifying explosive energy shots of the Heavy Plasma gun, Space Marine’s assortment of weapons (and the frequency with which new weapons are introduced) insures that you have multiple ways to clear out the orkish army. Of course, the real star of Space Marine is the melee weapons which slice apart multiple enemies with a single swing and allow you to execute enemies with some great animations. The melee combat may be a little simplistic (you won’t confuse it for modern character-action games) but it works surprising well as a compliment to the shooting action you’d expect from the genre. The melee and shooting form a fresh combination that helps to underscore why the Space Marines represent the Forge World’s (and humanity’s) best chance against the enemy.

The three multiplayer classes work well in supporting each other.

Space Marine also allows players the opportunity to get hands-on time on the classic weapons and gear of the 40K universe. Relic’s Dawn of War also faithfully recreated the minutiae of the tabletop game, but that memorable equipment and those classic enemies have never been rendered in more detail than they are in Space Marine. You’ll see (and murder) lovingly detailed Shoota and Slugga Boyz, Squibs and (eventually) Daemons and Chaos Marines as you travel through the skull-strewn gothic stonework that typifies the world of Warhammer 40K. The equipment and environments help to make the world feel consistent and, consequently, seem real and fleshed out.

It’s just too bad that the game’s actual story does nothing to invest you in the game world. Titus’ battle to save the Forge World is mostly cliched, and filled with basic, boring characters. The Dawn of War games do an awesome job of portraying the Space Marines' fanatical devotion to their god-Like Emperor and the extremes to which they’ll go in order to protect humanity and stop the spread of chaos, even if it means eradicating all life on a planet. The Marines are zealots whose devotion is unwavering and who will happily execute a fellow human soldier rather than allow their cowardice. Captain Titus, on the other hand, is a bland straight arrow of a leader, a politically correct Space Marine who too often displays the kind of basic kindness and understanding that the 40K universe avoids. His only real attributes are his devotion to his mission and his ruthless competency. The rest of the game's cast includes Obvious Rookie Who Plays By The Book, Obvious Grizzled Veteran, and Obvious Betrayer, all of whom are called to protect a Maguffin that, in the wrong hands, could destroy the planet or potentially unmake reality. Worst of all, the game directly plays into the object’s role as a Maguffin; the second Titus hands said object to someone else in the story, that character is immediately killed off to keep the plot going. It’s a little disappointing, especially in the wake of Relic’s other games in the franchise, to see such a simple premise for the game, but the core action is still interesting and satisfying enough to make up for the weak story.

In addition to the game’s six-to-eight-hour campaign, Space Marine offers a multiplayer mode that is far more traditional in scope and content than its single player campaign. The balance between melee combat and ranged attacks is still present, but the focus on that gameplay structure is lessened in favor of class-based gameplay. Players can choose to play as normal or Chaos Space Marine versions of the standard, rifle-bearing tactical marine, the slower, heavy weapon-bearing devastators, and the jet pack equipped, melee-focused assault marines. By dividing and segmenting potential combat roles by class and focusing combat on much smaller groups of enemies, Space Marine loses many of the unique gameplay scenarios that make the single-player game so interesting.

Every day is a chainsword party when you're a Space Marine!

That’s not to say the multiplayer isn’t fun, however. All of the single-player weapons make their way online and are still fun to use. In particular, the assault Marine--with his jump jet pack and devastating ground-slam attacks-- is a total blast to play, as he can traverse the entire map with ease and charge directly into enemies. There are only two game modes in Space Marine--Capture the Point and Team Deathmatch-- but both modes work in favor of the class-based structure of the game. And in keeping with the game’s miniature origins, you can customize your marines online with a variety of paint schemes, armor parts, and emblems. The opportunity to hack a Chaos Marine to death as a pink Space Marine is still worth checking out, even if the multiplayer doesn’t always play to the game’s strengths.

Unfortunately, that multiplayer fun is dependent on being able to join a multiplayer game, a simple request that the PS3 version of Space Marine cannot fulfill. Space Marine suffers from some of the slowest matchmaking I have ever seen in a console game, with wait times as long as 20 to 40 minutes to get into a single game. This is made worse by the fact that Space Marine doesn’t kick inactive players from games. I left Space Marine running for two hours unattended, and I still found myself in no multiplayer matches. No matter how far and wide you cast your NAT, you’re probably not going to get multiplayer games any faster. The PC had similar matchmaking problems but was fixed on Relic's end, while the Xbox 360 version's matchmaking works as intended. As a result, the PS3 version is handily the worst version of the three, and although Relic is trying to rush a patch out, you should consider other platforms at the moment if you want to mix it up online.

Still, the core single-player remains unaffected by those online issues, and it’s the real meat of Space Marine. By looking to its own fiction for inspiration, Relic has crafted a fun, exciting shooter that effectively differentiates itself from other games in the genre. Warhammer fans in particular will relish the opportunity to play with the universe’s arsenal, but even non-fans looking for a fun shooter could enjoy Space Marine’s savagery and unique take on the formula. Space Marine isn’t the most substantial release, but it’s a violent ride that proves there is fun to be had by ridding the galaxy of any and all Xenos.

80 Comments
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Edited by Wraith1

cool, need to try this out

Posted by Venatio

Kessler reviewed this thought it'd be Ryan

Anyway good review Matt

Posted by wumbo3000

Jeez didn't know PS3 version was so messed up.

Posted by FourWude

FURST!!!!

Oh woof! Out of Bownds!!!

Posted by CaLe

KessleReview!

Edited by shinigami420

2 reviews GOD DAMN INTERNS!!

Posted by RE_Player1

Nothing worse than having your preferred console get the crappier version. Looks like I won't even entertain the thought of getting this.

Posted by BabyChooChoo

No matter how far and wide you cast your NAT...


Kessler, sometimes I think your subtle genius goes unappreciated.

Online
Posted by ChrisInCali

I'd love to see more dual-reviews on Giantbomb. PS3 is my preferred platform by far, but I prefer getting the best version of a game more than I care about using a controller I slightly prefer. Not that I'm buying this particular game as it looks like shit to me.

Posted by BeachThunder

So why not 5 stars for the PC version >_>

Posted by dikfox

Really enjoyed the review. Nicely written. Game is just plain FUN to play.

Posted by Jeffsekai

The God Emperor has failed again.

Posted by masterofchaz

I liked the game enough, thought Relic did a great job at making a hybrid between Gears/God of War. Just like they did with Dawn of War, the emphasis in the Warhammer 40K universe is bringing you into the fight rather than digging in defensively. As a fan of the Warhammer universe, Space Marine did leave me wanting however. There is a moment towards the end of the game where you are fighting side by side with other Space Marines against the Chaos (the bit on the bridge) and during this part the game was singing. It did feel like Relic were holding back on some of the material, if there is any game that needs a 'bigger more baddass' kind of sequel its this game. I want Dreadnaughts battling Bloodthirsters, I want Land Raiders mowing down hordes of tyranids. I WANT EVERYTHING I'VE SEEN AT THE MOVIES AND MORE!!!

Posted by MattBodega

@BabyChooChoo: You caught my terrible joke. You're the best person in the world today.

Posted by Enigma777

@RE_Player92 said:

Nothing worse than having your preferred console get the crappier version. Looks like I won't even entertain the thought of getting this.

This is not another Bayonetta. If Relic patches up the matchmaking and the UI error that gives you the NAT error like they've promised it will be no different from the other versions.

Posted by Shane

Unnecessary to do two reviews, just write a paragraph in the review about the PS3's network issues.

Online
Posted by Foggen

Literally the only text difference between the 360/PC review and the PS3 review is the title and score. I ran it through a diff tool!

Posted by rmanthorp

Has a multiplatform review ever got more stars on ps3 on Giant Bomb? I'm not being a hater I am genuinely interested it that.

Moderator
Posted by Metal_Mills

Oh, it did get 4 stars. There were two reviews! Crazy but I like it.

Posted by PillClinton

@Shane said:

Unnecessary to do two reviews, just write a paragraph in the review about the PS3's network issues.

Well, to be fair, the purpose of a review is to rate the value of a game to consumers as it is on release, day one. But to your point, Brad didn't review the PC version of Dead Island separately, and that was clearly busted. So yeah, maybe a bit unnecessary, but appropriate even so, I'd say.

Posted by ectoplasma

The pic disturbs me.

Posted by Nevi

Kessler is damn right to penalise THQ/Relic for the PS3 version. I picked it up, renewed the online pass, renewed my Elite Armor Pack codes, dived straight into multilplayer in order to grind out to level 4 and paint my dud in Grey Knights colours, I was pumped for it.

Five days after it arrived and I have not gotten into a single match.

Posted by DonPixel

I bought it for my 360, glad I did it game is fun.

Posted by Solh0und

And here I thought Vinny would review it.

Posted by DonPixel

@Shane said:

Unnecessary to do two reviews, just write a paragraph in the review about the PS3's network issues.

Not really champ, I have both 360 and Ps3 having a quick way to know if there is a flawed version is a feature I like in my videogame site of choice. I do read the reviews but a star makes up for a thousand words.

Edited by WJist

GB should just hire Kessler and Steve as full on staff members, right? Who could resist a face like that for reviews?

Posted by KinjiroSSD

I can't speak to the quality of either version as I haven't played the game but I wonder how and when it is decided to do separate reviews. Once you start doing so, it opens up that question to many other games. This is particular with the PC versions of consoles games where it can either be much better, Space Marine for example or be broken, Dead Island for example.

I'm of the opinion it should be avoided unless the game is literally busted at its core. Bayonetta for the PS3 is a good example. A game having busted matchmaking the first week, which seems par for the course these days, doesn't seem to warrant it in my opinion. You may end up doing a disservice to your readers if they end up avoiding what could be a good game.

Posted by MattBodega

@manthorp: Kane and Lynch 2 didn't have the showstopping freezing bugs on the PS3, so it was the version of the game we rated the highest.

Posted by Larsa

@manthorp said:

Has a multiplatform review ever got more stars on ps3 on Giant Bomb? I'm not being a hater I am genuinely interested it that.

Yes, actually. Kane & Lynch 2 360 version got 2 stars while the ps3 version got 3.

Posted by dudeglove

why the fuck do you have such a horrible cherub thing.

Posted by rmanthorp

@MattBodega: @Larsa: Ah yes! Thanks you :D

Moderator
Posted by amir90

Wow, an excellent review ^^

Posted by SomeJerk

This needed a double review, to make it clear to developers and publishers they need to shape the hell up.

Posted by LiquidSwords
Posted by Jolt92

Nice review, this, the Quick Look and Bombcast has sold me on the game. Will pick up the Collectors Edition when it's on sale.

Posted by Wuddel

Ah. This totally messed up my "ICI"-score, because I called 4 and ICI took the PS3 review in account. I think it's unnecessary to do 2 reviews. Just be clear in the main text. It is better served the community if someone updates the review after a few patches. (I hope this gets fixed.)

Posted by Gordo789

Well I guess I'm glad I haven't bought this for the PS3. I wonder if there will even still be an online community by the time they patch it.

Posted by Spoonman671

What is this, 2007?

Posted by Cyrisaurus

What the fuck are you doing Kessler? Don't give two reviews for the same game.

You can't take a star off because there is a matchmaking problem that will probably get patched soon. The fuck, man?

Posted by jmrwacko

Separate console reviews of a multiplatform game? Epic kudos, Giantbomb.

Posted by DeanoXD

wow sad to see that so soon after the yearly renewal that the c team is putting up content, sorry but i can't stand kessler and if he is going to be part of GB team i will have to rethink my renewal next year, i know i might get some hate for it but i am a very picky person and if i don't like something or someone and get get past it.

kind of like a beautiful woman with huge brown mole on her face all i can see is the ugly mole.

and them letting him put up to reviews and how those reviews are presented is a bad idea in my opinion. and does this mean every multi-platform game will be getting reviewed for all platforms?

Posted by jmrwacko

@DeanoXD said:

sorry but i can't stand kessler and if he is going to be part of GB team i will have to rethink my renewal next year

No offense, but I really like Kessler, and this sort of attitude from the Giantbomb community is the reason why I don't care enough to pay for a Giantbomb subscription in the first place. How could you not want to be warned about a gamebreaking issue on the launch date from a review site? Or do you just read reviews to try and justify your preorder? If that's the case, I suggest trying to get satisfaction from the game itself than trying to delude yourself into thinking you've spent the best $60 of your life on a broken game with no apparent quality assurance.

Posted by big_jon

Good stuff! I enjoyed the game quite a bit.

Posted by DeanoXD

@jmrwacko:

well first of all my dislike for kessler is just like a game reviewers dislike for a game, or my dislike for brussel sprouts, second i don't really read reviews anymore i search out the info i want and make my own decision on a game, third i have never pre-ordered a game in my life and never will. and i have already finished space marine on 360 and his review is many days late to help some people who were buying it for the PS3.

Posted by MattBodega

@Cyrisaurus: We review the game as is. As of this morning, Space Marine is still messed up on the PS3 and still fine everywhere else. We've done similar things for Bayonetta on the PS3 and Kane and Lynch 2 on the 360.

Posted by Cyrisaurus

@MattBodega: So if a patch went up tomorrow, fixing everything wrong, would you remove the side review and include the PS3 version in the 4 star party?

Not trying to flip out on you, I love me some Kessler, but this really irked me for some reason.

Posted by Zolfe

damn you Kessler, your review was surprisingly good, given how terrible the byline is.

Posted by EgoCheck616

@Cyrisaurus said:

What the fuck are you doing Kessler? Don't give two reviews for the same game.

You can't take a star off because there is a matchmaking problem that will probably get patched soon. The fuck, man?

Don't blame Kessler. GiantBomb has done this before.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Great write-up. I'm looking to familiarize myself with the Warhammer universe(s) at some point, and when this game hits a discounted price, I'm sure I'll pick it up.

Moderator Online
Posted by steelknight2000

@MattBodega: Nice job, just don't listen to whiny morons and console fanboys and you'll do fine.

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