A Satisfying Experience
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is, as what might come to you as a shock, a game about Space Marines (as the Orks will most certainly remind you of numerous times). More specifically the game revolves around you, Captain Titus of the Ultramarines, and your two brothers-in-arms. You have been sent to the forge world Graia to reinforce the Imperial Guardsmen currently under heavy siege by an Ork invasion force a million strong. As Graia is a major forge world, and home to an Imperial Titan (a colossal bipedal machine of goddamn war) that if were to fall into the hands of the Orks, could give them a battle force capable of tackling a major Imperial planet.
To those that aren't familiar with the 40k universe, it's basically a super-violent (see: box art) twist on our world in which technological advancements were focused solely on tools of war designed for galactic conquest. Space marines are the Empire's elite fighting force made up of numerous "chapters", which are in turn made up the super-soldier space marines that have been completely recreated with gene and organ implants to be the perfect killers. The marines aligned to the Emperium all worship their god-like emperor, who was slain in battle many millennium ago, but who's powers over the Warp (a rip in regular space that allows for light-speed travel) have guided the Emperium to countless conquests.
Long story short, you make planet fall and kill a bunch of dudes. There's of course a whole lot more to it, but for the sake of keeping any plot spoilers out of this review, I won't discuss it. The game handles like you would expect a third-person shooter to, you look over the shoulder of a huge SPACE MARINE who gets to shoot a lot of varieties of green men.
The controls work just fine as far as I'm concerned, although personally it's a bit difficult some times to change weapons in the middle of a fight when your left hand is focused on getting Titus out of danger while your right hand is furiously clicking the melee button (You can swap through any of the weapons you currently hold (to a maximum of four) with the mouse wheel or the 1,2,3,4 buttons). There have, however, been some times when I've reloaded my gun (animation and all) only to find that when I clicked 'fire' my gun was still unloaded. I'm not sure if maybe I'm just going into melee too soon, but I was pretty sure the animation was finished before I did.
Graphically the game has some pretty nice looking level design, with huge structures stretching seemingly forever into the skies. And there is a moment (this isn't really a spoiler, and in fact is almost always in a game these days) where you're on a train, and seeing buildings go whizzing by as you continue to brutally murder Orks that still find it necessary to declare that you are in fact a space marine, looks pretty nice. Textures up close, however, are a bit of a different story. You would think that in a game where you're going to be staring at the back of your character for the entire time would look damn good. However the texture quality on Titus's armor is frankly quite poor. (Mind you I had the settings maxed and AA turned on, but there was still a lot of jagged edges and some pixelation.)
If anything is to be said safely about Space Marine, it is that the sound quality is very, very good. All of your weapons, no matter the size, basically give off an explosion whenever fired. And with a slight camera shake touch added, makes for some incredible satisfying gunplay, which is the game's strongest feature. The gruesome splashing of blood and the angry roar of your chainsword makes for some really badass scenes. Also, the way Titus moves with such weight and strength makes you feel like you're unstoppable, which unfortunately brings us to my next criticism.
Now the idea of a super-human warrior who's health doesn't recharge, reminding you that he is in fact human, is great. However, the way you have to go about regaining your health can lead to some very frustrating deaths. There are no health packs in this game, instead the game has you preform a super-deluxe form of murder on your foe by executing them, which in turn gives you a good portion of your health back. Now this all sounds fine and swell, and for a good portion of the game, works out quite well. But you soon realize that during your execution animations (wherein you have no control over Titus) you are completely vulnerable. This means that if you only have an inch of health left and you're still fighting a massive horde of enemies, you're basically guaranteed to die. Trying to stun your enemy and perform the execution move on them while dozens of other enemies are shooting the hell out of you does not make for a fun mechanic. Instead, the best thing you can do during these situations is the exact opposite of what the game has come to tell you; hide. Hiding will, if you're lucky and don't get flanked, allow your armor to recharge, giving you a few more moments of life.
Another thing about this mechanic that kind of annoys me is that even if you try to perform an execution on the last enemy in the area, you still risk the chance of simply killing him with your stun moves, which is probably the most infuriating thing ever.
Speaking of guys shooting the hell out of you, the enemy AI is actually fairly decent. It's not spectacular, but your foes will try to dodge your gunfire and even run away if you're murdering them too well. This doesn't mean you shouldn't expect people to simply rush at you guns blazing, because there's certainly plenty of that too.
Overall Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine delivers an entertaining if not somewhat frustrating experience that certainly has some replay value to it. While I haven't tried any of the multiplayer yet, the promises of co-op and a horde 'survival' mode coming in future (free) DLC sounds like there's still much more fun to be had here.