Brutal, bloody and millions of Orkz
I enjoy Warhammer 40,000 but only ever really got into the Dawn of War games. When Relic took a step back from RTS games and made a third person shooter I was less than enthusiastic. I'm pretty sick of bland shooters and this looked like this. I'm happy to say I was wrong in that assumption. Relic made what would normally be a generic game and turned it into some of the most fun I've had all year.
Brutal, bloody, thousands of enemies and a giant chainsaw sword. Space Marine's gameplay is fairly standard. Move from A to B to C killing everything in your path. What makes it fun is every weapon feels satisfying. The weapons pack a mighty punch when fired, even pistols and sniper rifles just blow enemies to pieces and feel more like canons than lighter weapon. You also find plasma weapons that can be charged for a more powerful shot and one of the most powerful weapons I've seen in a game, the meltagun which incinerates everything too close. For melee weapons you start with a knife but quickly get a chainsaw sword, after that you can get a power axe and of course, a warhammer. Even though the ranged weapons feel great I found the melee to be the most fun. Just charging into a horde of Orkz and slicing them to pieces is a lot of fun. Getting up close is needed for healing too. These are space marines, they don't hide behind cover and recharge health, no, they charge in, grab an enemy and rip it's head off to heal.
Space Marine has good pacing too. Rather than 5 or 6 large acts it has 17 small acts. That means you are constantly moving to the next area or encountering new enemies. I found that almost key to this game not becoming repetitive. No area lasted long enough to become boring. It tries to break up the gameplay with extra things such as manning a gun of a Valkyrie ship and donning on an assault jet pack which never, ever gets old. Launching into the sky and slamming down while the enemies around you explode and get blow back is definitely the highly of the game.
The story is serviceable but nothing fantastic. You're an Ultra Marine sent to a Forge World that is being invaded ahead of a liberation fleet to stop the Orkz from getting any Titans, giant Mechwarrior like machines. Most of the story is them going from place to place accomplishing objectives to halt the invasion as best they can, until about three-quarters into the game when things turn from bad to worse. I did end up liking Captain Titus, the main protagonist, by the end. He was you're standard Space Marine but he was cool. And as the ending shows, his story may not be over yet.
Multiplayer is a lot of fun but sadly, matchmaking is pretty bad at the moment and has very few maps. It's class based with 3 classes, each customizable. The regular space marine, a heavy bolter and assault jet pack class. Each with its own pro and cons with no one seeing to be the dominant class, so far anyway. I'd have really liked to have seen just a bit more effort into making more maps. When games like Gears of War and Cal of Duty are coming out with lots of maps ready to go it's no excuse to have a measly 5 multiplayer map and could easily kill the longevity of the game.
Graphically, Space Marine can definitely hold its own. Everything looks nice, few muddy textures and nice shadows and lighting. What really makes it stand out is the great warhammer 40k art style. Everything is epic. Massive buildings, cannons, bridges that would make the golden gate look tiny. It's all huge, heavy, with that great sci-fi gothic style to it. The animation is smooth although the lip syncing is pretty poor. That said you rarely see their faces directly where it stands out a lot and not as prominent as something like Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
There are a few glitches I came across. One was if you perform an execution move to regain health too close to an object the entire animation will clip into whatever is blocking it. Same goes for performing one too close to the edge of a cliff or bridge, they'll be floating in midair as it happens.
The audio in this game really excels. Every weapon sounds so heavy and powerful. In fact, everything does. Even running you can hear and feel the weight of the Space Marine armour. The voice acting is well-done with a pretty great performance by Mark Strong who voices Captain Titus. The other voice actors do well to. All very British, even the Orkz but that's Warhammer and part of its charm. The soundtrack holds it own too with war drums playing as you battle enemies and appropriately epic sounding music throughout.
While it won't be a game that's going to set the world on fire, it is one thing. Fun. It's just really, really, fun. If you're a Warhammer 40k fan this is a must-have. If you just enjoy third person shooters, I'd say it's still worth picking up but maybe when it's slightly cheaper. I look forward to horde mode coming out in a couple of weeks too. Hopefully by then any online issues will be fixed.
What I liked:
- The feel of the weapons.
- The excellent audio.
- Using a jet pack and smashing dudes into a bloody mess.
- Mark Strong as Captain Titus.
- The size and scope of everything.
- The fun factor.
What I Disliked:
- No server list or dedicated servers on the PC version.
- Crappy matchmaking at the moment.
- Too few multiplayer maps.
- Would have liked to have seen vehicles in action. Not just infantry.