Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine Review: Spoice Murine!!
Relic Entertainment have done a fantastic job with the 40k franchise over the years on the Dawn of War series, so them developing a third person shooter set in the same universe is an exciting prospect. Upon playing Space Marine its instantly recognisable that Relic really do understand and "get" the grim and dark atmosphere and feel of Games Workshop's franchise. You play as Captain Titus of the Ultramarines. A forgeworld named Graia is under attack from a massive Ork horde and you are the vanguard of an Imperium fleet sent to stop the Ork invasion and prevent them from obtaining the Titans that are housed on the planet. Its a simple set-up that inevitably takes a turn for the worst and ends in a 3 way battle for control of the planet. There is a plot twist in the middle of the game that was unfortunately ruined by adverts for it but it was an extremely predictable plot anyway. Relic played it very safe story wise here, keeping the game focused on a small number of factions and 1 planet, but it works. The plot is never emotionally engaging or thrilling, but it is fun and provides a satisfactory outline for the conflict you are fighting in. The main characters consist of your 2 squad members, an imperial guard lieutenant and some enemy leaders. There are some attempts to pull emotional heart strings but none of the characters are remotely likeable enough or well developed enough to justify this. You just won't care about the characters in this game. Its a limited story line which is a shame considering the rich lore of the 40k universe.
The sound of the game is also strong. The music helps to set the tone of the game without ever intruding on gameplay. The voice acting in Space Marine is surprisingly good. Captain Titus is voiced without being overly cheesy, and the differing personalities of the squad are portrayed by their voiced interactions during the game. Some of the dialogue is a bit artificial feeling, like when they loudly announce the next thing they are going to do, but overall the voice acting is solid. The sounds of the weapons are excellent here, something that fans of the franchise will be very happy about. Things like the chainsword and bolter are fantastic when they fire, and overall its an impressive sound design. I also have to mention that the constant shouts of "SPACE MARINE" are hilarious and add to the portrayal of the Orks as comic yet dangerous.
A really refreshing aspect of Space Marine is that it is a third person shooter but it is NOT cover based. Instead of taking cover and waiting for health to regenerate, you must kill enemies to get your health back. This directly encourages aggressive gameplay while simultaneously differentiating the game from the packed 3rd person shooter market. There are numerous weapons to use and all of them are bloody and reduce enemies to pulp. The combat comes down to a combination of melee and ranged, both of which are viable. Some of the weapons are really fun to use, like the thunder hammer and the melta gun. Combat can become slightly repetitive at points, but the game has a good variety of enemies and breaks up any monotony with jetpack sections and some well placed story cutscenes. There is very little depth in terms of the mechanics of Space Marine when compared to a game like Gears of War, but it is the simplicity of Space Marine that is so attractive to play. Its a really accessible game with next to no learning curve.
You can stun an enemy and then go into a really nice execution animation that changes depending on what weapon you have equipped. This gives you health back but for some strange reason you are vulnerable to attack and taking damage while you are in this animation. This can lead to some frustrating or cheap deaths. The game throws large groups of enemies at you so you will be doing a lot of fighting but the check points are laid out poorly and you cannot save yourself so you have to rely on the games check point system. These are small complaints, but they did annoy me during my playthrough. The campaign is short, taking me about 6 hours on normal difficulty. There are some good boss fights and really fun sequences such as an aerial drop onto an Ork ship and the sequence for the last boss fight, but I think that 6 hours is too little for a full priced game. There is very little replay value in the game, with only some collectibles and different difficulty levels being the replay prospects. There is free DLC coming for the game that will allow co-op play, but I have no idea why the game shipped without it already in it and really it feels like THQ rushed the game to retail. Its funny because you are with friendly AI squad members for almost the whole game, and their behaviour leaves a lot to be desired so the game is proimed for co-op play.
The multiplayer is extensive, with different classes and plenty of character and level advancement. The maps seem like a good mix but I did not find it very compelling or interesting. You are limited to 2 near identical factions for it and there is just not very much imagination put into it. The game really does suffer from a lack of campaign co-op, and despite how approachable the gameplay is, it does get a little bit repetitive. Make no mistake, Space Marine is a good game that does a lot of things right. However I feel that the game is a bit bare bones with a relatively flimsy story and has very little replay value. It is a great rental, but I would not pay full price for this game, despite its strengths. There a just too many other games out that provide so much more content for the same price. I can't help but be a bit disappointed that a developer as decorated as Relic came up with this, but I hope that they get to continue the series as it has a lot of promise.
- Colourful game that really captures the aesthetics of the universe
- Great backdrops and presentation
- Intense combat against large numbers of enemies
- Good selection of weapons that look and sound great
- Good enemy variety
- Good music track
- Character models look and feel right
- Encourages aggressive gameplay and does not use cover mechanics
- Some very good sequences in the game
- Jet pack sequences
- Very predictable story
- Limited multiplayer
- No co-op upon release
- Allied AI is questionable
- Some environments feel lifeless when they should have been the emotional high of the game
- Too short
- The execution animation leave you open to damage
- "SPACE MARINE!!"