Seems like a great demo for a better game down the road
I've noticed the intimidatingly titled Warhammer 40,000 franchise here and there through most of my gaming life, but never was I really tempted to see what it was about until the Quick Look for Space Marine. Vinny and Ryan seemed like they were having the wildest time with it, and what I was seeing on screen looked like it could genuinely supply that entertainment for a more jaded gamer like myself. Luckily, around the time I came across that Quick Look was when the game became available for free on Playstation Plus, so I decided to give the game a try. For two or three hours of gameplay, Warhammer 40,000 mostly delivers on the promise of its epic title screen. You're buzz sawing through legions of orks in the melee combat, brutally murdering these basically defenseless little British mutants in order to regenerate your health and keep the battle going.
On its face, that mechanic is extremely satisfying. You'll be surrounded by a dozen orks, swinging wildly with your melee weapon when you notice your health is nearly depleted, so you start mashing on the ∆ button to stun them and then perform executions that bring you back to perfect health. It's a brand of brutality so satisfying that it enticed me towards the melee side of the combat almost exclusively. Gunplay quickly became a side show that I engaged in only when the enemy and I were charging each other, or vertical advantages rendered them un-punchable. The impact of the ammunition on its targets doesn't provide much incentive to hang back and fire rounds, either, with the bullets basically coming off as HP reducers rather than things that are actually causing pain to their targets until death suddenly envelopes them.
Sadly, this reduces a gorgeous game full of goofily dogmatic, steroidal soldiers remorselessly pummeling on green monsters that have little to say other than their hilarious "Space Marines!" scout cry into a button mashing endurance run. Eventually the minimal number of one- and two-button combos becomes repetitive and rote, while the limited number of execution animations from weapon to weapon causes the health system to feel slightly more gimmicky than it probably deserves to (it will be interesting to see how Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance handles a similar mechanic). The melee combat could have probably benefited greatly from a larger variety of enemies (I understand the game throws some new wrinkles at you, but I just couldn't maintain interest sometime around Chapter 6), and even more importantly the sort of counter mechanics and context-sensitive attacks that appear in the Rocksteady Batman games, Sleeping Dogs and Assassin's Creed.
Space Marine was a fun little diversion for a few days when I wanted some mindless brutality, and it's a shame to see the game no longer available for free on the PS+ service. But it's also a game that doesn't really do enough to justify its existence in a gaming climate that pretty much exhausted the usefulness of standard button mashers and generic gunplay (especially lacking any cover mechanics, though I actually found that refreshing and in line with the Marines' indestructible aura) a decade ago. If I had paid actual money for this game, I might have felt more incentive to push through and finish the game, but I'm just not too positive I'd have enjoyed that experience much at all.