Game On: Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

by Joe on October 2, 2011

I’m not going to lie he and tell you I wasn’t excited for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. You see, I’m a Games Workshop fanboy and have been since the early 90’s. I love the tabletop game and all the fluff and story lines that accompany it.

Space Marine follows in that long line of video games built on GW’s product.

I know it's weird but people enjoy doing this

Though it’s certainly Not the best game to represent the brand (that award goes to the amazing RTS game Dawn of War), it’s probably the most enjoyable.

In the game you play the role of Captain Titus of the Ultramarines, a chapter of the near mythical Space Marines. Basically for those unfamiliar with the Warhammer brand, space marines are the equivalent of 8 foot tall genetically modified armored killing machines. Titus and his squad are part of a planetary drop to liberate a planet from hordes of Orks. Orks being  green skinned humanoids with giant teeth and jaws who speak in a cockney accent.

Oi! That aint right tha is...

However that’s just part of the story. As the game progresses not everything is as it seems. Our loyal Space Marines get drawn deeper and deeper into a conspiracy that could destroy the Imperium of Man which they serve.

In terms of story, the plot was simple enough that I could understand what was going on, but I fear that someone not familiar with the brand might get a bit confused. Words like Titan and warp are used without giving the proper context. However as most video game players are used to crazy stories being dropped in their laps, I think they’ll catch on. The over plot certainly wasn’t Shakespeare (or Uncharted 2 for that matter) but it’s close enough to other popular fps’ like Halo and Gears of War to keep you entertained.

So what about the gameplay? I’m not a huge fan of the FPS genre, but I do like  occasionally zoning out to a game that is simply shooting an enemy. Space Marine balances out shooting and melee combat fairly interestingly. Unlike most games, your character can carry multiple weapons and you have a fair number of opportunities to swap them out. Your Bolter, the standard weapon of the space marines, does a fair amount of damage on it’s own, and there were few times when I actually came dangerously close to running out of ammo for it. Each gun has it’s own unique abilities, and there was little overlap in functionality. I actually had to make some hard choices when selecting which four guns to take. (hint: always take the lascannon) .  The in game targeting is nice, but the accuracy and strength of the weapons can vary enough to make it slightly annoying in difficult encounters.

Melee is a bit more difficult to judge. Although you’re told each of your melee weapons is different, the only one which has noticeably different effects is the thunder hammer. Besides, that melee combat is very reminiscent of God of War so there is no style to the hack and slash. The biggest problem with combat however is the camera angles do not let you have a good idea of what’s going on around you, leading to some very annoying moments.

who did I just kill?

Probably one of the more laughable attributes of the game is that it is marketed as a non-cover based shooter, because, according to the fluff, Space Marines don’t use cover. That’s surprising considering most levels have enough cover to hide behind.

However that’s the interesting part of the game is that you really don’t have to do both shooting and melee. Like the table top game, Space Marine gives you a lot of leeway in playing the game to your style. If you like a lot of God of War style melee it’s all yours, but if you prefer to stay back, rely on your armor, and shoot, that works too.

However as a side note, I’d like to mention what I think is the biggest  flaw in the game. The health system is pretty messed up. Once you lose your shields (which regenerate), you begin losing health. The only way to regain health is to pull off a deadly melee combo. This isn’t hard to do, but if another enemy is hitting you as you do the  combo, you continue to lose health. This wouldn’t be a problem if you could come across single enemies, but most baddies travel in packs.

Also you can’t jump. What’s up with that? Great warrior of the Imperium stopped by ankle high pipes.

The game looks beautiful too, with fully rendered environments that never seem to repeat.  Game series like The Force Unleashed should take note.

Overall I feel Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is a refreshing turn for the shooter, which has recently been beating the Halo/Gears of War franchises to death. It’s also another great entry in a series of games from games workshop which have spanned the gamut of play style from FPS to MMO.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

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