Platform: PC, PlayStation 3 Xbox 360
Genre: 3rd Person shooter, Action
Watch The Trailer
Developed by Relic Entertainment and published by THQ, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine brings that universe's giant Space Monks to Windows, PS3 and XBox 360. There's very little really unique in this game. GW Space Marines have been knocking for near 25 years and any modern game where huge armoured soldiers fight hordes of gribbly alien things owes a lot to the Space Marines. Master Chief and Marcus Fenix may be more recent examples but it all comes back in a big way to the Ultramarines.
The plot isn't original but it can't be without veering wildly from the source material. You're a Space Marine, there's massive waves of aliens/daemons/generic bad guy #86, go kill them in the name of the Emperor. It's not a bad plot by any stretch and it keeps the action rolling along. The non-Marine characters are interesting. The Marines themselves are a touch boring, there’s not a whole lot you can do to make a Space Monk interesting and their repeated battle cries get boring. In a lot of cut-scenes they can come off more like backstabbing jerks then heroes of humanity. The campaign is a little on the short side and you’ll be doing well to get 8 or 9 hours out of it even with quite a bit of just wandering around.
The combat is where this game lives or dies, and it's amazing. Space Marines feel like they have a real heft, fitting for someone who is apparently meant to weigh around half a tonne and their weapons are similarly oversized and satisfying to use. There's a nice differentiation between close combat weapons, swords are fast, axes and hammers are slower but feel like each is shattering bone more than slicing skin. A lot of the time I was just there to show off by carving through hordes of Orks, or impaling one on a sword, or kicking it's skull clean through, or shatter their back off a wall. But while it’s fun to bull rush into a pack of aliens, sending them flying and carving them up for health points, I experienced a lot of awkward slow downs in combat as Titus swung wildly at the air long after I’d put the controller on ground, wondering if the game had gotten itself stuck.
That doesn't mean ranged combat isn't fun. There's not a lot of individual enemies, but they're used well. I had plenty of engagement in long range battles with enemies who would've cut poor Titus to shreds before he'd gotten close. There’s also a few spots where you’ll see a massive cluster of Orks on the other side of a chokepoint and be able to happily riddle them from a safe distance.
Of all the equipment special mention has to go to the jump-pack, not so so much for the freedom of flying about but the earth shattering landings that send enemies flying if not killing them outright. Sometimes you’re not feeling fancy though, and there’s nothing wrong with the bolt pistol and chainsword for carving up enemies. Relic had claimed that Space Marines don't take cover and for the most part this is true. Being 8 foot tall, covered in armour and since the most effective ways of regaining health is to slaughter the bad guys, there's no cover system. Even so sometimes I'd find myself getting a bit too carried away, or trapped in skewering bad guy animation and be so wounded afterward that the only sensible thing was to "perform a tactical withdrawal" and hide behind some convenient crates until the noise stopped.
Environments are exactly as you'd expect them, with the Gothic Industrial vibe carried throughout the game. Relic have produced a lot of games in this Universe so they know their stuff and everything is on show. The Audio is mostly bullets, gore and death rattles as it should be, but the boring Marine battle cries get in the way a lot. I know Titus is a Space Marine, even if I couldn’t guess what an Ork is it gets pretty clear after I’ve shot a few dozen of them. I don’t need to be reminded every 2 minutes. I get that there dogmatic preaching is a part of the universe, but it got on my nerves.
Space Marine enters the market going straight up against Gears of War but there’s very real differences between the 2. From my early plays of GoW3 the cover mechanics and their size COGs feel a lot lighter on their feet, and the game feels more fluid where Titus can sometimes feel a giant robot being piloted by a head. But on the flip side Titus feels like he could kill Locusts by shouting at them. Space Marines are super human. Break out the Bolt Pistol and wade into some Orks, you won’t regret it.
Review by: Tony O'Hare