Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

Post-Launch Review
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
Developer: Relic Entertainment
Released: September 2011


This third-person shooter set in the Warhammer 40k universe follows Captain Titus and the Ultramarines, called in as the vanguard to defend a valuable forge world from a massive Ork invasion. Noting that the Orks seem unusually organized, Captain Titus soon discovers that the forge world houses a secret prototype superweapon capable of ending the invasion... or if misused, cracking the planet in half.

At Launch

Critics enjoyed Space Marine, giving it an average review score of about 75% across all platforms. The game's combat was highly praised, as was its adaptation of the 40k universe. However, many critics felt that the campaign was too linear with few interesting environments.

Post Launch

Three major updates were released. Two focused on bug fixes and balance changes for multiplayer, while the third added a new multiplayer mode - Exterminatus - which is basically a co-op survival/horde mode with three classes and two maps to choose from.
There are 13 DLC items; 12 are weapon or armour reskins for multiplayer. The last, the Chaos Unleashed map pack, adds Exterminatus arenas where you play as Chaos Marines.

The Good

Space Marine features heavy use of melee combat - in fact, I'm certain I killed more enemies in melee than I did with firearms. Melee is brutal and very bloody; you'll often emerge from combat with your blue-and-gold armour stained completely red. Stunned enemies can be executed for health recovery, and there are plenty of different animations for these executions.
There's a surprisingly large assortment of firearms. You keep a pistol and bolter (essentially a machine gun) with you at all times, and your other two slots can be swapped out at will for a variety of interesting and powerful weapons. I particularly enjoyed the Melta Gun, which instantly vaporizes anything within short range.
You also have a Fury meter which fills up as you hit enemies, either in melee or with guns. When activated, Fury gives you health regeneration and a damage boost until it ends, and makes your weapon aim go into slow motion for added accuracy.
A few times over the course of the game you also receive a jump pack, which allows you to make massive jet-assisted jumps, and then dive-bomb to the ground and flatten or stun anything around you. These segments are especially enjoyable with the Thunder Hammer, the most powerful melee weapon in the game.
Feeling Powerful
In a typical shooter, your character mows down hundreds of bad guys, and sometimes you have to wonder how you manage it. Not in Space Marine. The game constantly reminds you that you're one of the most badass guys in the galaxy. Every time you run into the Imperial Guard they are shocked and honoured to be in the presence of a space marine. And of course, you're far stronger than just about anything you face in combat, which frees up the game to throw massive numbers of enemies at you so you can just blaze through them and feel even more badass than the Guard say you are. Just for perspective, I killed over 2,500 enemies over the course of the single-player campaign.
This is not to say the game is easy, though. Orks are dangerous due to their numbers, and as the campaign progresses you run into some truly challenging enemies.
You might think that a game where you kill literally thousands of bad guys wouldn't focus that much on story, but Space Marine's is surprisingly good. Not to say it's great, but there are some good turns and surprises, along with a particular recurring plot thread that seemed minor but came back in a big way for the finale, and actually left me wanting a sequel.
40K Adaptation
Space Marine does a great job of bringing the 40K universe to life in a different way than the previous tactical games. It gives a fairly narrow but solid view of the various factions, and makes each one distinct. Given the more serious tone of the game, it was probably a good choice not to go too far into some of the more comedic aspects of the Orks, and instead focused on making them dangerous through sheer massive numbers and total lack of knowledge of the word "retreat".
Space Marine looks pretty good. Facial animation is the only aspect that could be called subpar. Character models and environments are highly detailed, movement and animations are great, there are plenty of different visual effects for weapons and events, lighting works well, and everything is generally quite polished.
There seem to still be a few people in multiplayer - at least, enough for me to join Exterminatus matches in a relatively short time. Exterminatus is fun as horde modes always tend to be, but versus is a different experience from the single player campaign. Instead of mowing down hordes of Orks, you instead fight enemy Marines on equal footing.
As most games tend to have these days, there's an XP and progression system. You unlock new loadouts, perks, and other neat stuff as you level up in multiplayer. Exterminatus also contributes to your multiplayer level, which is nice.

The Neutral

Yep, it's linear. Just be aware going in if you don't like linear games.
The only times the linearity bothered me is when I was blocked by knee-high debris and an inability to jump. The game does a great job of conveying the huge mass of the space marines, but you'd think that if you can dive roll and sprint in that power armour you could jump at least a foot or two.

The Bad

Captain Titus (and his two fellow Ultramarines) don't wear a helmet. At all. EVER. I understand that you wouldn't be able to see their faces with helmets on, and therefore you wouldn't get as attached to them, but COME ON. The face models are fine, but the animation isn't good enough to justify the complete helmetlessness.
EDIT: I've been informed that in the lore, it's a mark of bravery among the space marines to fight without a helmet, and this is usually only done by veterans - hence the newbie in the squad keeping his helmet until it gets broken. The bolts on the marines' foreheads are apparently a replacement for the helmet's HUD. If this were explained in the game, I'd have no problems whatsoever.
Almost every time you run into an enemy, one of them shouts SPACE MARINES! or KILL THE SPACE MARINES! or something. After a certain point I just wished I could tell them, yes, I am a space marine, now shut up... and then I had to endure it for seven more hours.

The Verdict

Recommendation: play it.
If you like feeling ridiculously overpowered, Space Marine is the game for you. Combat is highly varied and highly satisfying, with many different enemy types and combat scenarios. The story is surprisingly solid for such a highly combat-focused game, and does a great job of showcasing some of the more interesting 40K lore. I had a lot of fun and would definitely recommend it, whether or not you're already a 40K fan. The ending even left me wanting a sequel.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, the bolts in the marines' heads are to represent service length. Due to genetic re-structuring, marines will live for hundreds of years and each of the bolts represent 50 years of duty, so Titus would have been a captain for at least 100 years. Meanwhile, all of the functions that a helmet may provide is easily carried by the Marine as either a handheld tool or in other parts of his armor.