When I think of Warhammer I imagine large scale tabletop battles with carefully painted figurines and books full of stats and critical hit information. I also think of sprawling conflicts across a detailed map, issuing orders with strategic point and click movements in an RTS envornment. These thoughts are exactly why I never got into Warhammer in the first place, and that is why I was so pleasantly surprised when I popped Warhammer 40k: Space Marine into my console. Instead of the well thought out, highly strategic game I had previous experiences with I was greeted with a blood-thirsty third person shooter that gives us a new insight into this highly diverse world. The question is will a change of direction alienate the die hard fans?
Brutal melee combat – Space Marine provides some of the most satisfying and gory melee combat you’ll find in the genre. Dispatching of enemies with any number of melee weapons is always a gory affair – and also quite beneficial. If you stun your enemies before executing a kill move you will regain some of your health, and watch as you slice some Orks in half with your impressive Chainsword. It’s a welcome change of pace that throws a little hack and slash into your shooter type gameplay to keep things interesting.
Epic battles – Space Marine plays out like a Sci-Fi epic that features some truly spectacular set pieces and large scale battles. At any given time you will be facing off against swarming numbers of enemies that usually culminate in a bit of the old ultra-violence as Ork blood fills the screen. While these battles are quite intense and large the game never seems to stutter or suffer from frame-rate issues which is rather impressive.
Addictive multiplayer – It may feature the same weapon unlocks and perks that every modern day shooter seems to offer, but something keeps drawing you back to Space Marine’s accessible and frantic multiplayer suite. It’s the same hack and slash meets shooter formula you had in the single-player campaign but against real opponents. To put it simply – Chainswords + Jetpacks = pure carnage online.
Originality – what is that? – Space Marine may be fun at times but you can’t help but notice the obvious similarities to a certain other franchise that also features big burly Marines fighting off waves of enemies and also has a Chainsaw attached to their weapon. I’m not going to name names here (starts with G and ends in ears of War) but the similarities go far deeper than just character and setting.
The way the cut-scenes play out, the way that Captain Titus slows down to a walk while communicating between battles, right down to the chapter names and position on screen are all akin to Microsoft’s exclusive series. We’re not saying that you can’t pay homage – but there is a fine line between a delightful nod of the head and a downright carbon copy. However Space Marine features no cover mechanics and some awesome jet-pack action.
Pacing is off – It’s not uncommon for Space Marine to join two cut-scenes together with a ten second game of filler gameplay that has you walk from one point to another without anything happening. While the cut-scenes themselves look great and are usually full of action the fact that the game makes you stop, walk and then stop again is disjointed and breaks immersion at times.
Executions: Blessing or a curse? – Executions are your only means of regaining lost health is Space Marine which is fine, however, it does cause a liability when in the heat of battle. Enemies can still harm you when performing the execution move, and with no way to cancel it mid-action it can often lead to your demise. This becomes problematic during many large battles, especially towards the end of the game when things get really intense.
The Final Verdict
Warhammer 40k: Space Marine may be a massive departure from previous games in the franchise, and while it is far from original it still provides some seriously satisfying combat and set peices. Whether it will appeal to die hard fans remains to be seen but if you enjoy fast paced shooters with a sci-fi story, melee combat that is intense and gory and you won’t have access to Gears of War 3 this summer, then Space Marines is definitely worth a look.