Let Loose the Sons of War!
My history with Warhammer 40K is well documented here on the site, I pretty much have none. As I am not a fan of strategy games I shied away from Relics RTS entries in the Warhammer 40K series. However I later learned of the wonderful world these games inhabit and what a fool I was for missing out on them. While the strategy series is light on the annoying RTS features that drive me away, I still haven’t had the chance to play through them. When I heard that Relic was going to be releasing a third person shooter/brawler hybrid in Space Marine, I knew this would be the perfect entry for myself into the series. I have now played through the game and my simple one word review: BRUTAL!
Space Marine tells a fairly simple story following the exploits of Captain Titus as he defends against an Ork invasion and attempts to secure the war machine Titans which could turn the tide of the war in their favor. The game then becomes a linear path through environments ranging from war-torn cityscapes to war-torn sewers. It is not unlike its close cousin Gears of War in this respect. You will move from objective to objective, fighting hundreds of Orks along the way only to find that something has gone wrong and you need to move to a new location. This is completely serviceable, if nothing new in the genre, so don’t come looking to Space Marine for a grand tale of adventure and romance. Come looking to Space Marine for brutal smash your face in violence!
That is the first thing that struck me from my first 10 minutes with the game. This game is so violent and over the top with its oozing machismo I likened it to the film Predator. This is the type of game that will put hair on your chest and make a man of you. Titus is perfectly content to shove his chainsword into an Orks gullet, smash their heads in with a thunderhammer, stomp boot to skull, and impale enemies with a large arsenal of ranged weaponry. The brutality of the game is so ingrained into the characters it becomes a mechanic in itself, as the only way to heal in Space Marine is to perform melee kills on enemies. There were times when I would be down to my last slice of life, literally one hit away from death, but the game makes you feel so powerful and invincible I gladly ran into the middle of battle and started crushing skulls until I was back on my feet and ready to fight some more.
The Best Soldiers in the Galaxy
And fighting you will be doing. Between Captain Titus and his objective there are millions of Ork minions waiting to be thrashed. These guys throw themselves at you willingly, lining up to be torn to shreds and covering your armor in gore as you gleefully slice through them. I thought ammunition would be an issue in the game as there are so many enemies to kill, however it is extremely plentiful and I thankfully never had to hold back from using my ranged weapons. You are outfitted with a pistol, submachine gun, sniper rifle, and a swappable “heavy” weapon. I found the machine gun was extremely effective for 90% of enemies you encounter where the heavy weaponry was only necessary for a handful of larger enemy types. That isn’t to say the other weapons aren’t fun of course! It is endlessly satisfying to wait for enemies to group up and blast them all to nothingness with the melta gun or use the Plasma cannon to vaporize large chunks of helpless orks. The laser gun was simply the best of these weapons for taking out tough enemies so it was usually in my load out.
Melee combat is limited to only 3 options, the swift chainsword, stronger poweraxe, and the unstoppable thunderhammer. The hammer of course being so powerful it limits you to only using your pistol and machine gun, though it is endlessly satisfying to see Captain Titus wielding a giant glowing hammer and using it to crush his enemies and see them driven before him. Melee attacks boil down to a basic attack which can be chained to perform combos, a stun attack which is necessary to put enemies into a weakened state where you can then perform a grab attack melee kill which will refill your health. You are also equipped with a fury meter that fills up every time you attack an enemy and can be unleashed to increase your attack power, decrease damage, and heal you slightly over time.
Fortunately for you the combat is really fluid and fun. I played the game on the PC however I did use a 360 controller as this game does feel like it was built for the consoles. There are no issues with the mouse and keyboard setup, it just felt more natural using a controller. Anybody familiar with Gears of War will be used to the setup here and should understand the preference for the controller, especially when the combat is mixed with some God of War style melee combat.
Look sir, they flee like cowards!
Now that we’ve got the good squared away it’s time to examine some of the games shortcomings. The game is very linear and it is almost 2 dimensional in its goals as a game. You simply walk forward and kill everything in sight. While this fits the world of Space Marine it can get somewhat tedious. Environments are nothing too special, though I do commend Relic for finding ways to change them up, they do fall back onto gaming tropes such as the sewer level and a couple of turret sections. Enemy variety is also kind of an issue. I say kind of because of the enemies that are there they certainly are varied, however there are really only 2 factions you will fight in the game and each of them have carbon copy enemy types. The orks start with a small melee unit, they have ranged units with machine guns, mortars, and missiles, and then one heavy unit which takes multiple hits to take down and has a struggle QTE to finish off. The other faction, the warriors of Chaos, mimic these types only with appropriately demonic versions. It would’ve been nice to see some more variety in factions and even some more epic boss fights, as it stands there are really only 2 bosses in the game as most areas end with a HUGE battle arena.
The other glaring issue with the game is its length. My single player playthrough clocked in at about 7 hours. This game can easily be beaten in one sitting, so gamers concerned with value for their dollar may be put off by that. Also, and this is an issue we harangued Warhammer 40K Kill Team for, is there is no co-op out of the box! While Relic has said this feature will be coming later on via patch, that is completely unacceptable. This game is designed for co-op, throughout the whole campaign you are usually joined by 2 AI space marine partners. While they are good at killing enemies with you it seems like a completely dropped ball that you can’t join your friends and smash ork skulls together.
The saving grace here is the multiplayer. Any longevity from this game will come from this. There are two standard modes out of the box, a team deathmatch race to 41 kills, and a control point mode where teams try to hold specific sections of the map. The game comes with the now standard leveling up system. Each level unlocks new weapons, abilities, and gametypes (ability to customize games). There are also a number of challenges such as getting x number of headshots or y melee kills which will give you extra XP at the end of the round. I didn’t have any trouble finding matches and the gameplay online was smooth for me but it is early in the games life-cycle so who knows how time will treat this one. I did enjoy the multiplayer, fans of Gears of War and other similar third person shooters will feel right at home here, though those of you looking for something new in the 3rd person shooter multiplayer scene will be disappointed.
Of Course It All Sounds the Same, It All Sounds Brutal!
So, what are my final thoughts on Space Marine? I love this game. Sure it isn’t the most original and doesn’t bring anything really new to the table, but what it does do it does extremely well. This is a first attempt by Relic to create a shooter married with brawler components and it works flawlessly. The game ran silky smooth on my machine and was incredibly stable never once crashing nor freezing on me. The game is absolutely brutal and filled with balls to the wall action from the first time you cut an ork in half to the way you kill the final boss (which was insane and left my jaw hanging). I have no allegiance nor experience with the Warhammer 40K universe, but based on the small taste Space Marine has given me, I am ready to play some more. Thankfully the game does leave a hook open for a new entry in the series and I’ll be looking forward to seeing it.