Developer/s: Relic Entertainment
Platform/s: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Third-person, action
Release Date: 2011-09-05
The Warhammer 40k universe has been around since 1987, in the form of a turn-based, table-top war game (and is still going strong to this day), and with twenty-four years of canon to draw inspiration from it’s not surprising that video-games would be made and though there have been some in the past like Space Hulk (1993), Chaos Gate (1998) and Fire Warrior (2003) to name but a few, it was only until Relic Entertainment‘s Dawn of War series that the 40k universe received the recognition it deserved (as far as computer & video-games are concerned). With a nightmarish, futuristic setting, the 40k universe is prime gaming fodder and Relic Entertainment is well aware of this fact, and with years of experience under their belts, Space Marine proves to be an authentic experience true to the franchise, simply put – Space Marine is brutal.
Unlike Relic Entertainment’s previous Warhammer entries, Space Marine has forsaken the real-time strategy genre in favour of a more up close and personal experience in the form of a third-person hack-and-slash/shooter game that focuses more closely on the Space Marines, in particular the Ultramarines – one of the strongest and most honoured Space Marine Chapters. When Graia, one of the Imperium’s Forge Worlds (planets designated for mass industry to fuel humanity’s war effort) is besieged by millions of the Ork Horde, a small group of Ultramarines are sent to dispatch the Ork menace and secure a precious commodity – an Imperial Titan, Invictus (a building-sized, bi-pedal war machine). You play as Captain Titus (voiced by Mark Strong) together with two of your trusted Ultramarines – Veteran Sergeant Sidonus and the young Battle-Brother Leandros, as you make for the planet’s surface in order to purge the world of the green masses of Ork.
Space Marine manages to be quite immersive as the way the plot develops feels much the same as reading one of the Black Library 40k novels and while the overall storyline isn’t overly complex it manages to remain interesting nonetheless. When Titus and his marines discover a distress signal sent by Inquisitor Drogan, it soon becomes apparent that the Orks are merely paving the way for something far more sinister and threatening. Space Marine is dissected into long stretches of game-play and short in-game cinematic sequences that progress the plot.
Space Marine does an admirable job of bringing the harshness of the 40k universe to life, all the characters look faithful to the source material and you actually feel as if you are in the Space Marine armour as controlling Titus feels powerful and weighty, this is accentuated with the heavy-footed stomping sound the Space Marines make when they move around. One thing I liked about this game in particular was the feeling of continuity, because Relic Entertainment developed Space Marine, all the Orks, demons and so forth sounded like they do in the Dawn of War series – case in point with the Orks who once again sound like hoodey-wearing yobs while behaving like football hooligans running around causing untold amounts of destruction and carnage. The addition of Mark Strong as the deep-voiced Captain Titus is a welcome one indeed, as Strong portrays Titus as commanding and authoritative. There’s a definite feeling of authenticity here as Relic Entertainment has faithfully created the Forge World to a tee, a Forge World is a planet stripped of its resources and covered in industry, so don’t expect to see lush forests and green hills as players will be met with towering buildings, factories, streets, vast corridors and landscapes of dusty mountains devoid of life. While the locales may sound somewhat dreary, it compliments the subject matter beautifully.
And not forgetting the Space Marines themselves – all their armour and weapons have been faithfully recreated here, down to the chipped paint and dents, and speaking of weapons, there is a vast selection to choose from so while you start out with a bolt pistol and combat knife, as the game progresses you will soon lay your hands on more effective and destructive weaponry such as the chainsword, power axe, meltagun, lascannon and my personal favourite, the heavy bolter. The game allows you to carry one melee weapon and up to four ranged weapons simultaneously. Space Marine uses a hybrid combat play mechanic, allowing players to engage enemies in brutal melee combat in third-person or ranged first-person mode well-suited for sniping weapons like the stalker pattern bolter or the lascannon however players also have the option of shooting from the hip (third-person) which definitely has its advantages when faced with hordes of enemies. The most satisfying aspect of Space Marine is without a doubt the game-play, dispatching your foes with a well-placed bolter round or chainsword to the stomach feels very satisfying, and one of the most impressive combat features are the ‘execution’ moves which can be done after stunning an enemy (a prompt will appear above their head), there’s nothing quite like knocking your enemy to the ground then putting your boot through their skull.
On top of that, execution moves rejuvenate a portion of your health bar but be weary, these moves leave you vulnerable to attack so if you attempt to execute an enemy while surrounded by a horde of his friends they will inevitably gun you down before you can restore your health. As you progress through the game you will unlock the Fury meter, which once filled allows players to dish out brutal melee attacks (earning you health simultaneously) or ‘bullet-time’ slowdown allowing you to hit many targets over a short amount of time with your ranged weaponry. As one would imagine, Space Marine is insanely violent, as blood and viscera fly in all directions, whether melee or ranged combat, there is invariably geysers of blood and getting in close and personal will remodel your ‘ultramarine’ blue armour to a deep crimson. Space Marine has some impressive visuals, with solid textures, some awesome lighting/pyrotechnic effects and no noticeable glitching or screen-tearing. A reasonably powerful PC will be required to play this game with maximum settings (unless of course, you purchased either of the console versions).
The game-play is pretty straight forward, you shoot, stab and bludgeon and you stomp around…looking for things to shoot, stab and bludgeon..respectively. There isn’t a whole lot of different combinations of melee combat, and one would be forgiven for thinking that the two or three different attack moves would make for a tedious experience but it is instantly overlooked since the game is just so much fun…dumb…but fun nonetheless. Space Marine is not a very tough game and given that you are an eight-foot tall super human running around in power armour it’s understandable, however the game is absolutely relentless as you are almost always engaged in combat, which is the point as Relic Entertainment wanted players to be thrown into a warzone. Even though the game is geared towards melee combat I found myself using the ranged weaponry for the most part. So while the game is relatively easy, the last chapter becomes quite difficult before the final boss encounter which is a complete cop-out which left me feeling cheated.
While Space Marine has a wonderful presentation and is extremely fun, it is also decidedly short being able to finish the single-player campaign in just over two days. There is multiplayer mode allowing players to customize their Space Marine (colour scheme and so forth) and then duke it out online. The multiplayer functionality adds some much-needed longevity to the game but that’s not saying you wont play through the campaign again, as I stated before, Space Marine is a lot of fun.
Space Marine is really one for the fans as Relic Entertainment have created a satisfyingly-fun Warhammer 40k experience that is faithful to the original subject matter. While there isn’t a huge amount of melee combos and so forth, the game never lets up with its relentless pace and the large variety of Orks and other antagonists (not going to give everything away) ensure that the game never stagnates. Though definitely not for everyone, Space Marines offers a somewhat mindless, hack-and-slash adventure with a relatively straight-forward storyline but the characters, antagonists and addictive game-play make up for these minor short-comings.