I am pretty unfamiliar with the Warhammer series as I have never really got around to divulging myself into the franchise. I briefly played Dawn of War on a close friend of mines computer, but Space Marines is a different type of beast all together. When It turned up at my door courtesy of my fellow UK editor I wondered if It would be a case where this would be a real sensitive review. I was thinking that maybe depending on how I reviewed it I would be open to tons of criticism from the Warhammer fan-base. Then I did my research and discovered that not all Warhammer games have been too satisfactory. Games like Warhammer 40k: Fire Warrior turned out to be a disappointment for many. Now I wouldn’t say that Space Marine is a total disappointment, it’s a game that certainly has that spark, but there are a number of improvements to be made.
You take the role of Captain Titus, leader of a contingent of space marines known as Ultramarines. You are sent into battle against hordes of Ork’s with the intent of ridding the foreign world of them. That’s basically it, nothing too original story wise. I am aware that there are many different books based on Warhammer, and I am sure they are much more gripping than anything portrayed in Space Marine the game. Hardcore Warhammer fans may like the fact that should your character be killed off a Space Marine quote will be read on screen whilst you wait for the game to reload to the last checkpoint.
Action is fairly consistent in Space Marine, and I mean that as in all you pretty much do is run from point to point and kill Ork’s along the way. Consistency is often broken with unnecessary cut-scenes, and by the length of time it takes to walk from one point to the next. Once you run into a horde of Ork’s things get fun. When controlling Captain Titus in battle you have a melee attack, a choice of four types of gun, and grenades. Throughout the game you will pick up new and more powerful armory, including melee weapons. You will literally get swarmed by Ork’s every time unless you’re quick enough to pick them off from afar. Once the Ork’s get too close melee is ideal, but you have to be very tactical about it or you will quickly find yourself outnumbered. After a couple levels you can build up a meter and unleash a rage mode where your melee attacks do more damage, you will need to put this to good use when being swarmed by more powerful enemies.
One thing that was extremely infuriating was the use of the violent grapple attacks. You can stun some enemies by tapping the triangle button, following up with the circle button will force Titus to pull off a grapple move shockingly familiar to those seen in Gears of War. Sure they look cool, and they also replenish your health, which means you’ll want to do it as much as possible really. The thing is, when doing these grapple moves you are vulnerable to attack, and unable to snap out of the animation. This means while you’re attempting to grapple an enemy to replenish your health, 80% of the time you will be killed by the surrounding swarm before you even get the chance to finish the animation. This is a serious problem, and it’s so vile that I would consider the game broken because of it.
Another issue is a small (but annoying) glitch which makes enemies simply disappear. For instance, sometimes when popping an Ork in the head, instead of seeing the usual animation consisting of blood gushing from his shoulders (where his head used to be) and his body hitting the floor, they simply disappear into thin air. One time an enemy just stood there for a whole minute, I wasted ammo thinking he was still alive, and then he just simply evaporated. Glitches like this just totally ruin the immersion – the worst thing that can happen when playing a game is being reminded that you’re playing a game.
Another thing that put me off is the visuals. Many people are expressing their approval of how Space Marine looks. Now don’t get me wrong, some of the distant scenery looks very artistic, and the character design of the enemies are impressive. It’s just that overall, after playing so many technical masterpieces, the overall look of Space Marine just looks dull and dated. Incredible voice acting is one merit I can assign to Space Marine, I especially like the chants from the Ork’s once they begin to stampede you and your squad.
I suffered countless connection problems when trying to play Space Marine online. I wasn’t sure if it was the actual games net code for the PS3, or if it was simply my connection. There were times when I just couldn’t find a match, so unfortunately I didn’t get to explore online as much as I would have liked to. From what I experienced it’s just like any other modern shooter you can take online. It’s simply taking all the hardcore action in the campaign mode and applying it online, allowing you to grudge it out against real players.
In closing Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is all action with no substance. Fans of the Warhammer series will likely get more out of the game than those who are just looking for a cool third person shooter experience. There are definitely foundations of a great game here, it’s just too bad that the ideas weren’t executed to their full potential.
This review was based on a retail copy of the game for the PlayStation 3 provided by THQ.