In my younger days, I did my fair share of painting Games Workshop miniatures, including the Orks and Space Marines from the incredibly popular Warhammer 40K, table-top game, where the good Space Marines are constantly in battle with the dastardly Ork hoards. Little did I know, that in the future I would be playing a, frankly gorgeous looking, digital version of the game. Combining both FPS and hack-and-slash action, THQ and Relic have combined to produce a thoroughly enjoyable game that’s not just for dedicated Space Marine fans but all gamers.
You play as Captain Titus, the leader of the Ultramarines. With a few space marines you are entrusted to destroy the Ork hoards that have invaded the planet of Graia and from there the story develops. The story has many surprising twists and turns and is genuinely interesting. What I loved about it the most, is the fact that Space Marines are literally tanks, they can take out armies of Orks and so having them do exactly that in this game means they’re right in their element.
To aid in your destructive mission you are given a huge array of weapons. For ranged combat you get a heavy bolter, a lascannon, a meltagun, a plasma gun and the massive plasma cannon. To get in close and nasty you are supplied with a chainsaw, power sword, power axe and a ridiculously named thunder hammer.
Combat combines the ranged shooting and up close melee killing nicely, and the controls are mapped out very well on the wireless controller, with switching ranged weapons is easy to do by simply hitting the right trigger. A very cool option in Space Marine are the executions that Titus can perform. When your health is low you hit the square button to stun your enemies, then in a slow motion (a la Max Payne) you can go slicing, cutting and bone crunching your way to taking away an Ork’s entire life energy. Be warned, though, this move can leave you vulnerable to attacks.
I found the combat to be pleasing as the over the shoulder shooting (Gears of War, anyone?) is my preferred view point, while hacking and slashing your way through wave after wave of Orks is just a sheer joy. It’s a good way to mix up the action of a normal FPS and, aside from the variety to the gameplay it offers, it’s also a welcome alternative to have when you’re running low on ammo. Later on in the story, you also face the might of the forces of Chaos. These are basically space marines that have gone over to the evil side of black magic and are seriously tough foes, but I won’t spoil them any further for you than that.
To the game’s great credit, fighting wave after wave of Orks does not get boring as there is a huge variety in the class of enemy you will encounter and the AI is actually very good, although at times the enemies do just run at you aimlessly. The environments all look very nice and clean, and there’s a wide variety of locations to visit from castles, to deserts and ships. The aiming is dead on and the damage mechanics is, at times, very sweet to watch with lashings of gore that help to build up the feel of the struggle between the Orks and Space Marines. The graphics are well done with a massive amount of detail paid to the armour of the Space Marines, which is welcome to see as this is a major selling point of the miniatures themselves. The graphics also help to build the Warhammer universe and bring it to life. Relic have really done a great job in recreating the vision that Games Workshop have instilled in us.
Most FPS have silly voice acting and laughable dialogue, but Space Marine bucks this trend with some great examples of both. I have always imagined that the Space Marines had a very English accent and Relic have captured this with impressive accuracy. The facial expressions during the cut-scenes are very sweet and the bullet marks in the head of Titus and his generals really tell us that these are indeed tough guys. Some gamers I have read comments from have complained about the amount of cut-scenes, but I believe these are an integral part of the storytelling experience and that there’s isn’t one in the game that should have been removed.
The most surprising aspect of Space Marine for me, was the success of the multiplayer mode. I had originally thought that multiplayer would be an afterthought for Relic, but boy was I wrong. There are two multiplayer modes on offer: the co-op mode (basically a horde mode) and the more familiar 8 vs 8 team deathmatch. During the multiplayer you have the choice of three classes: Tactical Space Marines, Devastator Space Marine and Assault Space Marine. These all have their own advantages and disadvantages as well as their own skills and weapons. The most enjoyment here comes from all the customizations you can do to your Space Marines, there are so many different colours, amours, helmets, weapons, banners and designs that you can truly make your own personalised Space Marine model and then bring him to life.
Overall, THQ and Relic have joined forces to deliver a very decent FPS/hack-and-slash title. The combat options from ranged attacks to melee add a dimension of strategy to how you approach battles. The graphics bring the Warhammer universe to life, and are aided by the crisp acting and intentionally cheesy dialogue. There are some issues with how you regenerate health, some problems with the way the game displays far away buildings and sometimes you can find yourself walking around doing nothing. None of these points, however, take anything major away from how the game looks and plays. For me this, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is the true way that the battle between the Orks and Space Marines should be depicted. Gears of War this is not, but it’s not trying to be. For the Emperor!
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