Warhammer 40k: Space Marine ReviewDustin Hill
A few years in the making, THQ and Relic have come together to make what might just be the best Warhammer incarnation yet.
Our story beings with the deployment of the Ultramarines, a cybernetically and genetically enhanced squad of super-soldiers sent to The Forgeworld to stop a planetary invasion force of Orks. The Orks are there for the Titans, massive walking battle-tanks that can level an entire city. After an epic introduction to the game and controls, you begin trudging through hordes of green-skinned Orks.
You are Captain Titus of the Ultramarines, a veritable berserker possessed of a righteous fury in service to protect the Imperium of Man. Imagine the demi-god Hercules with armor and all the weapons of science fiction, that's essentially what every Space Marine is. The story offers good pacing, twists, betrayals and enough cliff-hangers to make the game difficult to put down. It's also fantastic to see many talented actors lending their expertise to the Warhammer world. Some include Mark Strong from Green Lantern and Richard Hawley from Love Actually.
Animations, characters and the world you inhabit are all top-notch. Everything is immense, well-detailed and players are given a variety of locations while on the Forgeworld. Some locations have a certain beauty to them while many others are ravaged, broken and swarming with villains. There were many times I found myself taking breaks just to look around at the small details of massive structures, weapons and even enemies.
The little details are where Warhammer: Space Marine shines. It's clear that Relic and THQ have exerted a lot of effort to keep players involved and immersed within the world. For example, since you play the better part of a berserker, the only way to regain health is to finish enemies in combat. Which brings us to the core of the Warhammer experience: over the top combat. The difficultly of your encounters ramps up after each battle, giving every conflict a new challenge to overcome. In the main campaign, there are no standard role-playing game elements such as saving up points to increase your health or armor. You merely get new weapons and armor upgrades as you progress through the game.
This works well as controls are smooth, responsive and even intuitive once you get used to them. It's not often that there is a struggle to get your Space Marine to perform well when facing down a horde of bloodthirsty Orks. This is also good because the enemy AI is quite unforgiving. It may not be the smartest, but they give players no break in action, or damage, during finishing move cut-scenes, reloading or even if you're being thrown around by one of the larger, more experienced Orks.
Everything comes together in the campaign to provide an accurate visual representation of the Warhammer universe from weapon selection and the feel of gory battle to the movie-quality sound and voice acting.
There is also a well-made multiplayer component to Warhammer 40k. Multiplayer revolves around two game modes, a classic death match and King of the Hill. The first is based on killing other players and the second on holding control of several locations while under enemy fire. Through each match you gain experience and ranks which unlock weapons, armor variants, perks and many features that allow you to create your very own Space Marine. This also supports different play styles from sniping to jet packing around the level with a giant hammer. Matches are fast-paced and exciting with attention not only given to fans of the series and those that will play multiplayer a lot, but also new players (like myself) who just start out. The simple mechanic that helps even the playing field is the ability to copy your killer's kit, complete with weapons and armor, for one life every time you perish. When I was blown off the map from a gun I had yet to see, I could try it out on the next life, which really makes the experience much more enjoyable.
Multiplayer is definitely the quiet nod to Warhammer fans. Not only can you customize your character, but you can make your Space Marine look like nearly any Chapter of Space Marine, complete with their insignia on your shoulder.
Overall, I was vastly surprised by the shear quality of Warhammer 40k: Space Marine. Striking a near perfect balance between trying to please veteran fans and players new to the series, Relic and THQ have made a very high-quality game. I highly recommend this game for Warhammer fans everywhere and anyone who enjoys gory action/adventure with a side of excellent Science Fiction story.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.