Anyone who has ever played Warhammer 40,000 has dreamed of strapping on the Space Marine Armor and digging into a horde of Orks. To command a squad into battle, to rev up the chainsaw sword. THQ and Relic understand this and thus created Warhammer: 40,000: Space Marine; the most intimate and gritty look at the longstanding universe. Space Marines isn’t perfect or innovative, but it is a fun and deeply satisfying new way to look at world that so many have been in for so long.
You are Captain Titus, leader of the Ultra Marines; a squad featuring the best of the best of the Space Marines. You and your small contingent are sent to eliminate an overwhelming presence or Orks from a hostile planet. It’s not the most interesting or original story, but it does feature enough twists and turns to keep even those unfamiliar with the universe interested throughout. What it does do however is give one of the most intimate and gritty looks at the franchise yet. Warhammer has always been more of a passive experience – you command your table-top troops from a distance above, in Space Marines however, you are the Commander, and you’re right in the mix of the battle with your fellow soldiers – and it’s just as satisfying as you would imagine.
You and the Space Marines are armed with a few weapons at the outset of your quest, and chief among them is your chainsword. The first time you equip it and walk right into a swarm of Ork soldiers, sword swinging, the weapons feel extremely weighted and satisfying. Space Marines is a bloody and violent game, and it’s not afraid to show it; it’s a regular occurrence to be up against a ton of enemies one minute, only to be lost in a sea of blood the next. As you progress through the game you’ll unlock new weapons and abilities to tailor the commander to your play style.
The gameplay in Space Marines isn’t anything revolutionary, but it is built on strong gameplay elements that make Warhammer entertaining throughout. The majority of the game is a mix of melee combat and gunplay, and to be successful you’re going to have to switch between the two pretty regularly. The game has frequent supply drop boxes where you can switch out weapons, spread throughout the game, a nice tough given the fact that you’ll often go into a battle unknowingly with the wrong weapons for the job. These supply boxes allow you to try again – from a different route.
For all that it does right; Space Marines has a nasty habit of stopping its own momentum. The game’s story isn’t anything to write home about, but Relic seems intent on making it work via a series of incredibly intrusive cut scenes. It’s often that you’ll clear one section, trigger a cut scene and then walk five feet to trigger another one. These cut scenes take you out of the game in a major way. There’s also an issue with Relic being obsessed with its own game’s beauty, as there are a number of sections where you’ll be walking down long corridors without any enemies to fight, and it seems like it always happens when the game’s environments are at their best.
Warhammer’s campaign isn’t obtrusively long, but it’s not incredibly short either. That being said, the game’s legacy will be made through its online suite. The game modes aren’t that surprising, but adding in real players to the game’s frantic mix does wonders for the formula. In the week since the game’s release, the servers have been very busy and with any hope a solid community will spring up around the game.
The Blast Factor: Space Marine could have been a mess of a genre transition, but Relic and THQ have done a great job in giving you a different and much more intimate look at a long established franchise. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but Warhammer is a game that’s built on solid mechanics and thought out progression. Perhaps the most important aspect, it feels like the start of a brand new franchise.