Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Review

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

“In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.” With Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, this decree by Games Workshop about the Warhammer 40,000 universe is manifest in a game that asks players to become single-minded servants to the call of combat in a variety of brutal forms, each modality equivalent in intensity, efficiency, and ardor, and the entire package providing a satisfying, cathartic release, though with minimal cerebral stimulation.

Space Marine is a highly focused game, very direct in its instruction and intention, making “to-the-point” a central motif. Missions are simple, clear, and linear, and are punctuated by short cutscenes or conversations between characters that pause the action and compartmentalize a simple, unastounding narrative that otherwise drives unfalteringly forward. Thus, the tenets of play in Space Marine mirror the foundational fiction itself, in which opposing forces are crude, aggressive, and direct in their attitude and behavior, these traits exhibited most notably during combat, which is of course central to the experience.

From the play style the game seems to expect from players — diving directly into the fray in order to cause as much destruction as quickly as possible, with limited regard for tactics of any significant degree of intricacy — to the simple and somewhat caricatured artificial intelligence of the game’s antagonists, the aforementioned mindset of the Warhammer Universe’s characters is clearly meant to pervade the thinking of the person behind he controller. It works…. until an NPC or group of enemies inevitably does something very stupid, like running continuously into a solid object or standing idly in the midst of battle, reminding players that they are indeed immersed in a videogame universe, which comes complete with such occasional inconsistencies.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

Unlike existing tiles that Space Marine will undoubtedly call to gamers’ minds, beginning with Gears of War and extending even into 3D melee action games such as Devil May Cry or Dynasty Warriors, Space Marine effectively toes the line between melee and ranged combat, striking what is a typically unrealized balance between the two, and managing to carve out an unexpectedly distinct feeling for Relic’s game. It is neither a third-person shooter with a melee element nor a melee combat game with a firearm component, but a seamless blend of the two.

Regardless of one’s chosen weapons, which are pleasantly diverse in feel and function, murderously effective against the Space Marines’ opposition, and a joy to use, the game is so singular in its overall intent that it is not difficult to become desensitized and detached from the consistent action, despite those mechanics being so well constructed. Selecting the proper instrument of death for each collection of the game’s handful of enemy types is engaging, but mission structure rarely deviates from the bounds of that particular process. However, the game’s omission of a cover system does make battles more dynamic than the now-standardized hide-and-shoot formula tends to allow, mostly thanks to the construction of the game world, which, in its epic scale, makes finding and using cover a far more natural, instinctual act.

The game’s environments are built to capture the feel of the source material: dark, immense, and fantastical fusions of industrial, architectural, and technological achievement. This far-future world that has presumably been built, torn asunder, and rebuilt numerous times feels unquestionably authentic. Oddly, Ork voices sound disarmingly human, and the plainness of their frequent shouts to “SMASH THEM SPICE MARINES” acts counter to the excellent art design and tends to stir the mind enough to break one’s suspension of disbelief (and perhaps make one wonder if this is, in fact, an all-new production of Iron – or Ceramite – Chef). Players will also find their Space Marines often charging forward through conspicuously vacant rooms and corridors, wondering why there isn’t more to do in some of these places than view the impressive surroundings.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

In addition to the 7-hour single-player campaign, a more traditional multiplayer mode takes a class-based approach, abandoning some of the elements of combat that make the main campaign unique, but diversifying play via class strengths and weaknesses, as well as a level progression system, with weapon enhancements and perks unique to each character type. The limitation of only two game types — deathmatch and capture point — makes Space Marine‘s multiplayer offerings feel less robust than what can be found elsewhere, especially when compared with the individualistic personality of the single-player game, and the minimization of the mechanics that make it so.

Relic has risen to the task of claiming a genre seemingly built for the Warhammer fiction, even after so many others have long branded it their own. Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine still presents something fresh, not so deep under that familiar, heavy armor, and employs combat mechanics that until now haven’t been implemented as seamlessly or as intuitively as in this new offering. It’s something similar, yet different, but certainly worth playing.

4 out of 5


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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