Also available on: Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Relic Entertainment
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is the latest game from Relic Entertainment to pit a few hard-as-nails Ultramarines against an army of thousands of Orks and Chaos demons. Unlike most games in the Warhammer series, however, it ditches the top-down real-time strategy gameplay in favour of all-out third-person action.
Kind of like Dawn Of War meets Gears Of War, the end result spells bloody doom for hundreds of defenceless baddies. And while it may not feature the same level of depth as the table-top game millions of us nerds have come to know and love, we're happy to report that it remains just as much fun.
The game takes place in the troubled Warhammer universe, in particular on a huge factory Forge world which is under attack by scores of troublesome Orks. The narrative is told through a series of cutscenes and the now standard audio logs. Like most of the game, the plot and storytelling won't win any awards for originality or innovation, but serves its function and remains satisfactory - if not entirely riveting.
The voice acting is generally very good, and helps to elevate the Marines - in particular lead protagonist Captain Titus - into characters that even a weedy gamer (like myself) can empathise with. One small criticism is that it can be hard to hear the audio logs, although once collected they can be replayed at any time.
The gameplay falls into a similar bracket. The third-person shooting mechanics are standard issue, but extremely solid and highly enjoyable. In addition to the gunplay, the game is heavily melee-orientated. Using two of the face buttons to hack and stun opposition is mindless and shallow, and the range of attacks is limited, but it at least gives players the option to bust their way out of tight situations when surrounded.
The game's lack of cover system further increases the importance of the melee combat. In order to regain health, players must stun opponents and finish them off with an execution move. This is a fairly novel approach to recuperation and ensures that players mix it up a bit, although it's frustrating that you can still take damage in the middle of a finishing move. Oh, and it looks really cool too.
Slaying enemies also builds a player's fury bar, allowing them to regain health, enter bullet-time mode or wield a chainsword with the ferocity of a rabid dog - again, this looks cool. With all of this slicing and shooting, the game does have the tendency to err on the repetitive. Dozens of Orks are never far away, and almost every room and environment requires the player to unleash hell and unload bullets.
Fortunately, the developers have done a great job making sure the game runs at a smooth pace. New weapons, enemies and skills are introduced regularly, so there is always something new to play around with and strategies to think about. Maybe a few extra boss battles wouldn't have gone amiss, but aside from that, the game is fluid, constantly keeping gamers on their toes.
Similarly, the multiplayer also lacks innovation and originality, but remains solid and enjoyable nonetheless - when it works that is. There are currently two competitive game modes to choose from, while a co-operative update will be added in the near future. Annihilation is more or less a team deathmatch, which awards the first team to reach 41 kills with the victory. Seize Ground offers a little more variety, pitting two teams against each other in a race to capture points and complete objectives.
The multiplayer is finely balanced, largely thanks to the ability to respawn with your killer's loadout (regardless of levels). Not only this, but levelling up happens at a quick enough pace to ensure that it's not long before you can hang with the best of them. There are also countless customisation elements, allowing Warhammer fans to decorate their soldiers in all kinds of colours, patterns and emblems.
Unfortunately, there are problems with the PS3 multiplayer at this moment in time. It can take up to half an hour to start a match, despite the game informing the player that there are 20 potential matches to join. It's frustrating when this happens, but the support team has confirmed that it is working on a patch to fix this problem. When it works, it's a whole lot of fun, and the promise of more to come is most pleasing.
The visuals are also superb. The environments are huge, grand and slightly overwhelming, which I'm sure is exactly what the developers had in mind when crafting the game. In typical Warhammer fashion, the surroundings are bleak and moody, but lend themselves well to the war-torn vision of the future. The music also adds a great deal to the atmosphere. The trumping horns and rousing drums fit in well with the aesthetics and inspire the player when entering battle.
For the most part, the Space Marine experience is a good one. The game moves along nicely, eliminating potential problems with repetition; the graphics are great and the multiplayer is enormous fun, despite a few technical problems. OK, so Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine isn't the most original of games, or the most innovative, but it is finely polished and paced, and offers enough entertainment to overlook any shortcomings.
> What do you think of the game? Share your views