Send in the Marine… The SPACE Marine
In the dark future of the 41st millennium, there is only war.
But, you’ve heard that before, haven’t you? If not, you’re unfamiliar with the Warhammer 40K franchise from Games Workshop, and that is known in my circles as a bad thing. The line has been around for quite some time – even before its video game franchise started cropping up in the nineties. They still haven’t apologized for Space Hulk (the best tabletop game ever, but a terrible, terrible video game) officially yet. However, Space Marine goes a long way towards amending that.
At its core, this game really isn’t all that original. It’s Gears of War without anything like that pansy-ass cover system. Cover is for soldiers who don’t have ceramite power armor, or aren’t genetically manipulated until they’re eight and a half feet tall, can spit acid and have two hearts behind a fused breastbone.
Space Marines are tougher than a cross-breed between Chuck Norris and a Honey Badger. Or, at least, that’s how the mythos describes them, if not in those exact terms. I guess that’s why they tossed away the concept of cover, even though it becomes painfully apparent at times that you could have really used it.
You’ll also find the familiar tropes of the FPS making an attempt at draping the minimum amount of story around the making-things-die-and-or-explode parts of the game. You find audio logs. You can get collectible servo skulls. There are cinematics. There’s really not a lot of surprises here. The only one I’ve found so far is the jump pack system which is kind of cool – when you can control it. It’s a straight up shooting-war kind of game at its heart, and to be honest I don’t think that they really billed it as anything other than that.
Which makes perfect sense when viewed through the lens of the mythos. Space Marines don’t develop love interests. They don’t do human interest beyond purging the enemies of the Imperium of Man from the stars. They don’t offer humanitarian aid or take mere mortals into account. They are ultimately the super-warriors of mankind. If they showed up they’re there to kick ass and chew bubblegum. They may have run out of bubblegum sometime around the 21st Millennium.
That being said, the story is simple: An Ork invasion squad comprised of billions of greenskins has attacked a forge world and is in the process of schooling the local planetary defense force. It’s a vital world that creates some of the Imperium’s most devastating weapons – Titans. These massive war machines stand at a mile tall or more and can rain death upon entire worlds. If the Orks capture the facility, they could take all those weapons and put them into their next great WAAAAAGH!
The Ultramarines however are having none of that. They respond in turn in the usual fashion.
By sending three marines.
I don’t want to say that Space Marine logic is flawed or anything – it clearly isn’t judging by the way your protagonist decides to enter battle – but you’d think they’d spare some more guys. But, with the only other contingent close by being nine Terran days away… these three just want to soften the Orks up a little and take care of the primary objectives. With extreme prejudice. For the Emperor.
My biggest complaints are those of a technical nature. The camera can get a bit wonky at times, giving you views that are, charitably speaking, less than helpful. The fact that the PS3 version has a control layout that American gamers accustomed to the XBox (such as yours truly) may find counter intuitive (they’re called trigger buttons for a reason) does not help. There’s also the matter of very, very slow loading times. When you die, I think the folks at THQ really want you to think about what you’ve done. At least for forty-five seconds. Further more, they want you to really work for your win. Even on normal difficulty, this game can set you up in a fashion where you will die spectacularly and frequently if you do not learn the one tactic that you really need to master: crowd control. A couple of Orks are no problem. But when a whole mob appears with Squiggs and Warbosses behind them, holy shit, you better have grenades and an itchy trigger finger.
With that said, this is probably the best 40K game I’ve played, and while that isn’t huge praise it is noteworthy. Such entries as the aforementioned Space Hulk (“You have died, please wait”) and Blood Bowl left much to be desired, though I’m told if RTS is your thing that the Dawn of War series was okay. This however has the best graphics and overall mood evocation of the 41st Millennium. The Britain-based company, Games Workshop, has clearly taken the time to work with THQ to make a high-polished game that really captures the essence of their intellectual property. This is really good for people like me who’ve been familiar with the IP since its inception, but may not be enough of a draw for those who are simply looking for the next Gears title.
All in all, this gets a solid three stick rating once I rein in my inner fanboy. It’s a vanilla game made for people who all they needed was a little chocolate sauce to drizzle over that ice cream bowl… where vanilla is straight-up sci-fi combat and chocolate syrup is the copiously flowing blood of the greenskins.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), PS3, Xbox 360; Developers: Relic Entertainment; Publisher: THQ; Players: 1-4