A Brutal Gamer review.
The Warhammer table top series has been with us for quite some time now. The practice of painting up your soldiers and sending them into battle is not something I’ve ever tried, although I do know several people who are into it. Warhammer has also been an influence to some video games, the WarCraft series being possible the most notable. Relic Entertainment have been making Warhammer video games for a few years now, with the excellent Dawn of War series. However, for Space Marine, Relic steps out of it’s RTS comfort zone into the realm of the third person shooter, and the results are pretty good.
Space Marine sees you playing as the Ultramarine Captain Titus, as you attempt to fight off the Orkish invasion of the forge planet Graia, which is a factory planet essentially, which houses a powerful Titan. However, things get a lot more complicated as the battle becomes a three way fight for control of the planet. There’s nothing particularly deep about the story or narrative, and it doesn’t get particularly interesting until you get about 60% of the way through the game, but it’s not bad. There are, however, lots of servo skulls hidden in various places which give you audio logs, fleshing out parts of the story and letting you know more about what happened before you got to a certain area.
For the most part, you’ll go from point to point, slaughtering Orks and various other creatures along the way, with your array of guns and melee weapons. As you go through, you are fed new guns and abilities to aid you, from the simple plasma gun, to the Melta gun which throws out an intense heat shot which turns anything foolish enough to get in it’s way into goop. If the enemies get too close, you can use your melee weapons, including the classic chainsword, the power axe and the enormous Thunder Hammer, which is extremely powerful, but as it’s two handed, limits the guns you can use while it’s equipped.
Space Marine doesn’t have a snap to cover mechanic, relying instead on you to hide yourself behind crates and rocks to avoid taking damage. As you take damage, your shield depletes and once that goes, your health starts to go down. While you shield will regenerate once you stop taking damage, your health will not recover of it’s own accord. Instead, you have to perform one of two actions in order to regain your health.
The most available way to restore health is the ‘Execution’ which you can peform, which involves stunning an enemy and then killing them in a rather bloody and violent way. The problem with doing an execution is, while the execution animation is happening, you can still take damage and you can’t snap out of the animation. It means that it’s a waste of time performing an execution if you have several Orks swarming you, as you’ll likely end up with less health than before. The other way is to activate ‘Fury’ mode. This is a meter that builds up as you fight and you can activate it once full. While active, your health recovers and you do much more damage to enemies. You also earn a ‘Marksmanship’ ability which activates when you enter the gun view mode, in which everything goes into slow motion and you can pick your adversaries off with headshots much more easily.
What you notice when you’re above ground is just how brown and sandy the world of Graia is, although this does give a war torn feel, and is contrasted nicely by the green orks with their coloured armour, and the blue and yellow armour of the Space Marines. The character models look tough and substantial, and seeing a massive, armour clad Space Marine charge across the ground at speed and shoulder tackling a couple of orks, rendering them into a big splash, is something to behold. This game is nothing if not visceral, with blood flying into the air with every shot, and armour getting stained as you shoot enemies from close range. The executions are similarly brutal as well, from swinging the hammer like a golf club to smash an ork’s head to bits, to stabbing them with a chainsword and pulling it right back through the body, it’s difficult not to chuckle at some of the over the top deaths.
The soundtrack to the game is pretty solid, with music changing mood to subtly let you know that something is about to happen, usually you being attacked by a horde of Orks. The voice acting is pretty good, with the orks sounding gruff and savage, compared to the more subdued, honourable sounding marines. Although there are only so many times you can hear Orks shouting “Kill da Space Marines!” in working class English accents you can hear before it gets annoying. The sound of the shooting and melee fighting are very satisfying, as you hear an Ork groan as he essentially pops from being shot in the head from a long way away. The sounds of rockets, explosions and gun fire do an excellent job reminding you that you’re in a massive war.
Once you’re done with the campaign, which will likely take between 7-9 hours, depending on how quick you are and how good you are at staying alive, there’s a full multiplayer mode to enjoy. Sadly, I couldn’t get too much into the multiplayer due to problems with the matchmaking on the PS3. As is becoming the norm with shooters these days, there’s a Call of Duty style levelling and XP system, with challenges and perks to unlock as you progress. There are two multiplayer modes at the moment, these basically being control point and death match modes. It’s good fun, and will keep you playing for a while. The most expansive feature of the multiplayer is the customisation options, which will leave Warhammer fans in absolute heaven. You can choose from Space Marine or Chaos Space Marine, and choose lots of armour, colours and perks for you avatar before you go out and slaughter the enemy.
Space Marine is a solid, well designed and enjoyable shooter/brawler. Warhammer fanatics will lose many an hour just in the customisation alone, and the story is simple enough to allow people who know nothing about Warhammer to understand what’s going on. Admittedly, there isn’t a huge amount of variety in the campaign, but it plays well enough and the violence will more than satisfy your inner sadist. All in all, an enjoyable game well worth your time.