Warhammer 40,000 is a well known tabletop miniature wargame well known for its unique science-fiction setting that’s served to inspire several other known works, the Starcraft universe being among them. Although well known by both tabletop and PC gamers, the Warhammer 40,000 (and the Warhammer universe itself) hasn’t often enjoyed success in the form of video games, although the last few years have had the appearance of the successful Dawn of War franchise of tactical games and the currently in development Warhammer 40k MMO.
Warhammer 40k: Space Marine, however, deviates from the strategy formula offered by the Dawn of War franchise, giving us instead a beat-em-up/third person action game much in the vein of the Devil May Cry series, set in the Warhammer 40k universe instead.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine puts you on the role of Captain Titus, the leader of the Second Company of the Ultramarines, a group that is deployed in an Imperial Forge world to try and stop an attempted invasion by the Orks into the planet’s facilities.
The gameplay all over the game is extremely simplistic. As usual with beat-em-ups, the game is a “kill anything that moves” type of game, which isn’t a bad thing by itself. However, the lack of variety in the game quickly gets boring, most of the game consisting mainly on either hiding behind crates and shooting or running into Orks with your axe in hand and slaying them all while using the Fury power up (a god mode of sorts that kicks in after you shoot or kill a certain number of enemies). You can customize the weapons you carry at several points during the game, but sadly the difference in weapons rarely marks a difference in strategies to play, meaning you’ll generally end up playing through the whole game in the same way: Shoot anything that’s far, hit anything that’s near, hide behind crates to shoot ranged enemies. The weapons vary in power and can help a lot in determinate circumstances (Sometimes turning otherwise hard fights into very simple), but since they all work in pretty much the same way and you can only switch them in rather arbitrary parts of the game where you have no idea what you’re about to face, this small customization aspect of the game is quickly lost. I must also note that most weapons are used in the same way, so the choice in weapon doesn’t really change the way the game is played, it changes at most how easily you’ll beat some of the enemies in the game.
The locales also don’t help at all, with the Forge worlds being the less interesting worlds of the Warhammer 40k universe, meaning there are only a few tilesets and models used during most of the game, making many of the environments seem reused simply because playing four or five hours straight without a change in the ambience will often lead the player to feel the environment is terribly repetitive, and easily kills replay value of the game. About halfway through the game some effects are added to the locales as part of the storyline, and though that makes them prettier and adds a bit of variety, it still fails to actually create new places themselves – You just keep getting forge world scenarios with a purple halo added to them.
The storyline of the game suffers in several ways, with the first half of it dragging horribly with an uninteresting, uninspiring plot centered around killing Orks that do nothing other than, well, being Orks and killing everything in sight. Although the whole Ork invasion plot can work well for a strategy game and could work for a Dawn of War game, it just fails to carry the plot forward in Space Marine, making the storyline seem awfully boring and unoriginal. It isn’t until chapter nine or ten that, after a very obvious and easy to predict plot twist, the storyline gets interesting with a new, proper enemy added to the game and a real reason to fight other than defending a forge world that’s so infested by Orks you may as well just get a Death Star and blow the whole planet to smithereens. It is also notable that the single player campaign comes up as awfully short at about twelve hours (though the first half of the plot, being so cheaply written, makes it feel like twice as long).
The multiplayer aspect of the game, however, fares even worse. While the single player game does have several redeeming qualities and its main issue is the horribly bad plot followed during half the game, the multiplayer game is a sad attempt at a Warhammer 40k-themed Team Fortress 2, with horrible balancing that requires the character to die over and over in order to level up and get access to the good (useful) stuff and a game system that’s a little too hard to grasp at first sight. It just feels like an afterthought to the single player game, which is saying quite a bit considering the single player campaign isn’t exactly the best single player game available, especially considering you’re being charged a full $50 for this game.
To wrap this up, I must say I did enjoy the game, or at least the single player part of it. Although the story drags on and the difficulty varies wildly between scenes, I’ll admit this is a fun game that suffers from several flaws that hinder it from ever rising up to all its potential. It would’ve been interesting if there had been a way to give your character some sort of advancement, a la Devil May Cry, which would’ve made the game more interesting, with more customization and a few RPG elements. The most baffling part about the lack of such a feature is that Dawn Of War II uses it rather extensively, and it is indeed one of the main features on it – And one of the game features that were most definitely hits.
As for multiplayer enhancements, a co-op mode has been announced, but as of today it yet hasn’t been deployed. It might help the multiplayer aspect, though I’d like to see an extension to the single player campaign much more than getting the chance to kill monsters with friends.
Last, but not least, my recommendation towards this game is, get it only if you’re a Warhammer: 40k fan. Otherwise, wait a bit until its price drops to about $30 or 25, which is way closer to its real value. It isn’t a bad game, but there are way better games out there for the same price as its current one, or even cheaper.
Final review score: 3/5
Availability: Currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com
|Buy for PC
|Buy for PS3
|Buy for Xbox 360