Before I can talk about the game, it is essential that you first know what exactly a Space Marine is. The Space Marines are genetically engineered super soldiers, created to conquer the galaxy and defend Mankind from any and all threats. They stand at 7 foot tall, are mountains of muscle, capable of crushing a normal man’s chest with a solitary punch. They have redundant organs and can put themselves into a self-induced coma to regenerate near lethal wounds. They are fearless. A single squad of Space Marines can succeed where hundreds of Guardsmen fail. Now you know.. we can begin.
The campaign sees us in control of Captain Titus of the Ultramarines, the poster pin-up boys of all Space Marine Chapters, accompanied by Sergeant Sidonius and Leandros. This solitary squad of Ultramarines are dispatched to Forge World Graia (Forge Worlds are worlds specifically designed for mass industrial production of tools of war for the Imperium) to secure a Titan (a massive war machine), from the clutches of a massive Ork invasion that has occurred on the planet.
The Orks have largely overrun the planetary defences by the time the Ultramarines arrive on the scene and so Captain Titus and co must use unconventional methods when they arrive in the middle of a space battle between Graia’s defence fleet and the Ork ships. This is where you, the player, take control of Captain Titus who elects to jump pack out of their Thunderbird onto an Ork ship below, encountering one of the main nemesis’ while down there.
From as soon as you land on that Ork Ship and the hordes bear down on you, you get to experience perhaps the best aspect of this game (for me anyway) that it has to offer. Warhammer 40k: Space Marine conveys the sense of being a Space Marine superbly well. By this, I mean you literally feel like you are a Space Marine as you play the game. Powerful, fearless and uncompromising, you butcher hordes of lesser Orks like it is just combat training for a veteran like Captain Titus. As the campaign progresses, it only reinforces this feeling even more as the Ultramarines display their aptitude for completing their objective no matter what is thrown their way.
Then there are the scattered encounters with Imperial Guard remnants on the planet as you go from mission to mission. The way they treat the Ultramarines with such reverence and awe, going so far as to refer to them as “lords”. Or standing next to them and truly grasping how a Space Marine in power armour measures up to the smaller guardsmen. And they look fragile in comparison. It is probably because of this feeling that the game imparts, that leads to my next point.
Your companions appear mighty useless in comparison and seem only to be along for the ride as plot devices. There aren’t too many occasions where you really wish that they could fight better but when you do hit those spots, you’ll be cursing the Emperor under your breath (you’d be a heretic otherwise!). Of course, that potentially creates scenarios where you could progress without lifting a finger through some missions but hey, I want my finely tuned battle brothers to be competent too (just not as competent as me, naturally!).
In terms of the environment and landscape, I generally liked the majority that I traversed through (and this translates to multi-player) but I feel like they lacked a bit of the ‘oomph’ factor. A little too ‘cartoony’ and it generally felt painted on with the lack of destructible objects etc (there were a few here and there). In terms of length when talking about the game, it is about as long as what you’d expect these days from a game that is perhaps intended to be multi-player focused (such as First Person Shooters and well, this game). You can probably chug through the campaign in about 6 to 8 hours, maybe allowing more time on higher difficulty settings.
And with a campaign that short, the story suffers just as much. It’s a fairly bare bones affair if you just power through the hordes of Orks and other foes unrelentingly. And if you have played some of Relic’s other titles using the Warhammer 40k IP then perhaps you’ll be a little bit disappointed by that. I liked the story itself and thought it had a lot of potential to build off though. There are servo skulls scattered throughout the stages though, that contain short voice recordings from various characters, which help to give you a better picture of the story and how things have played out in other places where the Ultramarines are not.
The Blood Ravens, the Space Marine chapter focused on in Relic’s Dawn of War series, make a cameo appearance as well as the Black Templars – who are probably one of my favourite Space Marine chapters – at some point in the campaign, as well. I think that ultimately the campaign can be described as a training exercise for those who want to take the game further into the multi-player realms. Which is where we head next.
Now that you’ve graduated Space Marine academy, it’s time for you to move onto the real fight and deliver the Emperor’s Fury unto thy enemy. One of the first things I noticed about the multi-player of Space Marine while playing it, was just how balanced it came off. You play as either a Space Marine or a Chaos Space Marine, which have no meaningful (in the context of balance) differences between the two sides, except the modelling and armour customisation and the classes have different names.
You’ve got your Tactical Marines, who are the jack of all trades but master of none. Assault marines, Space Marines who specialise in melee and come standard with jump packs so they can jet around the battlefield and close the distance between them and their enemies. And finally Devastators, Space Marines who excel at range and have access to some powerful heavy weaponry. For the forces of Chaos, nothing changes as I mentioned. Raptors are your Assault Marine class for example. Where applicable, the weapons are a little different between the two sides too, example being the Stalker Bolter (for Space Marines) and the Demon Eye Bolter (for Chaos Space Marines).
As is becoming a rather common theme amongst a lot of multi-player oriented games, such as first person shooters and third person action like Space Marine, you will gain experience for doing various things online like winning or completing challenges. And every time you level up, you will unlock more options for your classes that will enable to customise your load outs more. But perhaps the coolest thing about multi-player in Space Marine is that you can customise your model, swapping various armour pieces and changing the colour to create your own chapters or war bands. There are quite a few options available and as you level up, you’ll unlock more pieces to play with.
Space Marine shipped with two modes for online multi-player, Seize the Ground (A domination-style game mode where teams have to capture and hold points on the map to gain points. The first to the designated value, wins) and secondly the obligatory team death match mode. Although I spent a fair bit of time checking out team death match, I wasn’t entirely interested in it – I mean, who hasn’t played team death match before, am I right? So I played Seize the Ground more. I really, really wanted to see how those 3 classes would play out in the objective style mode.
As I mentioned before, I felt like the game was fairly well-balanced – there didn’t seem to be any clear winners in the general sense once you got the fairly easy to learn mechanics down pat. And the armour customisation was awesome. Unfortunately, the multi-player just didn’t hold up in lasting appeal to me. Between the two modes and a small selection of maps, there was only really enough to keep the level grinders interested over pro-longed periods. The inclusion of the Orks as a multi-player option might have been nice (with abundance of modelling already done due to the campaign) and could have thrown up some interesting three-way battles and the inclusion of more game modes in particular wouldn’t have gone astray.
One thing I was hoping for and I think the developers missed the beat on for launch, was the inclusion of a survival mode perhaps similar to Last Stand mode that features in later games of the Dawn of War series. There will be a mode called ‘Exterminatus’ coming out sometime next month that is along those lines, as it wasn’t in the launch version, I cannot really give kudos (or otherwise) for its inclusion until well.. it’s included!
This ain’t no Gears of War. It doesn’t play like Gears of War. The only similarity between this and Gears of War is that the game uses a third person camera. Captain Titus would beat the living snot out of Marcus Fenix without breaking a sweat. If you don’t understand the reference, its okay. At some point, some folks decided to make a statement saying that Space Marine was a Gears of War clone (among other ridiculous things). Moving along…
Space Marine is an enjoyable experience. Although it didn’t hold my interest for as long as I hoped it would, the experiences it gave me were generally positive. It is a game that is bristling with unrealised potential, particularly in the multi-player arena. Given that the Warhammer 40k universe is one of the more rich Sci-fi themes out there, the campaign could have been a lot better also.