In the grim future of the 41st Millennium, there is only WAR! Lucky for us back in the 21st, we have Warhammer 40k: Space Marine to fill that gap. Released on September 6th, 2011 for all major platforms, it is Relic Entertainment and THQ’s eighth foray into the Warhammer 40k franchise. However, it is their first game to move away from their acclaimed and popular real-time-strategy Dawn of War series on PC and into the gritty and gory world of the third-person-shooter.
For those unfamiliar with the 40k mythos, the universe is populated with multiple alien races and of course humanity’s Imperium as well. Humanity is protected first and foremost by genetically-altered super human warriors – the Space Marines. There are multiple armies of space marines, or chapters as they are called in 40k; they are humanity’s first line of defense and their greatest arsenal at stopping the other alien or evil races – Orks, Eldar, Tau, or Chaos, their greatest enemy.
In Space Marine, you take the role of Captain Titus of the Ultramarines, considered one of the greatest chapters of space marines and one of the central ones seen all throughout the 40k universe. As Captain Titus, you’ll command two other marines to stand against thousands upon thousands of Orks (like I said, these are the super warriors of Warhammer) on a Forge World planet. You’re sent in to prevent the Orks from getting access to the Forge World’s factories and weapons, and more importantly its Titans – gigantic war machines that stand like armed skyscrapers on battlefields.
It’s a dark game – there isn’t much hope left among the human survivors on the planet and as you play through the game, it only gets bleaker, much like the universe in which the game is set. Single-player in the game follows an intricate story filled with subterfuge and fighting as you battle your way through the Ork hordes and even some surprise enemies closer to the game’s ending. There is a combination of melee and ranged weaponry for killing your enemies, and as such you’re granted every weapon and ability at a space marine’s disposal – the vicious chainsword (it’s exactly as it sounds), the bolter machine gun, and even some more exotic ones such as the melta-gun which fires a burst of superheated plasma at close range. You’re even granted the jump pack at certain points – a jetpack device that allows Titus to jump up into the air and violently slam down into his enemies below. Single-player does a great job of sticking to the 40k universe and finally gives what many fans of the table-top game and books the chance to do what they’ve always wanted – mow down enemies as a Space Marine in the name of the God-Emperor of Mankind.
The game also supports a small, but great multiplayer aspect for those waiting eagerly for the next Gears or even a Gears-like game. Currently there are only two game modes: Seize Ground, a capture and control game mode, and Annihilation, which is your typical team deathmatch. While that doesn’t seem like much, there is great depth to the character creation and weapons within the game. The multiplayer uses a leveling system, very much like Call of Duty, and each level brings new goodies for the player. It’s possible to get new weapons, new perks, and even new armor; yes, you can customize the look of your space marines. If you want a purple people eater, by all means you have the capability to make one.
There are also three distinct classes to pick from online – the Tactical Marines are the base solider class. This class gives you access to a wide variety of weapons and abilities meant to give you an edge in any fighting condition. Following that are the Devastator Marines; these heavily armored and heavy weapon carrying group mows down enemies with heavy bolters and plasma cannons. They are meant to be the class for those who like when things go boom. And lastly rounding out the roster are the Assault Marines – the group commonly referred to as the crazy group. These marines rely heavily on melee weaponry and a jetpack, and as such carry around chainswords, power-axes, and gigantic hammers used to crush skulls as they jump from place to place.
Topping off the gameplay aspects are the beautiful scenes of humanity’s achievements and the moving soundtrack. Everywhere you look are giant structures or giant piles of rubble, all a testament to mankind’s march into the stars. Nested inside those grand areas are heavily detailed enemies, down to how crudely painted the Ork armor is. Even Titus’ and the other Ultramarines armor looks spectacular when covered in gore. Also, the soundtrack to the game builds nicely and uses great orchestral sound to keep the game’s tense moments or grand vistas in check. Together, these two kept me going just hear more of the awesome music and see more of the planet in the midst of my fight for survival. For those that purchased the Collector’s Edition of the game, the soundtrack came as a bonus and is a nice addition to the entire bundle.
There are also further plans to release DLC for the game, and the first one hits sometime in October. It’s added a co-op mode to the game that allows a group of players to work together and face the incoming hordes of enemies as they beat down upon you. Details are still sparse for this mode as of yet, but it’ll still be a great game with the existing gameplay.
This is definitely a recommended game for players needing to fill some dark sci-fi shooter itches they may have, and for those unwilling to make the jump straight to buying the game there are demos available through the Marketplace, the PSN Store, and through Steam as well. I will forewarn there are some glitches to be found at random spots – potential lag online, minor problems with hit detection, but the game manages to rise above these and still be incredibly enjoyable.
I’ll leave everyone with this well known 40k line: FOR THE EMPEROR!
Note: The Warhammer 40k: Space Marine review was written based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.