Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (PC) Review

By Jordan Hurst 24.05.2015 1

Review for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine on PC

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is one of those odd cases of oscillating influence, like how Call of Duty began life as a Medal of Honor clone, only for Medal of Honor to turn around and start aping its imitator's features once Call of Duty 4 exploded in popularity. In this case, the recipient of the returned favour is Gears of War, which took every fragment of its style and tone from Warhammer 40K. Space Marine, in turn, is a Gears game with Orks instead of Locust, and with the cover mechanic replaced with a shallow hack-and-slash emphasis. Unsurprisingly, ripping off a rip-off does not make for a good foundation on which to build a video game.

At the time of this writing, Space Marine is almost four years old, but assuming it's even older would be understandable. Not just because it shamelessly copies one of 2006's biggest releases, but because it feels like a launch title, a game that had to sacrifice depth to make up for slow development caused by unfamiliar hardware. The game is utterly mindless; its AI is permanently set to "charge and shoot," its objectives merely alternate between "go here" and "kill things," and it has a terrible habit of equating more content with new content. There are about 15 weapons accumulated over the course of the ten-hour campaign, but most of them are merely stronger versions of existing ones, leaving only a handful of legitimately different armaments to wield. As if the dearth of variety wasn't bad enough, the weapons are simply 40K-styled (that is, large and overdesigned) variants of the standard shooter arsenal: pistol, rifle, explosive, etc.

Screenshot for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine on PC

Space Marine would have struggled for relevance even if it had been released at the advent of the last console generation; the fact that it features impossibly bulky soldiers fighting pseudo-aliens (including small kamikaze creatures) using chainsaw finishing moves is just the most obvious sign of its redundancy. Everything that could have been offered by a shooter starring Imperial Space Marines has already been done by legions of shooters starring Imperial Space Marine knock-offs. Even 40K's gothic sci-fi art style was co-opted by Quake and everything it inspired. Hell, there was already a shooter set in the 40K universe released in 2003, and the fact that that was probably news to most readers shows how little this setting matters to non-strategy video games. Space Marine's gameplay only comes alive during visual set-pieces and sequences involving a high-speed jetpack, but these exist only briefly, and in the case of the latter, still manage to become repetitive.

Another thing that makes Space Marine seem like the product of a previous decade is its obvious Halo inspiration. In particular, the game mimics the plot of Halo: Combat Evolved to a suspicious degree. The protagonist is a high-ranking super soldier in an army of normal humans, a large chunk of the story involves transporting a MacGuffin across a mechanical world at the behest of the local eccentric, and finally, midway through the game, a second enemy organisation is introduced, whereupon they become the game's true antagonists. Their appearance is much less surprising than it was in Combat Evolved, though, because no one in their right mind would create a Warhammer 40K game with Orks as the main antagonists. Space Marine also shares Halo's inconsistent difficulty level. The game's basic enemies are goofy little creatures that pose absolutely no threat, while advanced adversaries take huge amounts of firepower to bring down and can rip a Space Marine to shreds in a few seconds if given the chance.

Screenshot for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine on PC

The main thing that warps the game's challenge level, however, is its healing mechanic. There is both a health bar and a regenerating shield, but for some unexplained reason, the only way to recover health is by performing close-range execution techniques on stunned enemies. It's a fitting mechanic that forces players to embody the fanatical aggression that the Space Marines are characterised with, but its implementation is so poor that it ends up being one of the gameplay's biggest problems. For starters, execution animations are needlessly long and leave the player vulnerable, so whether they actually result in a net increase in health is always uncertain. Additionally, executions don't recover shield strength, making them useless until significant damage has been taken. Their short range also makes situations with no melee enemies a lot harder than they should be - a fact that was apparently missed by the level designers, since situations with no melee enemies are depressingly common.

Screenshot for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine on PC

Like most shooters drenched in military fetishism, multiplayer is Space Marine's most redeeming feature. It's fairly straightforward - deathmatch, capture the flag, and king of the hill modes, plus equipment options unlocked via collected experience - but it doesn't really do anything wrong. The limited loadout capacity of the customisable classes makes each arrangement feel unique and interesting, as opposed to the campaign, where the protagonist is an overpowered, all-purpose walking tank. The multiplayer is further energised by a handful of neat perks, such as adding a damaging effect to jetpack exhaust or allowing players to respawn at their teammates' locations. The team focus is surprisingly well-implemented, thanks to numerous experience bonuses granted for things like defending and avenging allies. Even the balance issues that normally appear with experience-based multiplayer progression are (mostly) alleviated, due to a clever mechanic that allows players to copy the loadout of their previous killer, regardless of whether the equipment is unlocked or not.

Other than that, the best thing that can be said about Space Marine is that it's technically proficient. The environments are massive, the models are incredibly detailed, and the controls, while definitely clunky, are quite appropriate for commanding a soldier who's wearing literally a ton of power armour. These aspects are contrasted by the game's artistic side, which is…lacking. The story follows characters so bland that trying to describe them could be prescribed as a sedative, while the 40K setting does what it always does: remove any sense of progress with its absurdly hyperbolic scale and bleakness. The writing's even worse, constantly spewing such memorable lines as "Shoot those humans." The repetitive sound design doesn't help; taking a shot every time a character says "Space Marine" or "Waaagh!" would be the most dangerous drinking game in existence. Finally, the music is the same interchangeable orchestral blob that probably comes free with modern shooter engines at this point.

Screenshot for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine on PC

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is a spiritless, generic shooter offering over-the-top catharsis, zero self-awareness, and a twelve-year-old's grasp of maturity…so it's basically a dream game for Warhammer 40K fans who are also Gears of War fans, and no one else. Yes, it's mildly fun to cave in waves of Ork skulls with various gigantic weapons, but it should be a lot more fun. It shouldn't feel routine after only an hour of play, nor should it feel so cumbersome. Decent multiplayer and an accurate representation of its licenced IP are the only things keeping Space Marine from being totally forgettable. Not that that's not a worthwhile accomplishment, but anyone whose game criteria list begins and ends with "decent multiplayer" already has hundreds of games available to meet their incredibly low standards.

Developer

Relic

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Ouch! I bought this a while back in a Steam sale for £4. I've yet to play it. but I didn't think it was ground breaking or anything, but at least thought it was meant to be above average.

Will have to play through it sometime.

( Edited 02.06.2015 21:48 by Marzy )

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