Review: Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine [PS3]

“I am Captain Titus of the Ultramarines.”

The “AAA season” is upon us. The always-crowded October-November period usually leaves gamers frustrated with too many options and not enough time — it’s a complaint I make every year. But this year, we start a little earlier. In one week, Dead Island and Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (referred to as “Space Marine” from here on out) were released. While neither game is an Uncharted or Call of Duty-sized production title, both games offer an entertaining romp that shouldn’t be ignored.

With the recent release of Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team, THQ brought us a fun, albeit short, twin-stick shooter. Within two months, a larger scale Warhammer 40,000 game was released, following the travels of Captain Titus of the Ultramarines and his two companions. For those unfamiliar with the lore this game sets itself in, know that Warhammer 40,000 was the tabletop spin-off of another tabletop game, Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Both games originated in the 1980s, and the Warhammer 40k series is responsible for the highly-regarded PC real-time strategy game, Dawn of War II, and the not so well-received PSP tactical-RPG, Squad Commander.

Space Marine fits nicely into its own little game. It’s a fun third-person shooter (without a cover system, might I add) that emphasizes melee combat as you aggressively assault your way through hundreds of thousands of Orks. The game features a campaign that lasted me just shy of 10 hours, and that was because I got overwhelmed with enemies a few times. The plot was honestly hard to follow in the beginning; all I knew was I really didn’t like “damned Orks” and that I was trying to take back control of a facility. Once the plot twist happened, however, I was immediately drawn into the story and enjoyed it from then on out.

The few boss fights in the game are nothing mechanically ground-breaking; one is your standard dodge-and-attack tactic, while the other is just “kill waves of enemies until a chase sequence happens.” And it’s complete with quick-time events, my favorite way to play a game that I just spent 90 per cent of running and shooting and lopping off Ork heads. Thankfully, outside of mashing the circle button during certain melee encounters, this is the only case of quick-time events being in the game, though I found it to be a good buzzkill.

The weapon selection increases as you play. Starting with a semi-automatic pistol and a combat knife, you’ll pick up a variety of melee and ranged weapons as you progress through the game, including the awesome chainsword. While you can only carry so many weapons at once, you can swap them out frequently if desired at different places throughout the levels.

Speaking of levels, the scenery is actually one of my favorite parts. While your exploring is pretty much non existent, traversing the planet and even the factory were high points of the game for me. The textures (even on the characters) aren’t anything I would brag about in the game, but the time they put into designing the layout of the environment was a treat. Between battling Orks in desert terrain with ledges and cliffs, to just running along corridors inside buildings, my only problem was with the occasional in-game loading; everything would come to a halt for a few seconds and then resume. It wasn’t often, but it happened enough for me to remember.

At a few points in the game, you strap on a jetpack, and get around with short bursts into the air. It is the only example of jumping in the game, but those few parts of the game are some of my favorite parts. When you leap into the air, you have the option to slam yourself to the ground to devastate anything around you with a powerful pound attack. It made thinning out hordes a piece of cake and it broke up the monotonous gameplay for just long enough to make everything enjoyable again.

You can learn more about the story by collecting (you guessed it) the ever-popular collectibles in the game. It seems that no shooter exists  without collectibles, but some games go out of their way to make it a chore to find. I came across almost all of them by just roaming around. I think I missed a few, and at least one was towards the beginning before I knew they were there. I actually don’t mind these “audio logs” when placed well, it’s games that make you use a guide to find them that are annoying. Thankfully, Space Marine is not one of those latter games.

One of my biggest complaints with the game was really only an issue early on, as I never experienced it again after my first night playing; the camera would freak out in tight spaces, and make melee combat a serious problem. But, like I said, after my first night, I guess I either avoided tight spaces subconsciously, or one of the patches during my week long break fixed the problem.

My biggest complaint about the game is that the weapons looked like giant toys. Nothing about them looked real. On the plus side, that means they didn’t stand out with amazing textures, but it looked like they didn’t even try to give the guns a sense of realism. They really just reminded me of giant plastic toy guns.

While the plot itself was entertaining, one particular part of the writing had a negative impact on me. For example, the main character repeats his name a million times throughout the game. He was bragging that he was Captain Titus of the Ultramarines every chance he had. He was one very proud Ultramarine. Every other cutscene, if not every one, he was mentioning that he was Captain Titus of the Ultramarines. It’s a small complaint, but it got annoying by the halfway point in the game.

Most complaints about consumers seemed to be the length of the game being too short. I spent just short of 10 hours, which is on the long side of a playthrough, and felt like it had run its course. Any longer, and I feel it would have gotten too repetitive. A few design tweaks, such as some level-up mechanics to your weapons and character,  would have made a longer runtime more appreciable but, in its current state, it was running dry by the end. However, between a playable and fun multiplayer and the trophies, you have plenty of reason to play again.

On the subject of trophies, there is one gold trophy for getting 40,000 kills. Clever, no? However, I probably killed around 3,000 enemies during one playthrough. While the trophy encompasses all game modes, I maybe got 20 kills in an hour of online play. I can appreciate the humor in the trophy, but that is just a little unreal. This doesn’t impact my score, by the way, I just wanted to mention that.

Some of the other trophies are “complete a chapter with just the bolt pistol and chainsword”, which is really cool. Again, this is a reason to go back and play again because, honestly, I was not trophy hunting my first time through (which is rare, trust me), and even so, I played on normal. Completing the game on Hard is another gold trophy, So you have reasons to replay the game if you like it.

I didn’t get to experience multiplayer to its fullest potential due to there being an online pass required. I’m actually for online passes, and have bought them before for games that I had rented, I just couldn’t this time around. What I got to play of it was a lot of fun. The game mode I played was like conquest or domination in other games; you capture and hold areas in the level. Combat felt great online and at a certain point you unlock the ability to create your own class. At this time, you can customize your character in all sorts of ways, which is one of the selling points of the game. Like I said, I got very limited time with the multiplayer, so it’s hard to judge the longevity of it, but what I played was very solid and I had no real complaints, despite a little lag.

When you finally do finish the game, the Epilogue chapter sets up a sequel nicely and, after sitting down and playing the game that some said had a “crappy demo,” I’m excited to see what direction the developers take with the next one. While Space Marine isn’t a AAA title, the sequel has the foundation set to make it such a title if the team antes up a little more. If you’re looking for a good campaign, some sound melee combat, and thousands upon thousands of enemies to kill, then take a journey with Captain Titus of the Ultramarines. You won’t regret it.

Pros: good story, great plot twist, fun melee combat, great jetpack sequences
Cons: less than 10 hours, quick time events, cheap looking weapons

Score: 3/5

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Author: Don Parsons View all posts by
Starting out as a founding member of Gamingcore Podcast, Don ventured on to start Gameciety; which began as a podcast, and ended as a blog. Don now handles Vagary.tv's PR work, is part of the reviews staff and has various other little projects he does for the site.