Warhammer started off as a table top board game and has since evolved into a rich fiction spanning books, a CGI movie, and video games. The previous Warhammer games were mostly RTS based but with Space Marine the series has taken off into a new direction in the form of a third person action game. Space Marine is a shooter mixed with some melee combat as you play as a squad of Ultramarines that have to fight off Orks that have invaded an Imperial Forge World. The story is actually kind of bare and is a simple go here and shoot that formula. At the beginning of the game it seems the only goal is to just fight Orks but then half way through the game you are introduced into a real objective revolving around a scientist and his new secret weapon which the Orks are after. The story does manage to throw in some twists but it’s not really anything you wouldn’t see coming.
Now I have never really been interested in the Warhammer fiction so I didn’t know much going into this game but it definitely left an impression on me and made me really interested in the story of the Warhammer universe and the one complaint I had about the story the game is telling is that it doesn’t really fill you in on a whole lot of what’s going on. If you don’t already know a lot about Warhammer I would suggest a little research if you care about the story. With all of that being said Space Marine is by no means a bad game. It plays very nice and has stunning visuals and is one of the more violent games I have played recently. It’s a solid shooter that was highly entertaining and manages to have very good pacing.
Simply put, Space Marine is a Gears of War game without a cover system. It is played from an over the shoulder third person perspective and you spend most of your time shooting at enemies. The Ultramarines also use a series of melee weapons but the hand to hand fighting in the game feels a little weak and soft hitting compared to the hulking size of all of the characters on screen. Even though I was slicing through hordes of Orks I never really felt like I was causing a lot of damage until the Orks actually died. The best part and also the strangest part of the melee was system were the takedowns. After you had stunned an enemy you could perform a brutal takedown that often involves some kind of appendage being sliced, torn, or crushed.
What makes this unusual is that this is how you recover health when you are injured so the game forces you into close combat if you want to receive health. While the takedowns are extremely satisfying and awesome to watch towards the end of the game the animations have been repeated so many times that they have lost their luster and it still just seems like a strange way to recover health. For me the strengths of the game really fell in the shooting aspect and I always looked forward to the next fire fight. One of my favorite aspects of the game was quite often you would find yourself coming to an area and then all of a sudden a huge horde of Orks would break through a wall or come running over a hill and you would just be shooting and slicing up Orks until they are all dead and sometimes you would swear it would never end. These points of the game made it feel like you were in the middle of a real battle and were a lot of fun to play. The game does run into some issues where you feel like you’re running into square areas and then killing everyone there just to move onto the next killing arena but the game does manage to space out those moments so the game doesn’t seem so repetitive.
The worst part of playing Space Marine on the PC is the mouse and keyboard controls. Moving and shooting in the game works just fine but when you want to perform melee combat or throw grenades in the thick of the action it can get kind of disorientating the layout of the keys is not ideal. I tried using the mouse and keyboard and ended up switching to a gamepad very quickly where the controls felt more intuitive and it became a whole different experience. There is a multiplayer function to the game which is broken up into two game modes. There is a straight up deathmatch mode and another match type where you have to capture nodes on a map. There is a level of customization to the character types but it plays roughly class based. The multiplayer didn’t really have the luster that the single player game had and unfortunately is probably only interesting to hardcore fans of the franchise who want more Warhammer content.
Warhammer Space Marine is a very good looking game and remains impressive throughout. As it happens often when you emerge from any battle your armor is covered in blood and while other games have done this in the past, this is the best attempt I have seen. Space Marine runs at a solid frame rate the whole time even when there is what seems like hundreds of enemies on screen the action never slows down or lags. The character designs and animations look great and move really fluid and when you are moving as an Ultramarine you really feel their weight. The action looks fantastic throughout the game and whenever you kill an enemy massive amounts of blood explode from their bodies which never stops being satisfying.
While this game is an average third person shooter much like Gears of War, it was still highly entertaining to play. I was impressed with how addicting the game was and was more than happy to keep picking it up to play. The only downside is the game play doesn’t change much throughout the game as it’s still just run here and shoot that so by the end of the game you can feel burned out, however Space Marine does a good job in capturing the feel of large battles and makes you feel all powerful as you cut down hordes of Orks over and over again.
Space Marine isn’t particularly a long game and could probably be beaten over a weekend. The game doesn’t really have a whole lot of content to go along with its full retail price but the single player campaign is extremely fun and is worth playing. Whether it’s a rental or buying the game Warhammer Space Marine provides some incredibly entertaining and violent action and an interesting look into the Warhammer universe. It would be nice to see more Warhammer games in this fashion and maybe there will be a sequel that can improve on this already great title.