Monday, September 12, 2011

Space Marine: Video Game Review

There's a new 40K in town, and this time it's not real-time strategy, and (finally) it's on more machines than just PC, the XBox360 and PS3 get big nods. THQ's Space Marine released less than a week ago and if you straddle both worlds of tabletop gaming and videogaming, then you've already heard of it.

There's a couple of ways to review this game, and if you go from the videogamer only angle it's going to come up as a fun, but mediocre action shooter, a rental at best. I'm coming at it from the perspective of a long time 40K gamer first, and a button-mashing videogamer second. These are Space Marines, the way they should always be represented, an elite few against countless hordes upon hordes of the enemy, Bolters blazing and Chainswords whirring.

The physics alone are great to watch, when your marine runs, he secures his Bolter in his off-hand and takes off, heavy boots clomping and reverberating with each power-armored step. This is what stands out for me the most in the game as a player, the visuals. THQ has captured the grit and feel of the 40K universe better than anywhere else I have seen, and this universe screams for a shooter like this. It's immediately apparent that a lot of time, creativity, and research went into the spirit of this game.

Actual game pic

It is a shooter, know that going in. If you're looking for the next iteration of Gears of War, Halo, Call of Duty, and the like, this isn't it. All of those franchises are going to give you more bang for the buck in the shooter department, all day long. However none of them give you "offficial" Heavy Bolters, Ork Warbosses, Stalker Boltguns, Rokkit Boyz, and more. So much more. The gameplay is pretty linear and the control system is an easy-to-use and simple mechanic but it becomes second nature so quickly you don't think about it after your first half hour or so. This really shines in the frenetic multiplayer matches, where it comes down to elegant chaos.

There's two modes of the game, the first is the campaign mode where you're donning the armor of an Ultramarine. You're dirtside on a Forgeworld driving back an Ork invasion. There's all the tropes you could want from 40k; Servo-Skulls, Cadian Guardsmen, Inquisitors, and many Orks. The campaign is straight forward and offers little new and exciting in the narrative, but your job is to exterminate Orks, and more, get stuck in and do your job. There's plenty of "aha" moments and 40K nuggets along the way to more than make up the somewhat lackluster story arc itself, and the world's visuals more than make up for any shortcomings.

Lots of armor and chapter options

Multiplayer is where you'll find me the most, and it's as equally straight-forward as the campaign, but still a lot of fun and promises bigger things to come. First off, there's thirty one different chapters to pick from, for me seeing Dark Angels in there was a real treat but really there's so many options chances are they've got you covered, There's a ton of customization options too from shoulder pads to helmets.

There's only two multiplayer modes as of now, and admittedly too few maps, but that's to change as well at an undetermined date. You've got team kill 'em up mode (not the official name), be the first team to reach 41 kills. I've played this mode the most, and I must say there's a surprising amount of parity here with most matches finishing with less than a five point differential even with widely different levels of players. There's also a capture-the-checkpoints mode, which is a lot more lengthy but also fun.

Where multiplayer gets addictive is in the details, not only are there over thirty chapters to pick from, but as you use each of your wide array of weapons, they get better the more you succeed with them. The Bolter is good, but rack up enough kills with it and now you can access Kraken rounds, score even more kills and you unlock the Bolter's Targeter. Every weapon has similar evolution tracks. As you unlock achievements and trophies in battle, you unlock new armor pieces too, and I am the biggest sucker for this 'paper doll' action. You can unlock Mk6 Beakie armor, you can get master-crafted pieces, Articifer armor, Veteran armor, even Relic armor. And all of these new pieces look like they're straight out of your bits box.

You play either as a Space Marine, or as a Chaos Space Marine (randomly). This is clever because the weapons, moves, and controls are all the same, just whether or not you have spikes. There's all the Chaos Warbands too; World Eaters, Alpha Legion, Emperor's Children, etc. Scoring hits with a Plasma Cannon, for example, will unlock new abilities no matter what you play as.

Space Marine isn't going to hold a candle for long basic on its merits as just a shooter alone, but it shouldn't be dismissed either. You don't have to spend months of practice to be proficient in multiplayer, you can be competitive right out of the box, which is nice and makes for a laid back, online experience as opposed to, say, Black Ops.

Where it does shine the most is in the subject matter itself, and I know the Dawn of War games have a large following for the same reasons. I'm not much of one for RTS games, so this makes Space Marine ideal for me and like-minded gamers. The ending of the campaign screams for a sequel, hopefully making Space Marine the first in a long line of 40K games of this nature to come.



  1. Just picked this up on xbox a couple days ago. I have woefully little time to play but it is a blast so far and I've only played campaign.

  2. I loved the campaign, but I find myself surprisingly hooked to the multiplayer.

  3. Really interesting blog! I used to play as a kid, and I'm thinking of getting back in. This game review has convinced me to go pick it up and jump in feet first.

    Have you ever done anything on the site concerning the Black Library stories?

  4. Welcome aboard D.C.! You should definitely jump back in, and thanks to the online community here there's plenty of places to go for support, advice, and inspiration. Speaking of inspiration, I have a feeling this videogame is going to get you itching to paint up some Space Marines.

    As for Black Library works, we could get something going. A few in particular come to mind off the bat.

  5. Sounds pretty sweet. I need to get back into gaming just a little.