The biggest problem when creating a game such as Warhammer 40K: Space Marine is trying to ensure that the massive Warhammer lore doesn’t simply bury a newcomer that’s unfamiliar with the universe under a pile of incomprehensible names and references. And yet you need to keep the hardcore Warhammer fans happy as well, and God knows they’re going to be the hardest to please. But if anyone can do it, it’s Relic Entertainment, the company responsible for the awesome Dawn of War RTS series on PC.
Having been dealing with the Warhammer license for eight years, they were given free reign to craft a brand new story and characters for their game. And so they went out, brushed up on their Warhammer knowledge and created the story of Captain Titus, leader of the second company of Ultramarines as they attempt to stop an invasion of Orks that’s landed on the Imperial Forge World, an industrial world dedicated to the manufacturing of weapons and vehicles. The Orks goal is to capture an Imperial Titan, a massive mechanical walker capable of levelling entire armies on its own. However, the relatively small company of Ultramarines sent to defend the planet are definitely up the job; these genetically engineered bad-asses come in at almost 8ft tall and weighing 700lbs without their armour on! Hell, they’ve even got a third long and a second heart capable of pumping steroids or adrenaline into their system. But I’m not going to get into the history of who they are and what they are, suffice to say that these super-soldiers have an awe-inspiring presence on the field, making normal Imperial Soldiers almost grovel before them.
Relic are going for the summer blockbuster experience, so expect plenty of explosions and dramatic speeches along the way. The main aspects of the story are going to come with why the Chaos Marines are there, and what the Inquisition have to do with it all, as Relic revealed that they’ll play a very important part in the story. Of course, there’s also the matter of one huge Titan, and you can bet there’s going to be something epic done with it. Keep your fingers crossed for getting to control the massive metal contraption and wipe out a couple of armies.
Like its little brother, Warhammer 40K: Kill Team, that was released on Xbox Live Arcade a few weeks back, Space Marine is a bloodbath of a game, reveling in the violent and brutal universe that it’s set in. Thanks to its over-the-shoulder view and burly lead characters its drawn many comparisons to Epic’s Gears of War series, but bar a few fleeting aspects this is a very different beast indeed. Primary amongst them is that Space Marine has no cover system, as Space Marines aren’t cowering little soldiers, instead preferring to stride into battle wielding their trusty Bolters before going to town with their Chainswords. And should you fancy going on a rampage, you’ve also got a handy ramming attack that you can pull off while sprinting.
In fact, melee is just as important as bullets in the game and is actively encouraged thanks to an interesting take on the health system. While there is a recharging health system implemented, it’s a slow working deal, but get in close and perform the games brutal execution melee kills and you’ll get a bit health boost. That’s right, you’ve got to fight to get health. This system helps to ensure that you’re always moving forward and always getting into the thick of the fray. If the vicious chainsword isn’t enough for you, you’ll unlock more melee toys as you progress through the game, such as the mighty Thunder Hammer which can unleash hell on your enemies.
But don’t panic, guns are just as important as getting in close and ripping enemies apart. And Space Marines don’t fail to pack a bit of a punch with a variety of decimating weapons to unlock during your adventures. Bolt Pistols, Bolters, Heavy Bolters and Storm Bolters present plenty of firepower options for you to get all excited about, along with Lascannons and a special Mine launching weapon that’s been created specially for Space Marine. If all of these Bolters sounded utterly alien to you, just thing pistol, assault rifle, machine gun and dual-barreled machine gun. And then your sniper is the lascannon. If you’re still confused; Google it. Thank God for Google.
You’re going to need all this power as you face down the vast hordes of Orks that have invaded the planet. These aren’t the typical sword wielding Orks that you see in fantasy, these are gun wielding Orks that have an even worse temper. Despite their long-range weaponry, the Orks are still a brutal bunch who like to get in close and use their vast numbers to overwhelm the player, so your main strategy is to mow down as many as you can during their charge and then wade in and get busy. If you start feeling a little pressured, the Fury system should be able to help you out. It’s filled up by good ‘ol fashioned enemy slaying, and once filled it can either let you slow down time for some well-aimed headshots, or it can give you a furious melee attack that sends everything flying. And rest assured, with the Ork hordes surrounding you, that melee attack will come in dead handy.
On the opposite side of the metaphorical fence to the Orks are the Chaos Marines. These evil sods are the very definition of evil; Space Marines who have turned to the Dark Side. Wait, that’s Star Wars. Anyway, these guys are every inch as powerful as you and come with the added bonus of supernatural power and some seriously spiky armour that could have someones eye out. Alongside the Chaos Marines come their Psykers, powerful beings capable of teleporting around the battlefield and summoning up horrid hordes of demons. Unlike the Orks which prefer the direct method of charging head on toward the enemy, the Chaos Marines are a bit more sensible in their battle tactics making them an extremely dangerous opponent. Oh, and be careful of the spiky armour.
All said and done, Relic are promising a single player campaign that lasts around 12-15 hours, but my biggest fear is that it falls foul of its little brothers biggest flaw; endless enemies. While Kill Team only lasted five hours, that was more than enough as the game relied on almost continuous waves of enemies. Currently, Space Marine seems to be heading down the same route with Relic claiming that there’s barely a breathing space between fights. Here’s hoping the cinematic blockbuster attitude is enough to keep it feeling fun for the full 12-15 hours, and that there’s a few other gameplay elements thrown in to keep things rolling along.
But lets jump over the multiplayer elements of the game now. While Relic aren’t offering much new to excite you in terms of modes, the online blasting is still looking very fun with two teams of eight players each taking on the role of Space Marines and Chaos Marines and then going to town on each other in true multiplayer fashion. I’m glad we’re a bloodthirsty species.
The first stop is the games extensive Customizer which lets you create your very own Space or Chaos Marine. During your violent excursions into the realm of multiplayer battles you”’ get experience points which will unlock plenty of options for customizing your Marine. Key amongst these are the interchangeable armour pieces. The helmet, pouldrons, chest plate, vembraces, greaves and backpack can all be changed using a variety of different pieces. After that you can change the color of every armour piece as well, allowing you to make that bright pink Marine you’ve been dreaming about. Finally you can change the badges and insignia on your Marine. With all these options at your disposal you can craft the ultimate fashion sense failure. But should you find that your creative flair required to create your very own walking fashion disaster, the game also gives you a large selection of pre-made armour and colour choices, which can also be used as a starting point for your creative genius.
Once your finished making a brand new Chapter of Clown Marines, you can head off to the loadout customiser where you can create a custom class. There’s just three classes to play with in the game, each with its corresponding Chaos version, and which class you choose dictates the weapons and perks you’ll have access to.
The most well-balanced class in the game is the Tactical/Chaos Marine, who is also the first class you’ll have access to as the others must be unlocked by ranking up a few times in the game’s progression system (which goes all the way up to 41). The Tactical Marine has access to the standard Bolters, as well as a few other weapons. Perks include such things as seeing enemy health and allowing teams mates to spawn on you.
Next up is the brutal Devastator/Havoc who packs the most armour and heaviest firepower in the game. His choice of weapons are the likes of the Heavy Bolter, a hard-hitting weapon that can be deployed to turn you into a stationary killing machine with a vastly increased fire rate. The downfalls are a slower movement speed and he lacks any real melee options, bar a weak kick, making the next class his natural enemy.
The final class is the aptly titled Assault/Raptor who deals in hitting people repeatedly with a sword. His melee damage is through the roof, so getting into the middle of the fight is your best bet when using the class.And to aid him in this pursuit he comes with a handy jump pack that lets him get around the fight pretty quickly, and should you feel a little malicious you can aim up the landing reticule on an unsuspecting fool and unleash a diving ground pound attack. While he may be fast, he can’t take much damage and only carries light guns for ranged combat.
And should you get your butt trounced by a beautifully crafted class during your online shenanigans, as you lie on the ground and watch your hated enemy run toward his next hapless victim, you can tap a button to automatically copy the class that killed you. After that, you’ll spawn with whatever he or she used to kill you. Then you just need to head out for revenge.
Once you’ve finished amusing yourself by creating the most hideously ugly Chaos Marine to ever grace the universe, it’s time to head online and get your butt kicked by some ten-year old kid with a gamertag that contains way too many X’s. But it’s here that you’ll learn that Space Marine is a bit skimpy on the modes and maps compared to most other shooters. Venture through the menus you browse the modes and you’ll discover just two modes; a standard team deathmatch and Seize Ground, which has you capturing zones to score points. After that it’s onto the maps, of which there are five in total. Ok. We can handle that.
Thankfully the 8v8 battles are looking pretty damn fun to say the least. The three classes seem to be well-balanced providing plenty of opportunities for teamwork, and the mix of blasting and melee should lend itself to some pretty epic battles. The maps are also fairly open affairs with multiple routes, sniping spots and higher up vantage points for those pesky Assault Marines to plan their attacks from. At the moment it’s hard to say exactly how fun the multiplayer aspect will be, but considering how solid the shooting and close up action is looking and the well-balanced class designs it should be a blast to play.
Warhammer 40K: Space Marine may not be subtle, and it may not be innovative, but by the Emperor it’s looking like a lot of fun. And, because I’m extremely excited about the game, it has even encourage me to go out and buy my very first Warhammer set. But rest assured, that will be getting put aside when this game arrives.
And don’t forget that a singleplayer demo for Warhammer 40K: Space Marine will be available on Xbox Live on August 23rd.
Warhammer 40K: Space Marine releases in Europe on September 9th.