Product Type: THQ PC games
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Warhammer brought to life in a weighty, action packed romp
Space Marine (PC)
Member Name: dannylee
Space Marine (PC)
Advantages: Powerful and muscular feeling of gameplay, good voices, audio and shooter action
Disadvantages: Maybe a little bit simplified for some PC gamers
An important fact to note; Space Marine is a third-person, over the shoulder shooter, much like Gears of War or the recent Transformers : War for Cybertron. Some may groan, others may be unjilted, but regardless of what you think of third-person shooters for the PC, you shouldn't overlook it for this alone. Read on...
Space Marine's storyline is good. A little conservative, and sometimes it's easy to tell what's just around the corner even if you never knew for sure, but that kind of thing's never stopped people enjoying a production before, has it? Regardless, everything is there. A villain, twist, betrayal, emergency, triumph, and a bittersweet sting. It took me not far off 6 hours of gameplay to complete and I enjoyed almost all of it to various degrees, from sustained amusement to sparks of delight. Unsophisticated, Space Marine feels less of a battle opera and more of a planetary barfight, but it must be repeated that simplicity is not always a bad thing. The premise initially wraps around questing for the means to repel a huge invasion force on a human-occupied planet. This means leading your powerful and unwavering Space Marine squad deep into the heaviest fighting, like walking tanks deployed to squash the opposition. Space marines are a rare and elite force, revered and hailed by the weaker, pure human resistance forces. Being this influential character opens the door for a grand mission and even grander combat.
There are a variety of starkly different races and alliances in the Warhammer universe, constantly grinding eachother into dust for as long as the inhabitants remember, but only about half of them appear in this game. In Space Marine, the Orks feature very prominently as an opposing force, and I'm glad this was the case. For those not in the know, the Orks are founded on the stereotype of tribal, green-skinned, ogrish thugs, though Warhammer's version of them is brilliant and here they are true to the way they are depicted in the Dawn of War games. As far as character endearment goes, the Orks are extremely likeable yet aggressively fierce at the same time. When all other characters wear furrowed brows or grunt scriptural scowls, the Orks are there to remind you that there's a fight to be had. Hordelike yet still full of personality, Orks carry the game forward well.
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Featuring too, are the forces of Chaos. Chaos is the enveloping term used to describe those posessed by or in worship of demonic forces, like a heavily corrupt civilisation of the occult. Though not as interesting and dynamic a foe as the orks, they are starkly more powerful, sinister and intelligent. Fighting numerous but disadvantaged Orks no longer, suddenly you will be on a level with Chaos Space Marines and champions who are just as well armed as you, or better, if you find yourself short of firepower. If before the point of Chaos' entry you were tiring of Ork crowd control, their introduction will shake it up nicely. Most games suffer from chucking all their hard work out of the window by introducing a ridiculous and intolerable enemy halfway through (like Halo's Flood), but this is mitigated nicely by the persistent appearance of the Orks throughout, creating nice 3-way set pieces and conflicts for you to witness, right before you wade in and add to the damage.
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So the scene is set and the synopsis is laid out, but everyone who plays games knows that if the gameplay is weak and without power, the whole house of cards blows over. In the case of Space Marine, it is it's core gameplay that is it's biggest asset.
As a Space Marine you carry some serious mass of flesh and armor, so it would be an incredible shame if you were unable to utilise that in close combat. Anyone who played the Dawn of War games would appreciate how the attention to hand-to-hand combat was equal to if not greater than the ranged fighting. This shared focus on melee fighting is certainly carried through to this game, for any shooter that also offers great hand-to-hand combat action will stand above the rest. You can choose from a non-cluttered selection of different styled weapons. The loud and nimble chainsword (Chainsaw mixed with sword, if you needed clarification) is a joy to use with it's shouting slices but safely non-committal swipes. The power-axe is a heavier weapon for firmer effect with its electrified double-head, and the Thunder Hammer is a two-handed thor-like instrument for those who love to truly throw their weight about. All 3 are different enough in style and execution that whenever the opportunity arises, it is worth swapping and changing to suit your preference. There'll be a lot of time spent giving blunt or blade trauma to your target so it's a good thing you don't have to switch weapons through some sub-menu or key-combination - instead, it's only a click away before you have wielded your chosen weapon and the fun begins. In Space Marine, there is not much in terms of 'this one is better than that one in every way', but merely a matter of preference. Melee combat itself lends itself to being dealt in punishing combos and committed attacks on either a single or multiple target, and there are many places that swinging a blade will be far better than pulling a trigger. Either way, it's satisfying to see and hear the high-quality animation and momentum in full swing.
Space Marines are a formidable fictional character with vastly improved abilities over your average man, but they're not invincible. Health Packs are not thrown at you, and the primary method of recouperating is to perform what is known as a finishing move. When you have battered your opponents down to a couple of hanger-ons, you are safe to carry out a brutal execution of your enemy by stunning them first with a swift blow. Whilst the finishing move only boils down to pressing your assigned button, it's still a satisfying and violent way to end an encounter and demolish the last of the group. You are free to do this at any time, but you are at risk of being blindsided by any other enemies trying to avenge your victim immediately. To avoid any catch 22 situations whereby the only way to regain health is to attack, but you don't have enough health to do so, a persistent shield system is also in effect, much like Halo's original system whereby recharging is done by taking cover.
The ranged weaponry is tangibly heavy-duty and sounds great. The space marine's backbone weapon, the bolter, makes you feel like you're laying some serious steel into your prey. The Melta gun, a short range slow-firing vaporising weapon, empowers you to turn close-packed enemies into embers in a satisfying hurricane of white hot energy. The latecoming Storm bolter posesses a brilliant rate of fire and a punching metallic sound for those who want a frantic fix of firepower. There are a good selection of weapons, more than I mention here, all with their own strengths and weaknesses, which help to defer favoritism of any single one.
In addition to the well-picked sound effects of the action and movement, the voice acting is to be noted of it's quality, too. That is, unless you are distracted by the slight cheesiness or sterility of the main characters at times. As warriors born and bred for the purpose of being space marines, I suppose they are going to take their work very seriously. The Orks, however, are animated, loud and full of life. There is something to be said of an enemy that has a lot of energy, shouting and roaring like some kind of parallel to our image of Viking berzerkers. The primary villains, including the likable and riotous Ork war leader, are voiced well even if they fit straight into the archetype of furious, steroidal beast and abominable, dark overlord.
Multiplayer is an unknown arena for me, as my hardware was unfortunately not adequately up for the task. During the single player campaign, performance was very choppy at points and very good at others, but then I am utilising a 3 to 4 year old video card on an XP dual-core computer. Current systems built using any modern video cards should perform very well and let Space Marine look as good as it was meant to be. If anything, it's a testament to how much I was willing to play through it, if I was not being hypnotised by what would be amazing visuals and effects had I played on a recent system. The hallmark of a good game is one which you play despite an actual less-than-par experience, because you love it's gameplay. I have heard good things about the Multiplayer experience, but it's not something I can personally comment on. It is not the reason I bought and enjoyed it.
Over the course of playing Space Marine it felt like it was a conservative project mixed with some experiment. I'm unaware of any attempts to make a shooter set in the world of Warhammer, certainly none recently, so trying anything unusual would have been bad timing. If Space Marine was created to test the waters, I'd imagine the reception it received would deem it a success. Not a wild success, but nonetheless a solid effort which I personally enjoyed greatly. Space Marine is worth some of your pennies, particularly if you are already exposed to the Warhammer universe, but still very much open to those who haven't. Even visually, a comparison can definitely be drawn between Space Marines and Gears of war, and even the recent Transformers : War for Cybertron, particular as they all share the basic Unreal 3 engine. Space Marine's flavour is certainly more close-up and thunderous, however, and in my opinion the character set and fiction surrounding it lends well to an old-fashioned heroic story with lots of action throughout.
Despite appearing to be a little bit childish to the outside world with it's massive armor-clad Space Marines, or big green Orks and chunky weapons, Warhammer may surprise you with it's violence if you were expecting something toned down. Whilst not grim or dark, it's certainly not shy with the red stuff.
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Furthermore, even though I was already satisfied with the game upon completion, it's bitter ending sealed the deal. It may just be me, but I love games that don't suffer from Filmitus, where everything has to be alright at the end, just to please some kind of audience of which I still can't identify.
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The mature attitude to a fantasy-based game adds more reason to investigate this raucous shooter. Well worth your time and money, particularly as there is a Space Marines 2 on the horizon, which may very well be braver and more experimental with it's deployment.
A great game doing justice to Warhammer's rich fiction. I have never, and will never touch the real tabletop games, models, books or minifilms, but I thoroughly enjoyed this.
Summary: Fans will feel familiar, but newcomers will still understand. A good, solid game which I enjoyed!