* Prices may differ from that shown
Space Marine is the latest video game set in the popular Warhammer 40k universe. I was interested in giving the title a go as I used to be a big fan of the Games Workshop table top game it is based on. Alas these days I have given up on the hobby as I found it hard to find fellow budding generals to play against. Just as well though as assembling an army of miniatures can prove to be a costly venture. You are also expected to paint the models which I was never particularly good at. Many a battle featuring my troops was interrupted by the fashion police trying to arrest my platoons for sporting a terrible colour scheme.
The game sees players take control of Captain Titus (no relation to Sunderland bad boy Bramble.) You are sent to a Forge World to protect mankind's Imperial Guard from an assault of deadly Orcs (think Shrek mixed with a Millwall fan.) Leading a small group of power armour wearing Ultramarines you are given different objectives to complete as the story progresses. These tasks include securing a giant Titan from falling into enemy hands, rescuing a high ranking inquisitor and locating an experimental power source which could change the tide of battle. Just when you think things are done and dusted a new threat appears, but I will keep tight lipped on that to avoid spoilers (although I doubt anyone familiar with Warhammer 40k games will be surprised by how things turn out.)
What we have here is a third person shooter which at first glance shares more than a passing resemblance to Gears of War. Once you start playing you can however notice differences between the two, the main one being that Space Marine doesn't use a cover mechanic to avoid enemy fire. In my opinion this makes the combat more frantic as you have to keep on your toes to survive against the swarm of enemies you come against. The key to success is to use the right weapon depending on who you are facing. A rapid fire bolter for example will work well against fast paced drones, but against armoured nasties you would be better served firing a beefy plasma cannon.
You can carry up to four guns at a time along with a melee weapon which if used correctly can prove to be a life saver. Although your armour regenerates when you are not under attack your health can only be restored by performing a special move (only available after killing enough enemies) or executing stunned foes with a gory close combat finisher. Be warned that this game is not for those with a faint heart. Any creatures getting near the player risk a disembowelment at the hands of an axe or chainsaw sword. Look out for the crushing two handed power hammer too... it's as devastating to Orcs as M.C Hammer raps are to my ears.
Space Marine is graced with some excellent graphics. The characters designs, which are rich in detail, contrast well to the surrounding environment. The colourful blue power armour, covered in bright red blood is balanced out by the grimy trenches, mucky sewers and gothic like structures you fight in. The sound is also first rate with a fine blend of sound effects and voice acting. After a while I did however start to get sick of hearing Orcs yell "SPACE MARINES!" every time your squad is spotted. They even say marines when Titus is fighting solo which is rather weird. Orcs may not be the brightest creatures in the known universe, but surely they know when not to use plurals.
Overall I think the game does just enough to earn four stars. The combat boils down to walking into an area, dealing with a swarm of enemies and then moving on. It's all very linear making it practically impossible to get lost (although there are some hidden areas containing audio logs to find.) The walk and shoot cycle starts to get repetitive, but just as I start to get bored Relic Entertainment introduces something new to refresh my interest. Normally what they do is reveal a new kind of Orc to fight against and when that isn't enough they'll treat you to sections were you can fly on a jet pack. Three quarters of the way into the game I did start to tire of the Orcs so it was great to encounter a second faction to pit my wits against. I had to start concentrating again at that point as the difficulty shot up.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the game I must however warn prospective buyers that the main campaign isn't terribly long. I would estimate that it takes around eight hours to reach the end. Playing casually that was enough to entertain me for a week, but I can see hardcore players finishing this in a couple of days so renting it for a weekend may be an idea (especially if you do not intend to take part in the multiplayer matches on offer.) The shortness of the main story didn't affect my enjoyment of the game though. I left satisfied hoping that the makers turn Space Marine into a new video game franchise.
It would be a shame to finish things here because, although the game was fun, it did end on a downer due to a disappointing final boss. I was itching for a fire fight or bloody punch up, but after downing his henchmen all you get is a quick time event were you bash the buttons that appear on the screen... how lame. The ending hints at a sequel so let us hope sales encourage the makers to release another instalment. Given the long list of potential adversaries they could draw from the licence's tabletop roots it would be a pity if they passed up on the opportunity of a follow up. If a part two gets made I'll be at the front of the queue, with chainsaw sword in hand, ready to kick more extraterrestrial butt. FOR THE EMPEROR!