Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine review

  • Attention to detail, especially if you’re a 40K fan
  • The melee combat
  • Polished presentation and gameplay
  • Same dusty old game mechanics
  • The boring non-characters and dull plot
  • Having to lurk behind cover for the last third

Don’t be surprised if playing Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine causes a huge wave of Déjà vu to wash over you. Surly, grunting muscle men in huge armor with chainsaw melee attacks and big guns run down narrow corridors fighting off an invading alien horde in a 3rd person perspective. The sad reality of it is that Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40K invented many of the cornerstones that have come to define these games, but they’ve shown up rather late to the party. Even so, what it lacks in originality, Space Marine makes up for in dumb fun, tight gameplay and overall competence.

Above: At this range you're better off whipping out your chainsword getting bloody

It’d be a mistake not to mention the elephant in the room so we will. This game plays a lot like Gears of War. The major difference between the two is that Space Marine ditches the cover mechanic for a slightly more fleshed out melee system. You alternate between striking and stun attacks, stun the enemy and they can be executed with a cinematic takedown move. While your armor regenerates naturally, the only way you can replenish your health in Space Marine is by executing a stunned enemy, which makes occasionally tearing someone’s head off an important strategy.

Your Fury meter also builds as you get kills, giving you a huge Super Saiyan boost once it’s full that you can use to charge headlong into a group of enemies. Tearing through a large group of Orks with this is very gratifying given the gratuitous slow-mo and explosions of energy and gore. While the more aggressive focus makes the game a bit faster paced than Gears, some cracks in this theory appear later in the game.

Above: The Ork Warboss Grimskull is as tough as they come

Enemies in Space Marine tend to do one of two things: rush directly at you and attempt to beat your brains in, or lurk behind rubble 400 miles away and take pot shots at you with impressive accuracy. While this isn’t too much of a problem for the first 2/3rds of the game, the number of ranged enemies towards the end necessitate that you take cover and snipe them, or clear the waves of melee enemies behind cover so you don’t get sniped to death while swinging your chainsword. The game may not have a cover button, but expect to spend a lot of time behind cover regardless.

Despite its generic gameplay, Space Marine is very loyal to its source material, Orks, Gretchin, Chaos Lords and the Adeptus Astartes themselves are all lovingly rendered and play close to the source material in the codexes. The character customization in the multiplayer mode is also really in-depth; you can customize your Space Marine’s armor with special parts, insignias and even the color patterns of specific Space Marine/Chaos chapters. Relic has been making the Dawn of War series for years, and they’ve clearly mastered the brand. None of this however, changes the fact that even if the audio logs you’re collecting are called servo skulls, you’re still collecting audio logs like you haven in dozens of other games.

Above: The Jump Pack segments in the campaign are extremely fun, though they're exceptionally more annoying in the multiplayer

The plot and characters don’t really help much either, as the three titular Space Marines are generally uninteresting. The new guy, the veteran, and main character Captain Titus, endlessly charge forward, fighting back the Orks and then the forces of Chaos. Hey, at least the main character isn’t bald. The plot’s only interesting twist doesn’t really manifest itself until late in the game, and then goes nowhere as Space Marine infuriatingly ends with a QTE boss fight and an ending that might as well scream “GO PRE-ORDER THE SEQUEL RIGHT NOW YOU GIT.” 

The voice work is all nicely done, and the heavy use of UK voice actors gives the game an interesting flavor; Nolan North was completely booked anyway. It’s a shame the game doesn’t incorporate more of 40K’s other races though, as it would have really helped it stand out from the crowd. 40K has a slew of great character designs to chose from, and hopefully we’ll see something a bit more diverse from the next game.

Above: Phew, I'm glad at least one of these Space Marines is bald.

Despite all my gripes about the game’s unoriginality, Space Marine is an undeniably well put together affair. It may hit all the familiar notes we’ve come to expect from this genre, but the gameplay and controls are exceptionally tight and there’s undeniable fun in dropping into a group of Orks with your jet pack and smashing them all with your Thunder Hammer. It sacrifices a lot of its character to focus on creating a solid core experience, but it’s good dumb fun that will easily keep you entertained all the way up to its anti-climactic end.

Sept 9, 2011

More Info

Available Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: THQ
Developed by: Relic
Franchise: Warhammer
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence

Down are up ell, ex why be?

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  • tacoman38 - September 12, 2011 7:54 p.m.

    something about the multiplayer would have been nice. As well as that the gameplay is pretty much the opposite of gears. try running into a group of enemies in gow and melee them all to death. Not gonna work. unless you have a chainsword. or a thunder hammer.
  • jackthemenace - September 12, 2011 10:32 a.m.

    Don't really fancy spending a lot on this, but it's certainly a rent, because it's something I'd love to play. The inclusion of the Chaos Marines pleases me greatly, not because I particularly care about the game, but they just look Badass. However, I'd be more inclined to buy the sequel if they did include LOADS of races, since a five-way melee between Space Marines, Tyranids, Orcs, the Eldar and something else 9 I can't name any of the other races) sounds AWESOME.
  • mothbanquet - September 14, 2011 7:33 a.m.

    Dawn of War spoiled us a bit I think - by Soulstorm we had access to more playable races than I can count! Judging by Relic's relative devotion to their IP's over the years, I think they'll do this one proud through DLC and sequels. Could do with a game devoted to my personal faves, the Tau. PS2-era fire warrior was decent at the time but what wonders current-gen hardware could work! :(
  • HaVoK308 - September 11, 2011 12:45 p.m.

    Thanks for the spoiler at the end there.
  • PizzatheHutt - September 10, 2011 4:37 p.m.

    Hey, can you guys post a video for this so I can watch a trailer for Warhammer then see a video for Warhammer? Also if you could get Bishop to come over and kick me in the nuts. That would be cool too!
  • angelusdlion - September 11, 2011 9:51 p.m.

    No need to do so, I'll kick you in the nuts right now. For free even.
  • Darkhawk - September 10, 2011 11:13 a.m.

    Why does everyone keep repeating this nonsense that Warhammer somehow invented Space Marines? mythology? Um, as generic sci-fi/fantasy conventions go, the entire Warhammer mythology owes itself to about a billion other sources.
  • Rowdie - September 10, 2011 5:49 a.m.

    Couple things I seem to have different from others on the mythos of 40K. First cover is for pussies. Seems like you get a nice bonus from being in cover or behind a defended ridge in the table top game and it's a good idea to find some of it. There's even a hiding/hidden mechanic. Second, marines are unstoppable or nearly unstoppable. Vastly superior to any modern warrior? Yes very much so, but the battlefield is also a much more deadly place. Marines die. What they might have done if they didn't want you picking off the ranged guys first is somehow make it harder to hit you while engaged in melee combat. I recall a table top mechanic for that. Something like equal chance to hit any target engaged in hand to hand combat. So if you were busy fighting four orks that is like 80% immunity. Melta gun is all kinds of win.
  • Rowdie - September 10, 2011 5:50 a.m.

    Err, why have my hard returns stopped being formatted? <hardreturnX2> ?? <hardreturnX3> ?? <manyhardreturns> ???
  • mothbanquet - September 10, 2011 6:32 a.m.

    I know cover was a valuable part of any strategy in the tabletop game, but the 'cover is for pussies' concept is just something they've been pushing for Space Marine since it was first revealed, so it seems odd to force you to take cover later on, without any Gears-style system in place. Saying that, it's not like it's a problem simply positioning yourself behind something without automatically sticking to it and I've actually found myself enjoying the different pacing and increased strategic thinking later on in the game. It really forces you to use everything at your disposal on Normal difficulty or higher, pushing the variety factor up a notch. Oh and yes, the melta gun is win - especially in this game! :D
  • angelusdlion - September 11, 2011 9:53 p.m.

    depends if you're going by the actual rules or the "fluff." It seems to me that this game goes by the fluff. After all, with as many people shooting at you as are in this game you'll eventually get killed.
  • Ipriest54753 - September 10, 2011 1:53 a.m.

    Not Completely terrible? thats all i needed to hear. I am going to by this game and i know im going to love it wether its good or not, such is the way of the warhammer nerd inside me.
  • Balaska - September 10, 2011 1:51 a.m.

    To all the 40K fans that have yet to buy this, you WILL have fun, as long as you are not going into it expecting it to be the best game ever. Relic have nailed the feeling of being an almost unstoppable badass. Would have enjoyed the campaign mirrored (like DOW Retribution) for the Orks, that would have been a fun, easy to include extra. Idea for DLC eh Relic?
  • mothbanquet - September 9, 2011 11:40 p.m.

    After playing the game all day yesterday, I can say that this review is pretty much spot on. While the gameplay surprisingly doesn't fall into repetitiveness (which by all rights it should), it does seem to completely abandon the 'cover is for pussies' mentality later on, just through the sheer amount of ranged fire you come under. Also, I came across quite a few bugs so far, the last of which had Titus seemingly stuck behind a door, unable to move. In any case, I'd probably add an extra point if you're a 40K fan, if only because the world is so lovingly and well portrayed that you'll be able to overlook the flaws - you'll get a far bigger kick out of seeing a battery of Basilisks opening up than most.
  • larkan - September 9, 2011 8:16 p.m.

    I'm just glad us PC gamers have something along the lines of GoW to play....I like Gears as a game franchise but playing with a controller is very frustrating.
  • KillerTofu - September 9, 2011 8:11 p.m.

    I await the Steam sale...
  • Stabby_Joe - September 9, 2011 5:40 p.m.

    I'm liking what I've played so far and with that can also say I don't get the Gears comparison given the greater emphasis on combat and jetpack. What is interesting however is the multiplayer that while by the numbers works well with the customization and previous mentioned game mechanics. Still, room for improvement so I do hope this gets a sequel, then we'll have something really special.
  • RabidCabbage - September 9, 2011 5:36 p.m.

    I'm a colossal 40k fan, so I'll probably buy this tomorrow. I just think that the 40k universe can be better utilised than this. Like ripping off the Eisenhorn novels- play as an inquisitor trying to track down a plot to set off a Chaos doomsday device or something. Simply copying characters/enemies from the Citadel models just seems lazy to me. Life in the Imperium is so bleak, it would be fascinating to just explore a concentrated part of that world, like one city. Also, Orks shouldn't speak English.
  • Gotxxrock - September 9, 2011 6:12 p.m.

    LOVE your ideas. Like I said before, they need Dan Abnett to write a story for them.