40K REVIEW: THQ’s Space Marine
Hey BoLS fans! AdamHarry here with my review of the single-player game for Space Marine from Relic and THQ!
So where do I begin? Let me start by saying I am not looking at the single player game as an industry pro or even a professional journalist – Just a fan of the Universe of 40k. My mission with this game has always been to look at this from a Fan of the Table-Top game’s perspective. Also, I want to quantify a few things:
1) I did beat the single player game on normal (just so I could finish quickly)
2) It took me two late nights (10-12 hours total)
3) I’m also a pretty fast player and didn’t try to collect everything
4) I will be going back through on hard because I had a good time and want to collect everything
Ok, now that we’ve got that out in the open, let’s continue. I will be talking about some of the details of the story line, so if you want to avoid any SPOILERS, skip down to the bottom if you just want to get my final thoughts and the “review score” – although you can probably infer where I’m going with this based on my previous Multi-player article and #4 above.
Still with me? Let’s do this! I’ve already mentioned the movement in the multiplayer review. The weight and heft of the Marines is apparent and intentional. I thought it was a nice touch to be able to charge through sand bags and other small barricades. If this game had been about the Blood Angels I don’t think I would have been able to stop saying “Oh yea!” every time I charged into the enemy behind cover.
Things I Liked
I really liked the story they chose. It is a very fitting scenario in the 40k universe and it seems totally plausible. There is an Ork Invasion on a Forge World where they manufacture experimental and exotic weapons along with Titans. Exterminatus is out of the question as the planet is too valuable. From the Ork’s view, “the Forgeworld had no choice. Their defense grid was smashed. We’d won.” They were just looting at this point. So who you gonna call when you can’t nuke them from orbit, you know – to be sure? The Space Marines!
But things are never that simple in the Grim-Dark. There is an Inquisitor involved and a secret power source being used. And then Daemons show up. As do Blood Ravens and Some Black Templars! I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but I really felt like the story could have been straight out of a Black Library novel. It does have a few twists but it’s pretty easy to follow. I’ve got a buddy playing through the game and he knows nothing about 40k and he’s really digging it too!
The Combat System was a lot of fun (at least on console). To be honest, I could see this being sort of funky on a keyboard/mouse setup. With the fast pace of switching between shooting and melee, I could see that being tricky unless you did some fancy key-mapping. Or if you just plugged in your Xbox Controller…
The game really illustrates that the Marines are masters of warfare. They smoothly swap between gunning down an enemy and the whip out a Close-Combat weapon and chop the next guy in half — In a very bloody manner! Did I mention the Gore? Yes, this game is very “300-blood-bath” inspired. And there isn’t a “gore off” setting – I figured I would check. Just in case any parents were reading this and were concerned about the violence. It is. VERY. But surprisingly, I found it less offensive than playing a game of other “modern shooters” – there is no swearing! That was a great trade off in my opinion and it sticks to the fluff. The Universe is brutal, but I’ve never read a piece of fluff where the Marines used anything harsher than the occasional “Traitor/Heretic/Scumbag!”
The Grimdark Details
The visual look of the game is amazing! I’ve said it before about the Dawn of War II maps, but this time – imagine creating a great piece of table-top terrain. Now picture yourself getting to run around that terrain as Marine! The inner 12-year old in me was giddy. There are lots of Gothic looking sets, rubble, Ork buildings and Chaos-vibes. If you could put on the boots of a Marine and wander around a Forge World it would look like this game.
I also liked the characters a lot and felt like they each had different layers to them. It comes across more in the audio logs especially. There was one in particular of Mira, the Imperial Guard Officer trying to rally her men to launch a night assault. I thought that was pretty neat. I felt like the Guardsmen were desperate and needed hope. I also noticed in one area as Titus is walking by the Guardsmen, who are weary and tired, start to stand up and salute – they are in the presence of a Demi-God! The Marines were more than just warriors, they represented that hope. It least that’s what I got out of it.
It was also cool to realize that there are only the 3 Marines in the immediate area. They have to charge into a key orbital defense relay, infested with Orks, so that they can get air support. This same spot was so well guarded that the IG couldn’t do anything. So they send in the 3 Marines who slaughter countless Orks as they succeed in this somewhat covert op (I say somewhat, because Space Marines make a lot of noise) – This is the stuff of legend!
The Marines for the most part are also very Honorable and Noble. Titus puts himself out there as bait on more than one occasion to provide a distraction to save lives. But the Emperor Protects!
The tools of warfare are all awesome. At this point, I’m sure if you’ve played the game or read anything about the weapons the Vengeance Launcher has come up. “But that’s not in the fluff!” Exactly! I liked it because it was new, but not so new as to make it unbelievable. I think it fit perfectly in the fluff. They are on a Forge World and there are literally crates of weapons lying around. It also makes sense that the Orks would want to loot this place. More Dakka Dakka! I really enjoyed the look and feel of all the weapons you use. The Thunder Hammer/Jump pack is awesome for wading through everyone in the game. In the end the humble bolter is still my favorite gun. The melta is a close 2nd. The man-portable Lascannon was awesome for dropping Traitor Marines too. And the Stalker Pattern Bolter – best headshots ever! If you shot an Ork who was in front of a wall in the head – well let’s just say “clean-up crew – aisle ewww.”
There are tons of nods to the fans. The Servo-Skulls, the random chatter as you walk through buildings over the vox, and all the little things – there is a lot to check out.
I even liked the bad guys! The Orks were huge, green soccer/football hooligans. The Warboss was pretty awesome! I enjoyed that battle. And the Chaos guys were pretty well done. Also the Traitor Guard flash-lights; Holy crap those things hurt. Good thing a bolter round or two explodes them into a gooey mess. And speaking of bolter rounds, I loved that you can see the initial impact, and then the secondary explosion!
The enemy AI isn’t a push-over. You cannot charge into combat and press a button to kill everyone. You actually have to attack some situations more tactically. I found several spots where there were Ork Shootas and Rokkits on a ridge and I was being charged by a mob of Boyz. I couldn’t just charge the Boyz, because I would have been shot to bits (I tried a few times – bad plan). So I found myself lobbing grenades in front of the Boyz to by myself time. The Boyz aren’t stupid enough to run into the grenades, they actually try to run around them or away from them. This would allow me to pick-off the shootas, and then I’d unload my bolter on the Boyz as they ran up and finally I’d get into close combat. It’s a hack-and-slasher, with a bit more to the combat than “press the attack button.”
Things I Didn’t Like
The Camera – could have been up above the marine a bit more, or slightly zoomed out a bit. Some areas did feel like the camera was crammed in there.
Mark Strong’s voice acting was too quiet! Next time turn up his mic a bit please. He had a very Grim-Dark voice and classic Ultramarine Stoic-thing going on. It would have been nice to hear more of it.
I would have liked more control over my load-out. I suppose this is more of a gameplay issue, but I would have liked to been able to swap out the weapon options more. In some area’s I felt shoe-horned into having specific weapons.
From a Fan of 40k’s point of view, I felt the squad AI was a bit lacking. I asked THQ about this, and they told me from a gameplay perspective, it’s about the player being the hero. And I can totally dig that because I did feel like the hero! The squad was there in support and they would shoot randomly, but cover me enough. They didn’t really get in my way but I knew they were around. So it was a happy middleground.
Uhh, it’s AWESOME?! I really got into the single player, which is part of the reason I wanted to play it two sleepless nights in a row. As a fan of 40k I felt engaged by the story and challenged by the gameplay. THQ/Relic’s mission was to allow the player to strap on the boots of a Marine Captain and wage war on the enemies of the Imperium. I’d say they did a smash-up job! With a single player campaign that is 10-15 hours long and a pretty deep multi-player experience — I’d say I got more than my money’s worth for this game. I know I’m going to have a few more sleepless nights with the multi-player now and Co-Op when that launches, too!
You don’t have to be a fan to get into this game, but if you are, you’re only going to be rewarded for knowing about the background. There are lots of great ideas for Table-Top Modeling, from the set pieces to the bionic arms and details; you will find inspiration for your armies in this game. Oh, and I didn’t even mention the Multi-player configurator, but I’m sure you’ve probably seen the video of that. Skip to the 10:40 second mark if you want to look at just how much stuff you can do.
So stop reading my review and come play! I’m going to go play some more now.
I give it 5 Gloriously Gory Kills outta 5