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Score:8.5 / 10
I know I'm getting old by the fact I don't
skip cutscenes anymore. Were they always this crazy?
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is like a showcase for insanity. The
central MacGuffin -- the element that drives the story forward for most
of the game -- the player is told, on multiple occasions, is a power
source with the potential to destroy the Imperial Forge World, where the
entirety of the game takes place. So, I guess it makes some kind of
sense in the Warhammer 40K universe to put this extremely
powerful element in a case that a lone
Space Marine (really, an Ultramarine) wears on his hip like some kind of
apocalyptic cell phone. This would be a great plan if the Ultramarine,
Titus, flew to safety rather than fling himself into hordes of Orks.
But I have a certain capacity for Disbelief Suspension when it comes to
video games, though I do get the impression that the
capacity is diminishing, so it's not like
it was a turn off. In fact, I thought the cutscenes really helped put
some meat on the bones of my knowledge of Warhammer 40K.
The action did much more to draw me into the game. Developer Relic
Entertainment has done a great job making the Ultramarines play like
complete bad-asses, with levels of self-control and cool rarely
demonstrated by a genre that brought us, "Eat shit and die!" There's a
great balance of melee and shooting here and the transition is seamless.
Blast some Orks or Chaos Legions to thin them out a little then charge
in and lay them low with some really brutal melee combat, which is
necessary to replenish Titus's health bar. It works really, really well
and since there are plenty of opportunities to change Titus's load-out I
never got bored with the weapons (especially the shotgun-like Melta Gun)
or squashing and slicing through some really big hordes.
There's one weapon that's not really a
weapon. The jet pack Titus acquires a few times through the course of
the game not only provides extra mobility, it can turn Titus into a
Ultramarine Meteor that explodes lesser enemies and knocks everything
else into the air. After jumping into the air, a crosshair paints on the
ground to mark Titus's landing point and from there it's reminiscent of
the Incredible Hulk's ground pound. If Relic doesn't have plans to
release an extra jet pack, crash mode, bowling mash-up for high scores,
they should get those plans moving along. I would play that over and
over again. In fact, the only parts of the story I replayed were levels
I had access to the jetpack.
There are promises already of additional DLC to keep players coming back
including a Horde mode (holding out against wave after wave of
increasingly tough enemies) and a co-op mode through the story but right
now, the only online features are 8-vs-8 multiplayer with two different
modes: Annihilation (team death match) and Seize Ground (which reminded
me of Bad Company 2's Conquest mode) where each team vies for control of
a specific location on the map. Relic did a good job with the different
character classes, experience point and upgrade systems, including the
ability to customize the look of your Space Marine, which is a hallmark
of the tabletop source material. It didn't quite grab me enough to make
me forget my go-to multiplayer game on the 360, Bad company 2, but it
feels like there's some potential to do more cool things to service the
fans of Warhammer 40K.
Unless you're a Relic employee, skip this paragraph because I'm about to
go off the rails. I'd like to see a "Fire from Above" mode where one
side hovers over an open battlefield with their jetpacks. Each player
gets three bombardments to use to prevent their opponents from making a
successful run across the map to grab the power source and return it to
base. Relic, take that one and run with it!
Space Marine is a satisfying action game. In my mind it has become the
high water mark when it comes to the melding of melee and ranged combat
because it's so seamless. And while the multiplayer didn't really grab
me, there's enough enjoyment to be had with the single-player that I'd
have no problem telling a friend to check out Space Marine.