Posted by: markfender | November 16, 2011

Space Marine

Guess what I did this weekend? Purged a planet of the Ork menace, that’s what.

This game is Gears of War light. Now, immediately by saying that, the purists are going to start screaming that everything in Gears of Wars is just a ripoff of Warhammer 40,000 and they would not be wrong. But specifically what I’m referring to is the gameplay and the color palette. This game takes place in a ravaged wasteland of browns and greys (It is 40K, after all), but the Orks are all color-coded and the main characters are Ultramarines, so they’re blue. Already, it’s lighter and more colorful than Gears. As for gameplay, I found a lot of similarities in this game and Gears, especially in movement. Space Marines are big guys and don’t move all that gracefully. And yet, they’re a little more dextrous than their COG cousins. Likewise, the Orks take fewer rounds to drop than their Locust equivalents. Overall, it feels like a Gears game, but with a lighter touch needed.

Where this game differs is the focus on melee combat. Yes, Gears features grisly kills with the Lancer chainsaw, but nothing like this game. Nothin. There’s head stomps that involve a shower of blood, using an Ork’s own mass to push it down onto a revving chainsword, and gore everywhere. It’s not uncommon to have your armor encrusted with the stuff. This game also makes it so the only way to regain health is to perform a gruesome kill (a combination of buttons), so you’re encouraged to wade in. Add in a mechanic that charges up your Fury meter with melee kills and the sheer number of charging Orks and you can start to see that the focus is on slicing through your enemies in glorious melee combat. But then again, that’s not that far off from the mini game either.

One fun thing is the ways the game makes Space Marines out to be badasses. They tower over the teeny, tiny Imperial Guardsmen. When you reach the inevitable “man this turret” section of levels, you are given the option of ripping it off its mount and carrying it around. Because that’s what you do with a Heavy Bolter.

As for the story, it’s pretty faithful to the property. While it does feature the same plot as almost every single Warhammer 40K game ever (Orks invade…turns out its Chaos), it’s not badly told and, hey, it’s better than Gears (but what isn’t?). The equipment is spot on for the universe, excepting two weird add-ons (Vengeance Launcher and Sniper Bolter). My Most Valuable Weapon was probably the Melta Gun, as it’s shotgun-like blast extracted me from a few melee pile-ups that grew too large to handle. But, far and away, the best weapon has to be the Thunder Hammer/Jump Pack combo. Wading through walls of Orks combined with quick escapes and death-from-above attacks makes for fun times.

Of course, the big complaint leveled against this game is the choice of Ultramarines. No one likes those guys. However, I will say that the game’s story does include their most noticeable trait – strict adherence to the Codex Astartes – so it’s not like the choice was arbitrary. However, the Fury mechanic (in which you can activate super-slow-down-mode and health recharge with enough melee kills) doesn’t seem very Ultramarine to me. You could add the words “of Sanguinius” onto the end of that, make it Blood Angels, and it would make more in-universe sense.

One disappointment I did have was the Storm Bolter. Man, that thing should be cool. Instead, by the time you get it in the game, all the levels then consist of shooting flying things (not that great with an inaccurate weapon like the Storm Bolter), or shooting things very far away (again, inaccuracy). Talk about disappointing. Another disappointment was the final boss battle….with the UNSKIPPABLE CUTSCENE!!! AUGH!!! There were also times I thought the Chaos Marines were too damned tough…until I realized that they probably had the same armor soak as me and then it all made sense.

So, good game. It’s a shooter, so it’s short. I wouldn’t buy for full price unless you really like Horde-I-mean-Exteriminatus mode or really get into multiplayer. The graphics are good, story’s decent for what it is, gunplay is fairly satisfying, and chainswords should not be that much fun. For the sequel, I expect Terminator Armor (Ooh! Ooh! and Dreadnoughts!). And Tyranids. Maybe aboard some sort of abandoned starship…perhaps called a “space hulk.”

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