Reviewed: September 10, 2011
Released: September 6, 2011
Space Marine is to video games as a muscle car is to the auto industry: itís big, loud, fast, makes you feel like you're compensating for something...er...and did I say it was big? THQ and Relic really seemed to focus on the concept that bigger is definitely better when they were designing this game. From the very opening scene, even from the menu, you get a sense that everything is huge in this world and that you have been brought here to tear it to shreds. The weapons are big, the bullets are big, the ships are big, the people and their armor are big, and the Orks...well, most of them are pretty big, too.|
Space Marine, set in the well-known Warhammer 40k universe, is the first of its kind to allow the player to take on the role of a single Space Marine, namely: the Utramarine, Captain Titus. Titus, in his gloriously battle-scarred face and armor, is all about brute force. There is no real heed given to tactics or thought. This game encourages you to wade headlong into the fray and let loose your inner dogs of war. Kill enough of the enemy and you are rewarded with a ďFuryĒ attack that you can use to unleash even more devastation on your foes. Spend too much time trying to figure out the best plan of attack and you start getting the feeling that the Orks are asking themselves why they arenít getting hacked to pieces yet by your chainsword or why their heads havenít been stomped into the ground by your massive, armored boots.
The gameplay is intense and fast-paced, though rather linear. Even though they do a wonderful job of making you feel like youíre fighting a piece of a very large battle that rages across this planet with background structures that crumble and burn and loom immensely, foreshadowing the skirmishes you must surely face, there is still a lingering sensation that the player is following a very narrow track.
Not to say that said track isn't packed to the gills with green skinned fodder to shoot, stab, rip open, blow up, eviscerate, smash, crush, pulverize and otherwise destroy in gruesomely satisfactory ways. As I played this game, I felt strangely empowered. It reminded me of the first time I watched the movie 300 and how it really just makes you want to yawp barbarically at the top of your lungs and celebrate the brutality that lies within, which you otherwise stifle in your day-to-day existence.
I had very few complaints about the game on PS3. These are pretty much limited to seemingly longer-than-I-would-hope-for load times and a known bug with online play that I encountered. The load times are only an issue when you are first entering the game world after starting and when it reloads to a checkpoint after death. Otherwise, there is no load time and the game progresses very smoothly. As for the network issue, the game would tell me that my NAT wasn't open, when in fact it is, and I was unable to join games. It seems that I am not the only one facing this issue. Hopefully a fix will be forthcoming, as THQ assures us on their forums. They state that it is a known issue and that it should be resolved shortly.
The graphics are gritty and immersive, as is the sound. I was particularly impressed with the fine details in this game. There are moments, when the fighting stops, when you look at Titus and his armor up close, at the right angle, and you can almost feel the dents and dings in his armor. I remember one particularly cool moment when I was riding in a huge elevator with my comrades and a green light was blinking towards Titusís left. The way the green light highlighted each nook and cranny on his arms and chest, I realized that there was a very real depth to his physicality. Youíll also find that as you fight up close and personal, it gets really dirty, as youíd expect. After a particularly bloody battle, Titusís armor will be caked in the blood of his enemies.
The world just plain feels like a Warhammer game. The environment is just the right amount of destructible, to the point where you feel like you are really wreaking havoc as you stomp your way from battlefield to battlefield, blowing up explosive barrels, and tearing down barriers that impede your progress towards ultimate victory. It definitely brings the epic battle that you are so used to experiencing on a top-down perspective, down to eye-level.
The voice acting by the main characters was definitely not done on a budget. Titus and his comrades in arms talk a good game as they vanquish their enemies by the truckload. And through their conversations and well-placed cutscenes that show off the detail that was put into these personas, the characters are developed very well and you quickly learn that each are bad asses in their own way.
The plot is intriguing, even if you donít have a sense that you are directing it in any way, which is, again, probably my main complaint about this game. Perhaps Iíve just become spoiled by the open-world games that Iíve come to know and love and have lost the ability to appreciate the linear gameplay as much. Iím not saying I donít enjoy this game. I do. I just wish there was more of a sense of choice. The only choice I really felt I had was whether to kill the swarm of Orks with my sword, or one of four guns that are in my arsenal at any given time, or to lob a grenade in their direction. Sometimes, I even felt like I was over-thinking the game and that if I had just gone postal, I would have been more successful.
I would love to take a few paragraphs and comment on the multiplayer aspect of the game, but as I stated, as of the time of this review, I had been unable to do so. Suffice it to say, I had been looking forward to seeing what it was like to hack and slash with other Ultramarines online.
Overall, I would say that if you are a fan of explosive, blockbuster-style gameplay with a lot of blood, guts, and glory, then this is most definitely your game. Even if the gameplay was linear, I was most satisfied by the blood of my enemies, which covered my armor and dripped, like so much wine, from my sword.