The Morning After – Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
Last month, I received an e-mail from a marketing rep for THQ asking me if I might want to review their upcoming game. My response:
After years of trying out games that got their inspiration from Games Workshop‘s spectacular envisioning of an Übermensch, I was more than ready to see what a studio could make out of the real thing.
So, when my review copy showed up just in time for the holiday weekend, I did what any devoted blogger would do…
I fired up the PS3, sat my ass down in front of the 50″ plasma and played it all weekend long.
It’s for you, the reader, that I make these kind of sacrifices… ;)
For those of you that haven’t been following the game, Relic based the story in Space Marine on Captain Titus of the Ultramarines, who they bill unsurprisingly as “humanity’s last hope for survival” and, also unsurprisingly, as a complete and total bad-ass. The game opens to a distress call from a Forge World under attack by millions of Orkz who are in the process of wiping out the entire population. Captain Titus and his battle brothers are the only ones close enough to respond quickly, so are sent in as the vanguard to ensure the safety, not of the people, but of the War Titan present on the planet. (If you’re unfamiliar with why protecting a piece of machinery is so important, go ahead and check out the following image so we’re all on the same page.)
Your primary mission as the game starts is for you and your two battle brothers to make landfall on the Forge World, find the Manufactorum housing the War Titan and ensure its safety against the onslaught of millions of Orkz until the fleet arrives. Three Space Marines versus millions of Orkz. If you like killing Orkz, this is definitely the game for you. (FYI: I like killing Orkz. A lot.)
As you progress through the story, you receive weapons and general upgrades via pods found throughout the area that only open for Space Marines. You can also find Purity Seals in these pods which grant and upgrade the Fury abilities. Fury is a mechanic that charges up while you’re in combat and that you can then release to boost your abilities. In Melee Mode you do increased damage and in Ranged Mode everything slows down so you can pick off your enemies more easily. Both modes grant health regeneration for the duration. You can upgrade your Fury during the game to both make it generate faster so you can unleash it more often, as well as last longer so you can truly dish out some epic-scale carnage.
“A Vengeance Launcher…”
“That sounds promising.”
Now, it wouldn’t be a fair fight if they didn’t give you some awesome weapons to use to crush said invasion. Let’s take a look at what Relic gave us to play with, shall we?
First and foremost, they give you three Space Marines: Captain Titus, Veteran Sergeant Sidonus, and Veteran Leandros. Why are these guys a big deal? Well, because Space Marines are the pinnacle of mankind’s evolution. Those chosen to undergo the process of becoming a Space Marine are already the elite warriors at the top of mankind’s billions of people. In their armor, they stand approximately seven feet tall. During the transformation process, nineteen extra organs are implanted into their bodies, a carapace is placed beneath their skin and connected to their nervous system that allows them to control their armor as if it were simply another part of their body, and they all undergo a form of psycho-indoctrination that allows them to go long periods without sleep or rest and also strengthens their resolve.
Did I also mention all this can also allow them to live a very, very long time? At this point, Titus has fought for the Imperium for over 150 years. Sidonus for 225. Leandros is considered the rookie yet he’s probably been doing this for decades already. Good times.
Of course, if they weren’t bad-ass enough without them, they also give you guns. Big guns. Like the ones in this picture.
At any given time, you can carry one Melee Weapon, four different classifications of Ranged Weapons, and Grenades. (Mmmm…grenades…) Your primary Ranged Weapon at the start is a Bolt Pistol with unlimited ammunition and they toss you a bone and give you a knife for melee, just in case. You soon add a full size Bolter to the second ranged slot in your arsenal, allowing automatic fire but with limited ammunition, and you replace the knife with a rather epic Chainsword.
The third slot in your arsenal is taken by a more specialized type of weapon like a sniper-type bolter or various forms of cannons. As you come across other weapons in the game, you’re given the option to upgrade them or swap them in and out of your arsenal in exchange for one of the other weapons. You’ll swap the bulk of the weapons in and out of this slot, based on the tactics you intend to employ in the fights coming up. There are a handful of different options to choose from at various points in the game and Relic does a good job (most of the time) of starting you back at a weapon selection point when you die in a major fight.
The final slot is for the Adeptus Mechanicus Vengeance Launcher, which is the weapon Titus is holding in the above image. It took me a while to get the hang of this weapon, but when I did, I rarely had ammo left in it. It’s the “Big Gun” you have for most of the game and it packs a major punch once you get used to how it works.
As for your Melee Weapons, you spend the majority of the game with either a Chainsword or a Power Axe, which both do a wonderful job of killing. However, on rare occasions, they give you access to the Thunder Hammer. Trust me, this baby kicks it all up a notch and anyone that closes to melee range when you’re wielding this is just stupid. (Which means every Ork in existence…)
Now, I have to stop here and say: The melee executions in this game are great. There is something truly gratifying about shoving a Chainsword into the chest of an Ork and then cutting it in half. There are different types of executions based on both the Melee Weapon you have equipped and the type of opponent you’re executing. FYI: Make sure to melee execute a Weirdboy. You’ll thank me later.
Overall, I found there to be plenty of options in terms of weapons that I could use to succeed in my mission. If I had to gripe about anything weapon-related, it would be that I wish I’d been able to swap more weapons in exchange for the Vengeance Launcher. My particular play-style didn’t use that as much as I probably could have even though I really got into the hang of it towards the end.
At various places in the game, you gain access to some rather powerful weapons and items. While you’re using these, you are usually limited either to only using that weapon period, or to only being able to use your Pistol and Bolter. The Thunder Hammer is one such weapon. While using that as your melee weapon, you only can use your basic ranged weapons as the hammer is so big you can’t really put it anywhere when firing a gun. Most of the time, this won’t be an issue as the hammer is amazingly powerful. However, there are times towards the end of the game where you’ll have to make a decision between close-range godliness and long-range damage based on how you like to play.
Another item that limits you to your basic weapons is the Jump Pack.
Like the Thunder Hammer, where it limits you in options, it more than makes up for in overall awesomeness. While it can’t give you sustained flight, it does allow you to jump to great heights and, once there, propel yourself down towards targets on the ground like a human missile. This quickly became one of my favorite ways to take out groups of enemies. When given this item, use it to the fullest. Eventually, per the story-line, they’ll take it away from you due to it “running out of fuel” and you’ll have to resort to walking around again.
Finally, scattered throughout the Campaign are mounted Heavy Weapons that the defending guardsmen are using. If there’s no one manning it, you can interact with it and unleash an unlimited amount of holy terror on the oncoming enemies. Once you’re bored with that, go ahead and rip it off it’s mounting and carry it into battle. That’s right, you can carry these things into battle with you, albeit with a then-limited amount of ammunition. Still, these make quick work of fights and you can carry them until they run out of ammo. During this time, you’re completely locked out of using any other weapon and you can only melee with a boot to the face. Granted, if something actually MAKES it into melee range with you while you’re holding one of these… YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. ;)
Life is the Emperor’s currency; spend it well.
With an IP as rich in history as Warhammer 40,000, I wanted a really engaging story that wasn’t necessarily straightforward. This universe is known for its shades of grey despite being in a world where things are held by the Inquisition to be very black and white. Also, THQ and Relic were billing this as a “cinematic experience” supported by a soundtrack-worthy musical score and a high-profile cast of actors portraying the lead roles.
In my opinion, I think they pulled it off. The story develops very well through the basic Campaign. The voice acting was well done and really helps to convey the overall feeling of the event the game is set in. As for the music, from the moment I loaded the game, the soundtrack impressed me. By the end, I found myself wishing I had a Collector’s Edition for the soundtrack it comes with as it’s a truly impressive score.
Relic also does a good job of adding optional story depth to the game. Along the way, you can even pick up Servo Skulls (if you can find them) that contain recorded journals of people on the Forge World that give you more insight into what was going on. I found these mini-stories to be very engaging and some of the major ones really helped to flesh out the main plot lines. In fact, while I only missed a handful in my first complete run through, I find myself wanting to go back through again specifically just to find the ones I missed to get the complete story.
Oh, and as you can see, the artwork is fantastic. They really seemed to hit all the little details that make this IP great, from the outrageously sprawling views of the Forge World to the awe-inspiring first sight of the War Titan, they really did a good job of bringing this little corner of the universe to life.
In a time where we’re inundated with “story-driven game-play” listed on just about every game you pick up, the ultimate test of how good the story is to me is whether or not I’m upset when the game ends. In the case of this game, I most definitely am already itching for a sequel. It wasn’t the longest game I’ve ever played as I finished it somewhere in the 10-12 hour range, but I felt it definitely conveyed a good story that made me want more.
I’m not going to go into detail on the story, or its twists and turns, but I will leave you with this very ominous image of what is to come as you get near the end of your journey…
Oh, did I mention it’s going to have online Co-Op and Competitive Multiplayer modes? :p While Co-Op isn’t Live on launch day, they’ve stated it’s coming in October and is free to everyone that owns the game. You can make 4-person teams and take on the available scenarios, “Assault on Hab Center Andreas” and “Escape from Kalkys Facility” where you can earn experience points and unlock new weapons and abilities for use in these game modes.
In the Competitive mode, you take on the persona of either a group of Space Marines or a group of Chaos Space Marines in 8v8 arena-style matches. You’ll have three different classes to choose from and can mix-and-match these to focus on your team’s strengths.
Apparently they’ve put in 40 levels to advance through in the Multiplayer mode and making it to the 41st grants you access to special sets of armor for your Space Marines or Chaos Space Marines. I have to say, I’m really looking forward to trying these aspects out.
Ultimately, I had an absolute blast playing this game. I definitely had some frustrating times dealing with some of the bosses on my first few attempts at fighting them and had to walk away and come back when I wasn’t so pissed at them (I’m looking at you Warboss Grimskull!). But, in the end, once I grasped the mechanics of the fight and used both my weapons and the terrain to my advantage, I was able to progress pretty quickly through the game. The caveat being that I was in Normal mode. I would expect the Hard mode to be a decent challenge for those that play this type of game a lot and for those that don’t, Easy should allow you to experience the story without a huge investment of time/energy working your way through the learning curve.
Only in death does duty end.
If you pick up the game, definitely let me know what you thought of it! I’m not sure if they’ll allow cross-platform multiplayer, but if not, I’m looking forward to trying it out with anyone who gets this for the PS3. I asked for this version specifically so I could enjoy it on the big screen. :p
Until next time…