There have been many previous attempts to get the world of Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 into computer game format. Many years ago we had the rather good, but by today’s standards very primitive, Space Hulk, which was based on the boardgame of the same name.
Best among the spin offs though was the brilliant strategy game Dawn of War.
Which brings us to this latest release: Space Marine.
As the name suggests, you take the role of one of these military superheroes.
And for those of you who are totally lost or did not grow up as a teenage nerd boy, I shall tell you what a Space Marine is.
They are the elite soldiers of humanity in the far future, in a universe that is defined by conflict. Genetically engineered and encased in a suit of power armour, Space Marines defend humanity against the slavering hordes of aliens and Chaos demons that constantly threaten it.
Or they are horrible fascistic bully-boys destroying anything different to them… depending on your point of view!
You are Captain Titus of the Ultramarines, who are the premiere Chapter in the 40k universe, appearing in countless novels and comics. You are crash landed on a planet with a few of your men and swiftly become embroiled in an Ork invasion… but of course, everything is not as it seems and there may be other forces at work behind the scenes…
The story is good, but not brilliant, there are no real surprises in the twists in the narrative. But it is exactly the amount of story the game needs to take you from one action scene to the next.
And boy are there action scenes!
There is an undeniable thrill to be had as you stand alone on a battlefield and watch as a horde of 100 or more screaming orks charge towards you. But you just grip tighter on your bolter and, For the Emperor, let rip.
The combat, which is of course the backbone of the game, is great. Blood flows. Lots of blood. And to begin with, the combat is surprisingly difficult. I fouind myself getting killed quite quickly a number of times before figuring out that while Space Marines are tough, they are not indestructible, so running headlong into the middle of an ork attack is a Bad Idea.
As your life goes down, you can build it up again by performing a finishing move on an opponent in melee combat. These are Fun, but not for the faint hearted, as they are invariably gory in the extreme and there are different, but equally over the top, ones for the various melee weapons you pick up during the game.
I’m not the best person to judge the length of a single player game, as I play pretty slowly - but to me the campaign mode in this game is a healthy length, certainly when compared to the likes of Call of Duty. And the range of weapons and out and out feeling of fun will have you returning to levels again to have another go. This was certainly the case with me, and I usually never play a level again once completed.
Of course, the campaign is very much half the story, as games today will stand or fall on the standard of online play.
In this respect, Space Marine is very much hit and miss.
The mechanics of the online game are great. Character design and tweaking is always fun, and you can do a lot of this - choosing armour colour and patterns, or just opting for an existing Marine chapter. And as is usual, new weapons and armour are unlocked as you progress up the ranks.
The games play well and are fast moving. First few times out are a bit daunting though, so expect to be killed quite a lot before you get into the rhythm of things.
The biggest problem with online play though is the lack of variety.
There are only two races to choose from: Space Marines or Chaos Marines. It would be nice to see some orks up there, they are in the main game after all, so the skins already exists. And the addition of Eldar and some of the other races that populate the 40k universe would be most welcome. As well as a limited number of characters, there are also only two different game modes: a team battle and a seize ground one.
Again, while these are great to play, it would be nice to see more options up there.
I am hoping that this will be addressed in future patches and downloads, or else the online experience will be a decidedly limited one.
However, don’t let that put you off! If you’re a Warhammer fan, you’ll probably have this already, but if you’re not and are maybe unsure or just a fan of shoot ‘em ups, then it is well worth a look.
Gameplay is great, graphics are superb and there is a lot of highly entertaining highly bloody violence to be dispensed to the enemies of Mandkind.
Get to it!