PS3 Review: Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine



After bringing Games Workshop’s popular tabletop wargame universe to PS3 with download title Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team, THQ again head into Ork territory with full-fledged retail release Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. The resulting game is a brash, bloody and wildly entertaining third-person Gears of War-alike that takes the fun foundations of Kill Team and expands on them with deeper, more varied combat, even if it does suffer a little from the same repetitive wave-based action woes.

The plot kicks off as a massive invasion of Orks on a strategically vital planet catches the attention of the Imperium. Humanity’s head honchos deem it too important and too dangerous a task to entrust to just any military fleet, so they send in their most badass crew of elite Space Marines to stomp some greenskins and regain control of the Forge World. The not-exactly-complex story strays through a sadly generic, predictable path populated by forgettable, thinly-drawn characters, but what it lacks in plot, it makes up for by doing an excellent job of bringing this world to life with top-notch visuals and a wealth of atmosphere. There’s plenty of fanservice littered around for Warhammer aficionados, but most importantly, it gives you a great excuse to slug, saw and shoot your favourite villainous creatures to mush, from all manner of Ork nasties to Daemons and Chaos Marines.
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It’s perhaps only natural that Space Marine should pilfer the combat mechanics of Gears of War considering how large a debt Marcus Fenix and Co. owe to the Warhammer universe. A mix of third-person shooter and brutal melee brawler, Space Marine puts you in the oversized armour of Ultramarine Captain Titus (voiced by Kickass/Robin Hood villain and all-around awesome actor Mark Strong). You collect a varied arsenal of weaponry, both melee and firearms, from pistols and chainswords to devastating launchers and the giant Thunder Hammer. The hand-to-hand combat is strung together through a variety of combos, with kicks, punches and stun moves at your disposal. Stun an enemy and you’ll be able to perform an execution move – the only real way to recoup health in the game outside of the Fury mode, which fills up with each attack and allows you a temporary burst of invulnerability and super strength.

The combat is tight and punctuated with incredibly bloody and satisfyingly brutal finishers, peppered with the kind of Zack Snyder stylized speed-ramped visual flourishes that’ve become en vogue in modern brawlers. Smashing and blasting your way through hordes of Ork nasties and turning the landscape into a blood-drenched pile of corpses is great fun, especially when you’re given access (albeit temporarily) to a jet booster pack, which allows you to burst into the air then slam back down to earth amidst a crowd of enemies, crushing them and/or sending them flying into the nearest concrete wall. The shooting mechanics are equally entertaining, with a range of diverse and destructive weapons to toy with, and Space Marine gives the routine ‘mounted gun’ sections a shot in the arm by allowing you to just tear it off the turret and carry the death cannon with you. There’s plenty of engaging and exciting action set pieces throughout the campaign, and unlike Kill Team, there’s much more variety in enemies and location, even if it does fall into the same ‘activate objective, kill swarm of Orks, move to next objective and repeat’ formula a bit too often.
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Repetition rear its head again elsewhere, and thanks to the limited sound design, you’ll never be in an danger of forgetting the game’s name; the hordes of Orks scream out “Space Marine!” and “Get that Space Marine!” at a rate of around eleven times every five seconds. It certainly earns a lot of unintentional laughs, especially when the Ultramarines and Orks are both assaulted by a swarm of mutual Chaos enemies and the greenskins are still yelling about Space Marines, ignoring the other, more demonic foe tearing them to shreds. It gets old fast, though, and it’s a shame that the sound design feels so lazy since the game does a great job building atmosphere in its early moments, where the Orks’ first appearances come as they’re creeping around the rocky outcrop above you, shuffling around quietly muttering and chuckling as you check out your surroundings with darting eyes and an itchy trigger finger.

The 8×8 competitive multiplayer, coming with a ‘capture and protect the position’ mode and a team deathmatch mode, adds more fun and longevity to the game, and Warhammer fans who like painting their actual figures will be pleased by the impressive amount of tweaks and variants to be toyed with in the character customisation toolset. There’s also an added co-operative mode to be added for free at some point in the coming weeks.
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All in all, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine proves to be an uncomplicated but brutal brawler/shooter that’s bloody good fun. While the generic and predictable plot sadly doesn’t delve too much into a universe that’s rife with fascinating story potential, the great visuals and varied landscapes do a great job at bringing the world to life and presenting a perfect arena in which to blast and smash slimy Ork enemies to sludge. With tight, satisfying combat and a robust, if occasionally repetitive main campaign and a solid multiplayer mode, there’s plenty of entertainment to be found, and Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine manages to be an incredibly enjoyable mindless romp through Ork territory.

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Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is available to buy on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC now.
Click here to order it from Amazon.co.uk.