Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Xbox 360 Review

September 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Publisher – THQ – Developer – Relic Entertainment – Genre – Action – Players – 1-16 – Age Rating – 15+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3

Strategy is well matched with the Warhammer tabletop game, but being a fast paced third-person action game, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine requires much less in the way of thought and, consequently, will be unfamiliar to many fans of the source material. Having developed a number of strategy games set in the universe, it’s also relatively new territory for developer Relic Entertainment, who are otherwise well acquainted with the licence by now and know their stuff when it comes to crafting an authentic Warhammer experience.

The surrounding universe of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is unsurprisingly as consistent as you’d expect from the developer. You play Titus, the heroic Captain of the Ultramarines’ second company, who, alongside his comrades, is attempting to wipe out the invading Orks from the Forge World of Graia.

Ultramarines are genetically modified soldiers, with towering frames and bulky, blue armour. In gameplay terms, this means a recharging shield and a combination of melee and ranged combat and the satisfying feeling that comes with taking charge of what is essentially a human tank – they’re so ultra that they don’t even need a cover system.

Once your shield is completely diminished, any further bullets will start to damage your health, though rather than recharging to replenish health, your enemies act as makeshift medikits – stunning an enemy and finishing him off with a brutal melee attack will grant you a health top up, granting a risk and reward element to the combat. The fact that you’re not invulnerable or can’t cancel the animation whilst doing so can result in some needlessly frustrating situations on occasion, though if you’re careful with your timing it can often be avoided, so it’s hardly a major issue.

There can be an impressive amount of enemies filling the screen, allowing for some epic encounters that give you the sense that you’re partaking in a vast war rather than a village skirmish. The framerate remains largely smooth throughout and the action is pleasingly intense.

The melee combat is about as far away from the glorious depth of Bayonetta that you could get, but tearing through the hordes of enemies is nonetheless entertaining, even though you don’t have much choice when it comes to combos. The seamless transition between shooting and hacking and slashing is wonderful.

Whilst the guns have fancy names, they largely, however, offer few surprises. There’s the usual machine guns, rocket launcher, handguns, sniper and plasma rifles, all functioning pretty much as you’d expect them to, but one slightly fresher option comes with the Melta, which is a bit like a union of a flamethrower and shotgun and is as immensely satisfying as it sounds.

Killing enemies will fill the fury meter. Once this is filled, it allows you to enter an enhanced state where your health will recharge without having to kill an enemy, whilst your attacks will result in more damage to your enemies and you’re able to employ slow motion to give you an edge in combat.

Whilst you’ll occasionally get your hands on a jetpack, which allows for additional mobility around the environment, and there’s an on-rails section towards the end, there is however no vehicles, nor any puzzles or exploration to break up the action. The level design isn’t exactly diverse either, leaving a lack of variation as the largest problem, and even the Orks have little variety in their taunts and other evil comments. It always remains enjoyable, but it’s hard not to think that less of this repetition would have improved the experience.

At least there’s the occasional boss, though these are hardly the highlight of the game. There’s also audio files to find of which details some back-story of the game. They’re rarely terribly interesting, but are nonetheless something to do beyond shooting orcs in their green faces.

The online component is similarly lacking in variation. There are just two team based modes on offer, though it has to be said that a hoard style co-op mode is on the way shortly. Annihilation is your deathmatch and Seize the Ground is the game’s take on capture-and-hold. So they’re not anything we haven’t already seen, either, and it follows the now regular framework of earning XP by killing opponents and completion of objectives and challenges.

Warhammer fans will enjoy the fact that when they reach level 4 they can customize their marine – they might even be happy that they can do it for once without their hands getting plastered in paint. There are loads of possible options, allowing you to make a marine that feels as if it’s your own, and you can even choose pre-made schemes which match the various classes in the tabletop game.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine treats the source material with a great deal of respect, but it’s too slender in its variety and options to be anything truly special. It is an enjoyable and relatively unique game, however, and one that is begging for a sequel to truly deliver upon the potential that Space Marine just narrowly misses out on.