When a game is set in a dystopian future, all you can expect is chaos. Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine gives you chaos. Plenty of chaos. The game is sheer bedlam from start to finish, and during the brief moments of respite, you’ll discover that you had actually been holding your breath.
The stage for this game is one of the Forge Worlds, a planet whose sole job is to churn out armaments for the Imperium. The planet is attacked by an army of Orks, who want the cache of weapons for themselves. Of particular interest are the Titans, gargantuan war machines with enough firepower to lay waste to an entire world. To repel the invasion, the Imperium sends a liberation fleet, with the Ultramarines acting as the vanguard to clear the path for the fleet. Halfway through the game, the Chaos Marines make their appearance, turning the world into a battleground, with each of the three groups struggling for supremacy. As Titus, captain of the Ultramarine squad, your job is to prevent the Forge World from being overrun till the liberation fleet arrives.
The game is a fantastic mix of shooter and melee combat, and it is designed to force you to make intelligent choices rather than rushing in blindly. You are allowed one melee weapon and up to four guns. As you progress, you will gain access to different weapons, each with its own specialty. The weapons are balanced beautifully. The more powerful weapons are either low on ammunition or low on accuracy. There are weapons with unlimited ammo, but are weak. Each melee weapon has its own combo pattern. The more powerful the weapon, the slower it will be. In fact, the most powerful weapon in the game, the Thunder Hammer, will limit you to only one handed guns as the Hammer must be wielded using both hands. Throughout the game, you will come across weapon stores, where you can swap whatever you are carrying with something new. Do you take a sniper rifle or pick up a plasma gun instead? So you pick the chainsword for fast melee combat or do you pick up the ponderous Thunder Hammer and sacrifice the use of your more powerful guns? These are questions you will ask yourself every time you come across these weapon stores.
The enemy will come at you in waves, with a mix of melee and cowardly dogs who take pot shots at you. You will find yourself sniping, dodging and swinging frantically as you try to stay alive. There are no potions or med kits in this game. Instead, you’ll have to stun your enemies and then execute them in slow motion to gain health. The execution scenes are gruesome, with the blood splattering all over your pristine uniform, where it stays for a considerable amount of time. You also have a fury bar ala Kratos mode, which slowly recharges your health bar upon activation, in addition to increasing your attack power or allowing you to fire bullets in bullet time. The enemy will try to outflank you, lob grenades, or even send in suicide bombers, making the combat exhilarating. You do have two Ultramarines at your side, but the damage they do is negligible. What they are good for is drawing enemy fire and locating enemies, since they will start firing at left over baddies even if you cannot see them.
Unfortunately, all this breathtaking action ends with one of the lamest final boss fights I have ever seen. It’s almost as if the developers wanted to go on their break and turned the encounter into a button mash fest which is impossible to mess up unless you are heavily inebriated. The epilogue confirms what was hinted during the game – that this was not a fight between good and evil, but a struggle between two extreme ideologies, each with its own set of fanatical followers.
The multiplayer mode is even more brutal, especially if you are unused to PvP combat. There’s a levelling system in place, and earning points in matches opens up various customization options. There are different gameplay modes available, of which Tactical is the only one that new players have access to; the rest have to be unlocked. Multiplayer combat is even more frantic and fast paced than the story mode. I started sniping, thinking that this would be a shooter-only mode; a mistake which was made clear to me by a Marine slamming into me from above and crushing my skull with his Thunder Hammer. It was very good to see the whole shooter+melee combo being carried onto the multiplayer world as well.
The graphics are not cutting edge, but they are very solid all the same. The blood and gore has been taken to a level enough to satisfy Count Dracula and his three wives. The developers have taken great care to bring out the detail of everything in the world, from the twitching bodies of the Orks as you pump bullet after bullet into their green bodies, to the momentary absence of sound as a grenade goes off near you, temporarily deafening you. The environment was a bit bland, but that could be due to the game lore. There isn’t much music in the background, which is just as well, for I don’t think anyone would even listen to any of the music during the combat phases. What you do have is a sort of fast pumping beat, which simply enhances the experience. The dialogues are far and few, but they have been delivered pretty well.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is a fantastic action game with a wonderful combat system and fast-paced action, all of which is not only carried forward, but is bumped up a few notches higher in the multiplayer modes.