Warhammer 40K: Space Marine is a surprising game. At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss it as a cash-in third-person shooter relying on franchise recognition. At second glance, you’ll notice it was developed by a team experienced with the franchise (Relic), though possibly inexperienced in faster paced action games. At third glance, you’ll stop glancing and realize that Space Marine is, in fact, a really awesome game.
Space Marine follows the story Captain Titus, a space marine (surprise, surprise) tasked with protecting a Forge World and the Titan being built there from an onslaught of Orks. A Forge World is basically a factory planet and Titans are pretty much giant mechs. The story is pretty thin, though some interesting twists do happen during the somewhat short campaign.
What’s more interesting is the Warhammer 40K universe that the game takes place in. It’s such a bleak and brutal setting. Standard weapons fire what are pretty much miniature rockets, chainsaws are swords, and orks have somehow pieced scrap metal together into spaceships. I’m pretty unfamiliar with the setting, but the game definitely has gotten me interested in it. I hope this franchise continues and provides more robust stories along the way. Also, I love that even the Orks have British accents. I never tire of hearing a surprised Ork shout, “Spoice Muhreens?! We got a foight here!”
Space Marine plays largely like any other third-person shooter. Instead of a cover system, you use quick combat rolls to dodge incoming fire or attacks. There’s a sense of weight in everything you do. Captain Titus looks heavy in all his armor and you can feel it while moving around. Rolling will cause you to thud heavily on the ground and the sprint animation looks like it takes a large amount of energy for Titus to move like that.
The shooting mechanics will feel familiar to most people. Most of the guns are an equivalent to other games; there’s an assault rifle, pistol, sniper rifle, etc. There are also some more creative guns, like a mine thrower, a burst fire flamethrower-type thing, a laser cannon, and more. The game puts just as much emphasis on melee as ranged fighting and equips you with things like chainsaw swords and electrified axes/hammers.
The melee fighting is a lot of fun. There will be several moments when you are completely swarmed by Orks and have the opportunity to just go nuts with your melee weapon. You can chain together simple combos with a few different moves, as well as use brutally animated finishing moves to refill your health. This is actually the only way to refill your health, which is pretty cool. The only problems I have with the melee combat is that I wish it were a little bit deeper in terms of moves available and also I wish there were more finishing move animations. There’s only three or four, so if you’re healing a lot then you’re seeing them over and over.
Space Marine also features a pretty robust online multiplayer. There are tons of unlockables for your marine, be they armor parts, jetpacks, weapons, or perks. You can also customize the paint scheme for your armor or pick a scheme from one of numerous Space Marine chapters from Warhammer 40K lore. All the standard modes you expect are available: team deathmatch, capture and hold, capture the flag, and some coop content. Capture and hold probably works the best. The multiplayer stuff is a lot of fun and I was glad to see that even now, several months after release, there are still tons of people playing it.
Overall, Warhammer 40K: Space Marine is a great package. It’s easily accessible and by no means requires you to be an expert in the 40K universe. The actual gameplay is familiar and fun, but it’s a shame some of the melee stuff isn’t more complex. The multiplayer has so much to unlock that you could easily get a big enough chunk of time out of the game to justify buying it. It doesn’t hurt that it seems to go on sale pretty often. Here’s hoping we see more Space Marines from Relic in the future.