Space Marine is Still Awesome – Replay Review From Scroo

Eight years ago in ages long past, the year of the Emperor 2011, came a grim dark shooter from Relic, THQ and Games Workshop about an event that takes place 38,000 years into the future. A third person action shooter where the greenskin Ork xenos have overrun the Forge World of Graia and threaten the existence of one of the great manufactorums of the empire. Untold millions of the Emperor's children are already dead. The Imperial Guard are outnumbered and outgunned. They have themselves suffered great losses including their senior commanding officer and are lead now only by a second lieutenant named, Mira Nero. If it wasn't for the great War Titan, Invictus, the empire of man may just cut their losses and abandon Graia. But the honored war machine's value is deemed absolute and it is decided that a small team of Astartes will be deployed to recover and secure the Titan at all costs. Captain Titus, of the Ultramarines, along with two of his trusted battle brothers are set upon the task and dropped into the middle of the fray. What comes is a battle of epic size, betrayal and bureaucracy along side more of a threat than even they imagined.

Gather round children and I shall tell you of my most recent play through of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine.

A lot of research into the Warhammer 40k lore went into making this game and I'll get to some of that later on, but for now let's talk about Space Marine the game a little bit. This isn't a typical review so just hang with me and trust me when I say you should check this game out. Also there are going to be spoilers here, the game's been out for eight years so I'm not terribly concerned with keeping secrets.

The Story Unfolds

Space Marine opens in the transport hold of an Ultramarines, Thunderhawk where our main characters, Titus, Sidonus and Leandros await orders. Below, on the surface of Graia, the Orks have taken control of one of the enormous planetary defense cannons and are using it to blast away at the allied forces above, making it impossible for large numbers of reinforcements to land. Captain Titus makes the call to jump directly from the Thunderhawk via assault jump packs to avoid needlessly being shot from the sky as the Thunderhawk attempts to land in range. Lenadros disapproves but follows orders and they make the leap. Separated mid-flight, Titus lands hard on the deck of an Ork cruiser with naught but his bolt pistol and combat knife.

This is where the movement and combat tutorial begins and it still feels really fluid and responsive. Movement in general feels heavy and as Titus runs there's a bit of screen shake to translate the weight of the heavy power armor. Swinging the combat knife in wide arcs cuts down Gretchins and War Boyz alike and the bolt pistol is powerful and remains so throughout the game. Button combinations can be mixed and matched to increase effectiveness and brutality. It's a simple movement to fire the pistol and swing the combat knife followed up by a shoulder charge and ground stomp that should stun at least a few War Boyz. Not taking damage allows the power armor to recharge and act as a second health bar, or rather a primary one since the armor takes damage before Titus does. As the tutorial continues players are very quickly acclimated to how the game plays. Eventually Titus makes his way further aft of the cruiser and forcibly turns a turret to fire on the bridge causing the cruiser to crash to the surface. And that is the introduction to Space Marine.

Virtually every aspect of this game makes you feel like an unstoppable machine. If you pay attention you'll also make note of how work-a-day all this feels to Titus. He never really loses his cool, he's never out of breath or otherwise belabored and it becomes clear that tearing through the xenos horde is just another day for him. He almost seems bored, occasionally taking calm communications from Sidonus and Leandros, close to yawning while chewing through Boyz with a chain sword. The process to become a Space Marine is... rigorous and once complete these guys are essentially immortal. They live for centuries if they're not killed in battle and that's a particularly tough thing to do. Especially if it's decided that a nearly dead Space Marine should continue to serve the Emperor by inhabiting a Dreadnought frame.

Anyway, moving on. Regrouping with the rest of the team makes for some fairly useful NPC buddies to help you enforce the will of the Emperor. Sidonus is a grizzled Sergent and deeply loyal to his friend and commander, Titus. Leandros is a veteran but he's very much by the book and unwaveringly straight edged. And as NPC's go, these guys are helpful. They don't just walk around and pretend to fight, they'll actually pick targets and unload bolters into groups. They act as distractions as well for the times when combat is overwhelming, and that will happen. Certain parts of the game will make you go it alone, but it's not uncommon for the three of you to move as one.

Soon after meeting with your team you'll happen across a contingent of Imperial Guardsmen who are desperately trying to hold position but are taking heavy losses as the power has been cut to most of their defensive equipment. Lieutenant Miranda Nero has assumed command of what's left and though she's a junior officer she has the chops to lead the guard. A fact that Titus recognizes and he commends her for it. As you've been moving forward you've been hearing distant booms followed by a ground shaking rumble. The reveal is the planetary defense cannon firing shots in regular succession. Each boom is the cannon loosing it's round, followed by a large shock wave that shakes the already structurally compromised buildings in the area for seemingly as far as you can see. Your first task is to retake the cannon and Mira requests that you do what you can to reinforce the guardsmen in the area if at all possible. And the story continues to play out in a pretty darn well written manner. It's somewhat predictable in spots but it's never-the-less a pretty good story, at least I think so.

Drop pods containing extra weapons for Titus and Purity Seals that increase his innate abilities litter the battlefield. The player can carry one melee weapon and three ranged on top of your sidearm. With the exception of the thunder hammer which will only allow access to either a pistol or bolter. You'll be able to switch your load-outs as you come across armory locations allowing you to trade in your chain sword for a power axe or your melta for a plasma gun, that kind of thing. Occasionally you'll run across a heavy bolter mounted to a turret that Titus can take and use until empty at which point it will be discarded.

Forge world Graia is an entire planet dedicated to industry and loudspeakers commonly remind the now nonexistent workers of the Adeptus Mechanicus that they need to work hard to do their part for the empire appease and the machine god. You'll be traversing indoor and outdoor areas in some fairly large, but guided sections. This in itself is just fine, the design serves to funnel players where they need to go. Not to mention this is a forge world under siege so every nook and cranny is filled with some kind of derelict structure or obstacle. Each area has a good balance of action and downtime. Some sections where you may expect there to be hundreds or Orks to purge are silent and empty. It seems to say that threat has already come and gone. Keep an eye out for Servo Skulls to collect containing information on the backdrop of the world you visit.

Combat as I mentioned a bit above, is pretty smooth but also a little clunky and I feel like that's by design. After all Space Marine power armor is bulky and not terribly easy move around in. Movement is simple but feels heavy so running and changing directions feels like you've got to lean into a turn and being interrupted will stop you for a moment before you can get going again. And there is no jumping, save the assault pack, so it'll be dodge rolls to avoid damage when possible or to close or create a gap. Aiming and firing ranged weapons is responsive and quick but it does seem that the reticle isn't super accurate. Lots of times you'll find yourself shooting directly into terrain that you may be trying to use as cover leading you expose yourself when you definitely shouldn't need to. Melee is powerful but it doesn't always seem impactful. The thunder hammer will definitely give you a feeling of lugging around an anvil on a stick and slamming into the ground will always be noticeable since it's grenade-like shock wave will knock back the hordes in a good sized radius. However the chain sword and combat knife, even the power axe don't really give you the impression of ever meeting any resistance when they're swinging through groups of xenos. It's also not super forgiving since Titus can be hit while performing animations. I.E. executions. That can be frustrating but it's a risk worth taking in the campaign since Titus will heal upon their completion. Regardless though, all combat is brutal and bloody so if that bothers you, this isn't your game.

Speaking of the campaign, that's really where it's at now with Space Marine. Multi player can still be fun but the versus mode is almost never fully populated and the servers are pier to pier. Servers being as they are isn't a big issue but considering there aren't many people playing this in the states nowadays you're likely to have to deal with some bad ping problems and the net code isn't super robust as it is. However if you have a friend or two that play the game you can make private servers and the Exterminatus mode is tons of fun. You'll want more than two people as the game doesn't scale in difficulty for player level or number of players, but if you have at least three of the four players you can probably be mostly successful and have fun bashing waves of Orks. You can even play as Chaos with a quick DLC purchase. Wait for sales or Humble deals though if you decide to do that.

Sadly, there is no vehicle combat. The Guardsmen have tanks but they're stationary and at one point you'll ride the gunner position on a Valkyrie, but you won't see vehicles interacting with each other at any point that's not scripted. It is possible, through DLC, to play as a Dreadnought but only in multi player versus mode and again, it's DLC you'll have to pay for so don't expect folks to be spending time in that game mode. I do remember it being pretty fun though back in it's day when there was more of a player population.

Now it's not an amazing video but if you're interested in seeing some game play from the campaign in this latest play through here's a bit on the LP channel where you can see for yourself a little of everything. In the video I talk about how Sega cancelled any future development of the game and how I remembered the voice acting being bad later on... That was just because I was recording and saying stuff from the back of my memory and not stopping for a second to research and back up or correct what I was remembering. The voice cast is all good, I think I was remembering some dialogue from Dawn of War back in the day with the Librarians or whatever. And The Sega stuff had to do with what took place after THQ closed down. Anyway, I figured I'd mention that's part of what makes that video not super great from an information standpoint. But from a game play standpoint, you'll get to see what it's like and how it plays and that's mostly what it's about. I'm typically better about following up on info when that happens but I didn't in this case. Sorry if it's slightly confusing.

Customisation

In multi player you'll be able to unlock slots for paint schemes as well as look at and use a few pre-made chapter armor schemes for both Space Marines and Chaos Marines. There are some skins that you'll have to buy in order to use them but the creator is pretty comprehensive and basic armor and colors are all available. All armor pieces can be mixed and matched and different power armor variants can all be earned by completing cumulative challenges in the game, not pieced out for sale in the store. There are some chapter color swatches to choose from and each bit of armor can be colored and individually with primary and secondary colors. You can also choose to pattern the armor to have sections colored or paint it all at once if you wish. And there are a fair amount of chapter badges to choose from. You'll need to be player level four to unlock the customizer, but that's easy-peesy.

As you complete player levels you'll also unlock various perks for the three classes available. Tactical, Assault and Devastator. Additional load out slots will become available to keep your favorite customisations for game modes as you choose. Which is good because it helps make things simple to switch around between matches.

Graphics and Sound

For a game that came out eight years ago to this month, Space Marine still looks pretty awesome. It's beginning to look a little dated but it holds up pretty well. I will say that this is a title that was pretty clearly never meant to run past 1080p. Resolution support includes 1440p but certain aspects of textures and subtitles, even the menus actually seem to lose some sharpness here. It's not a big problem but it can be noticeable especially in close-up shots. Otherwise though the game is as bright and colorful and crisp as one could expect from a bunch of crumbling concrete and twisted metal.

Sounds and music are all great. Very appropriate screen shaking booms and heavy everything. The voice cast is excellent including Mark Strong as Captain Titus.

Further info and my Theory on the fate of Titus

At the beginning of this whole thing I mentioned that there seems to have been lots of research that went into making Space Marine. Let's talk about some of that now and please realize that I'm not an expert on Warhammer 40k lore. I just happened to notice a couple of things during this play through that piqued my interest and decided to look it up. Here are some of the things I found that I think help make Space Marine a game for those new to Warhammer 40,000, and super fans alike.

The Ultramarines themselves are a fairly boring and bog standard chapter of Astartes. However they are absolutely legendary. They're considered one of the biggest and most honored chapters in existence and have spawned no less than forty-five successor chapters. Check out the info here if you're curious to learn about them. So even though they're fairly standard and not particularly unique, they are at the same time extraordinary and it's easy to see why the chapter was chosen as the star of this game.

In Space Marine the Ultramarines 2nd Company is lead by Captain Titus, who is found to have a strange resistance to the warp, eventually leading to his arrest by Inquisitor Thrax. This is a sort of alternate history and may serve to complicate things as the 2nd company is actually lead by Captain Cato Sicarius. It seems a strange move that Titus would replace Cato instead of working directly under his command or something like that. I.E. Cato says -Hey Titus do me a favor and go check out Forge World Graia. But you know, in Space Marine hero speak. Cato Sicarius is one the baddest badasses that ever badassed by the way, if you're curious.

I have formed a theory myself as to what happened since Titus' arrest and maybe it holds water, maybe it's ridiculous. But here goes: Titus was a very strong character, both mentally and physically. He was repeatedly exposed to the powers of the warp yet he was able to resist it's influence and remain untainted and loyal to the Emperor. Even his battle with the newly formed daemon prince Nemeroth and direct exposure to both Chaos and warp powers didn't affect him. Leandros saw this as a potential threat and reported to the inquisition on the matter prompting Inquisitor Thrax to bring a small contingent of Black Templars along to take Titus into custody for further evaluation. Titus chooses to go willingly and find out why he's so resistant to the 'ruinous forces' instead of fighting the charges and making his whole company suffer at the hands of the inquisition.

I happen to think that during his interrogation and testing, Thrax found out what caused Titus to form this resilience to the warp and isolated his genes for study. After development he used Titus' gene seed to help form a distinct chapter of Astartes called, the Excorcists. These space marines are (conveniently) also highly resistant to powers of the warp and in fact are forced to become temporary daemon hosts for a time to test their limits before the daemons are banished back to the warp and the subject is subsequently admitted into the chapter. Thrax was later involved in the purge of the Grey Slayers chapter as they were completely corrupted by Chaos. However soon after the purge was finished Inquisitor Thrax was also turned and became a warp beast. Titus' true fate is still unknown according to info I could find but I happen to think the similarities of his personal abilities and that of the Excorcists are more than happenstance.

Conclusion

Space Marine is still an awesome game after eight years. Game play is still tactile and really makes you feel like the big heavy killing machine you're supposed to be. Sadly after THQ shut down the game kind of hung in place with no plans for future development. Sega owns it now and unless they decide to take a shot at making a sequel I'm fairly sure we won't see more of this story. And that's too bad because this title had some success, rightly so. It actually makes wonder what would have happened if THQ Nordic, once formed, would have held onto the IP. I guess we won't know. It shows itself as not just a great Warhammer game, but also a great action shooter in general. I don't think you need to be fan of Warhammer 40k to enjoy this. You know from the start of this writing that I recommend Space Marine so there's that question answered. It's still a little pricey for it's age at $30.00 on Steam, in my opinion. Wait for a sale and grab it for $10.00 or check Humble if you think of it, usually it's inexpensive there as well. But do play Space Marine, especially if you're a fan of the 40k universe. Or play it again if you have it in your library, it's definitely worth it.

How about a Sisters of Battle game? Or maybe a title involving the lawlessness of the underhive of a major hive world... Necromunda video game? I say hell yes!

Syetem Requirements for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine are as Follows

    • OS: Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista SP1, Windows 7
    • Processor: 2.0Ghz Dual core CPU (any Core 2 Duo or AMD X2 or better)
    • Memory: 1GB (XP), 2GB (Vista), 2GB (Windows 7)
    • Graphics: 256MB Video Card using Shader Model 3 (Nvidia GeForce 8800GT, AMD Radeon 3850 and above)
    • DirectX®: 9.0c
    • Hard Drive: 20 GB space free (10 GB free after install)
    • Sound:
      Laptop and Notebook users will need to download the newest Nvidia 280.26 or AMD Catalyst 11.8 drivers.
    • OS: Windows 7
    • Processor: Any Quad-core Intel or AMD Processor
    • Memory: 1GB (XP), 2GB (Vista), 2GB (Windows 7)
    • Graphics: 512MB Video Card using Shader Model 3 (Performance equivalent to an AMD Radeon 5750 or better)
    • DirectX®: 9.0c
    • Hard Drive: 20 GB space free (10 GB free after install)
    • Sound:
      Laptop and Notebook users will need to download the newest Nvidia 280.26 or AMD Catalyst 11.8 drivers.

 

[I used the 40k wiki fandom for my information about Dreadnaughts, Cato Sicarius, the Excorcists, the Grey Slayers and to read up on the Ultramarines.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *