Monthly Archives: August 2012

So Much Orks!: Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

I know about as much about Warhammer 40,000 as I do about particle physics, meaning that there are a couple very basic things that I know and understand, and even that is probably wrong. My youngest sibling and an old friend were into it for a couple years some time ago, so I managed to get a little snippet of Warhammer knowledge here and there just through osmosis. But it wasn’t nearly enough to get me at all excited when a Warhammer 40,000 video game was released, subtitled Space Marine. I had seen a little gameplay footage, and it looked kind of fun. Nothing spectacular, but I could see myself playing it one day if I managed to get it for really cheap.

Well, recently, I had a chance to get it for free. And I couldn’t pass that up. I’d play almost any game once if I could get it for free. And this one, I had actually kind of hoped to play at some point, if only to whittle away a few hours. And it did just that… Seriously, that’s all it did.

Yeah, there was nothing really bad about it, but at the same time, no part of the game really stood out at all. The graphics were about on-par with your average PS3 game. The music was inoffensive, but not really gripping either. The challenge was pretty static all the way through, with no action sequence killing me more than twice (on Normal Mode). It took about 6-8 hours to complete, which is about average for shooters, I think. The voice acting and dialogue were solid, but nothing to write home about. The story… well, that’s hard to talk about in one sentence, so I’ll save that for later.

Probably the best thing about Space Marine was its simple control scheme. You use the shoulder buttons for guns and grenades, you use the Square, Triangle, and Circle buttons for your melee. You use the X button to roll. It’s easy, it’s simple, and anyone with two functioning hands can get the hang of the game within the first couple minutes. It makes it a very accessible little video game that anyone can enjoy as long as they don’t mind a bit of violence.

At least it would have. This is where the story comes in. Like I mentioned at the beginning of the review, I know basically nothing about Warhammer and its lore. And playing through Space Marine really made me realize just how little I knew. I’m not even sure if the story is good or bad, because there are so many terms being thrown about that would only make sense to someone who has studied the lore. And at no point do they ever explain exactly what any of them mean, which left me having to infer just about everything. I know it makes sense that the characters wouldn’t suddenly stop and say, “You do know what the Inquisition is, right? Well either way, let me remind you. Two hundend quintillion years ago, the Inquisition did this thing with a robot and a fondue fork and that’s why we can’t have nice things…” (I think that’s it. I had to fill in a few blanks on my own). The characters know this stuff already, but if you don’t, you’re left in the dark. This makes the game very much not newbie friendly. It was built for people that know Warhammer a bit more intimately than I do, and that may alienate people that don’t necessarily want to go out and buy Warhammer books or spend hours on Wikipedia  just to find out what exactly is happening. I think it would have gone a long way to simply include an Encyclopedia section in the main menu that the players could peruse at their own leisure if only just to acquaint themselves with the lore. I think I would have gotten considerably more enjoyment out of the story had an Encyclopedia been included.

There were definitely a few more problems, too. Like I said, it’s nothing too bad or game-breaking, but there are definitely a few things that take away a couple points from Space Marine’s Gameplay score.

The AI isn’t great, mostly on the part of your friendly NPCs. There were certainly a few parts where one of my partners was directly responsible for my death. They tend to stay out in the open and just kind of walk around while they shoot, which isn’t inherently a problem, since they’re invincible, but when they do that, they tend to get in my line of fire or directly in my path as I try to roll away from an enemy’s grenade, causing me to explode and die painfully. They enemy AI wasn’t great either. There were multiple times when an enemy got stuck on an obstacle and since their AI dictates that they don’t use their weapons until they arrive at their destination, they just ran in place until I killed them with an axe. This wasn’t too common though, and I was able to get through the game without getting too annoyed by it.

One thing that really bugs me personally is the fact that they had some strange Checkpoint placement. Usually, it’s fine, but once in a while, they place a Checkpoint just a few seconds off from where they should. Like, you would get a Checkpoint, then a cutscene, then an action sequence. The problem with that is if you die during the action sequence, you have to watch the cutscene again. And you can’t skip the cutscene either, otherwise this wouldn’t be a problem. Why wouldn’t they put the Checkpoint after the cutscene?

I don’t know how much I use the word ‘repetitive’ on this blog, but if I were only allowed to use it just one more time, it would be to describe Space Marine. Throughout the first maybe two thirds of the game, you only do one thing: You go from one point to the next, fighting nothing but Orks along the way. Oh wait, that’s wrong. You fight some turrets once, and that turns out to be even more boring than the Orks. Holy hell, there are so many Orks! And there’s nothing else! At all! Fight some Orks, then you walk, you fight some Orks, then you walk, you fight some Orks, then you walk, you get a freaking jetpack and for one glorious moment, the monotony is broken ever so slightly, but all you do with the jetpack is go from one point to another killing Orks along the way, only now you have a jetpack which is taken from you after only a few short minutes, at which point you walk and fight some Orks. And it’s made even worse by the fact that every encounter goes on for far too long! Some of the action sequences included upwards of fifty and sixty enemies (I’m estimating a bit, but I know I’m not that far off)! As soon as you kill all of the Orks on the screen, another giant group of them just comes out of the damn walls! This is where Space Marine’s simple, accessible control scheme that I was praising earlier becomes just as much a detriment to your enjoyment of the game as it is a boon. You end up doing the same couple moves and firing the same guns at the same enemies over and over. And though it’s not too difficult, it does get rather boring.

And then, finally, two thirds of the way through the game, a new enemy appears! And for one brief, wondrous moment, all is right in the game-o-sphere. There are actually a couple parts where the Orks and these new enemies are fighting each other with you and your Ultramarines wedged firmly in the middle. These sections would turn out to be my very favorite parts of the whole game. They’re intense and new and you’re finally playing the game a little differently! It’s very refreshing. But guess what. There are only two or three of them. Then all of the Orks run away and for the rest of the game, you do nothing but fight the new enemies… Woo…

This bugs me for more than one reason. I may not know much about Warhammer, but I’m pretty sure there are more than two kinds of races that could have found their way into the game, if only to spice the action up a little. And there were quite a few to choose from, if I’m not mistaken, like the Tyranids, the Tau, Necrons, Chaos Space Marines, Eldar, Protoss, Zerg, the Nibblonians, the Reavers, the Daleks, the Zygons, the Sharks, the Jets, the Quakers, the Bakers, the Candlestick Makers, the Elder Gods, the Cylons, the entire Fox Network, the Vogons, the Hutts, the Head Crabs, the Muppets, and many more.

What was I doing? Oh yeah, the point is that there was nowhere near as much variety in the gameplay or the enemies as there could have been and should have been.

Though I think I just came up with the greatest crossover action game of all time!

Anyway, after the many hours of fighting through the same enemies over and over again and realizing that the developers probably should have ended the game about two hours ago, you finally come to the final encounter with the main antagonist. First, he sends twenty thousand more of the same enemies that you’ve been fighting this whole time while talking smack to you, but then, when all of the regular enemies are finally dead, you can ready yourself for a final struggle against the villain. Who knows? If this rather repetitive game culminates in a good final boss battle, you may even be able to rate it a point or two higher on your review blog! Wouldn’t that be something?

The final battle is about to begin and then… oh… you… you shoot him a few times with your pistol, do some quicktime events, and you win… Yeah, well that was an A+ final boss battle if I ever did see one!

And then, and this could just be me, the ending itself kind of felt like a big fuck you.

I know the last few paragraphs probably sounded like I was completely trashing the game, but that’s not entirely true. Like I said early on, Space Marine was a decent game. It didn’t do anything to stand out from any of its competitors, but I can tell you that I had a pretty consistent amount of fun all the way through the game with a few exceptions on both sides of the Fun Spectrum.

But with that being said, I’m never going to play it again. I’m fairly certain that I got just about as much out of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine as I possibly can. To someone that cares for Warhammer and its universe, I can see how it may have some replay value. But with its repetitive gameplay, slightly poor AI, and perfectly average everything else, I can say that for me, it has none.

Gameplay: 4/10: Super-duper repetitive with no payoff at the end.

Music: 5/10: Nothing noteworthy.

Graphics: 7/10

Story: 5/10: Like I said, I can’t actually discern whether or not it’s good or bad, so I have to rate it average.

Total: 5/10: It’s an average little shooter.