While original Warhammer universe has already had it’s day as an MMO (albeit losing badly to market leader World of Warcraft), the futuristic spin-off Warhammer 40,000 – named for the year in which it is set – has remained the exclusive property of the real-time strategy genre, until now. Finally, it comes to the third-person action genre, and, as you might expect from a fictional universe built around devastating weaponry, pitiless extermination, and unending war, it fits right at home.
For those unfamiliar with the 40k world, it is built around the Imperium of Man, the vast, sprawling dystopic empire that was once what we know as humanity. Policed by the fascistic iron fist of the Space Marines, who demand unwavering loyalty and obedience to the God Emperor (whose throne room comprises the planet Earth – all of it), the oppressed, heaving masses of the empire serve as either planet sized battery farms or heaving industrial complexes, spanning thousands of square miles, churning out diabolical machines to fuel the ceaseless conflict with the other races of the universe.
As a player you assume control of Captain Titus, commander of a detachment of Ultramarines – superhuman soldiers, roaming the galaxy in pursuit of heresy, decked out in gigantic suits of power armor, wielding a wide variety of death dealing weaponry. And it’s with the physics of such an absurd concept that developers Relic really excel. Stomping around the industrial horror that is the Space Marine universe, cratoring the ground beneath you one footfall at a time, it’s hard not to feel ten feet tall (partly because you are).
If there’s one word that can be used to sum up Space Marine, it would be ‘empowering.’ The storyline might not be up to much (you fight brutish hordes of orcs and the demonic forces of chaos because its just what you do), but the sheer physicality of the combat, the gloriously gory kill animations, and the ear-splitting sound design more than compensate.
The complexity of the control system might extend no further than the most simplistic of button mashing, but when it results in your avatar repeatedly stomping on a puny Orc’s head until it squishes like a grape, or shoving your chainsword down some unfortunate chaos warrior’s throat, you will scarcely care. We won’t even go into the maniacal sense of glee that creeps over you each and every time you strap on a jetpack, and let you discover that one on your own.
A wide variety of weaponry exists to aide you in your death dealing; including bolters, power axes and hammer, lascannons, and grenades, and you will have to pick the differing nature of the encounters forces you to pick the right tool for the job. But the sheer amount of supply dumps along with a cleverly designed health replenishment system that rewards you for aggressive, risk-taking in combat ensure that you are rarely out of the fight for more than a few seconds.
If there are criticisms it is that the game is quite amazingly short. For hardcore gamers, this is likely a single day’s play, which is rough for a title demanding $50. There is also little replay value to the single-player campaign due the linear nature of the story and the frankly bland characterization (Captain Titus really doesn’t capture the blindly fundamentalist nature of the 40k world at all.
That said, there is also the multi-player option, which is surprisingly addictive, and gives players the opportunity to perform the same majestically torturous finishing moves, only this time with the knowledge that somewhere there is an enraged 13-year old on the wrong end of it.