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Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Review (X360)

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating


Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Review (X360)
A brutal look at the Ultramarines of the Warhammer 40k universe; Space Marine is a gory and violent melee / third-person-shooter hybrid that feels at the same time fresh and familiar. Fans of Warhammer 40k will obviously get the most out of it, but slicing up Orks with a chainsword is satisfying even if you know nothing of the franchise. We have all of the details right here.
Game Details

  • Publisher: THQ
  • Developer: Relic
  • ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
  • Genre: Third-Person-Shooter
  • Pros: Nice presentation; melee combat; solid multiplayer
  • Cons: So-so shooting; odd health system; bland story

You play as an Ultramarine known as Captain Titus whose squad is sent to a world overrun by Ork forces. It is basically your squad of three against a million Orks, which are pretty good odds for an Ultramarine. The story, in typical fashion, evolves from "take back the planet" into something bigger, but never seems all that interesting because the characters are surprisingly bland. Everyone is very stoic and calm and rather hard to get attached to. In short, you don't really care about what they're doing, you just want to get back to the gameplay.


At first glance, the game seems rather like Gears of War. You have a group of big, burly guys wearing bulky armor in a third-person-shooter fighting weird monsters in an over-the-shoulder camera view. Space Marine differentiates itself, though, by not utilizing a cover system and featuring a more multi-leveled take on combat. Space Marine's battles are about fighting at several ranges all at once and swapping weapons on the fly to take care of them all. You'll use a scoped weapon to snipe enemies far in the distance. A machine gun to take them down at mid-range. Grenades to clear mid-range groups. And your trusty melee weapon (chainsword, axe, hammer) to slice up enemies when they get close. And they will get close. Space Marine throws dozens of enemies at you at a time and, inevitably, some of them are going to get up close and personal. This balancing act of fighting at several ranges all at once gives the game a great feel and frantic pacing that works well. It isn't a "stop and pop" type game. More of an "always more forward" affair.

There are a couple of snags, though. While the melee attacks feel great and even feature gruesome executions that are fun to watch, the shooting is only so-so. As visceral and meaty as the melee feels, shooting isn't nearly as satisfying as enemies take an inordinate amount of shots to go down. You go from feeling powerful and unstoppable to being just another grunt when you're shooting.

Also, we're not fans of the health system. Basically, for as bulky as your armor is, it does a pretty poor job. You are virtually always on the brink of death during combat and have to execute enemies in order to gain health back. This is all well and good except for the fact that you take damage while you're performing the executions. So while your character is going through an execution animation for a few seconds, enemies are pounding away at you and killing you while you're helpless. It leads to some real frustration in certain areas of the game. The game becomes much more tactical in this way as you have to always be mindful of nearby enemies if you try to do an execution. Of course, "tactical" and "strategic" are just buzzwords and you'll still be annoyed when you die because of it.


Online multiplayer spices things up a bit since humans are always more fun to take down than mindless A.I.. There are only a handful of maps and two game types - variations of team deathmatch and king of the hill - but they definitely can provide enough extra fun to be worthwhile after you finish the campaign. The game uses the now common XP and progression systems in most multiplayer games. In an interesting touch, when you die you can actually respawn with the loadout of the person that killed you, which means you get the chance to use better weapons even when you're a low-level player.


Visually, Space Marine is a nice looking game overall. The war torn environments look appropriately destroyed, and character models are nicely detailed.


Aside from super dry and British-y voice acting, the sound is quite nice as well. Great sound effects for enemies and nice loud weapon noises really stand out.

Bottom Line

In the end, Warhammer 40k: Space Marine is a solid third-person-shooter with plenty of content. Fans of the franchise will obviously get a kick out of it, but it is good enough at explaining things that it can stand on its own even if you've never ventured into the Warhammer universe before. It isn't super original, and some gameplay snags do ding it a little, but it is definitely fun and worth playing.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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