Thursday, September 15, 2011

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Review


At least among the Warhammer 40K fans. And this game is definitely one for the W40K fans. Because it’s likely they’re the only ones who would truly appreciate what this game has to offer.

Not to say that this is a bad game. Because it most definitely isn’t. It just isn’t anything special. Just like Halo and Call of Duty, it’s another shooter. Just like all the rest, it’s rather linear, giving you scripted encounters at set points in the path. You have a variety of ways to dispatch your foes, and the combat system is quite entertaining (and gory).

The story is rather well developed, but it does assume that you have an understanding of the Warhammer 40K universe. You can definitely play it without that knowledge, but you’ll probably be left scratching your head about the comments and actions of the characters at times. The story will make sense, but there’s a lot of lore and references that fans of the setting will pick up on instantly, while newbies will not pick up on. I’ve spent a lot of time on the GameFAQs forums explaining to people the meaning of various comments, actions and items seen throughout the game. The story itself isn’t too long, which is typical of shooters these days.

The combat is solid. An interesting combination of ranged and melee attacks. The melee basically has set combos with each weapon, which is basically the attack button hit X number of times followed by the interrupt button if you choose. This will let you stun the enemy (hopefully) and let you perform a finisher to kill them off and regain health.

The shooting in the game is quite standard for third person shooters. A decent variety of weapons, that all play their own roles. The main weapon you start with is the classic bolter. A combat rifle that fires explosive rocket propelled slugs. Makes a wonderful mess of the enemy. You have a sniper rifle, laser cannon, grenade launcher, and plasma weapons. Whether or not you know the W40K world, you’ll quickly find the functionality of each of these weapons.

The AI in the game is fairly simple. The enemy either sits back shooting at you, jumping behind cover now and then, or you’ll be rushed by a swarm of melee attackers. What they lack in skill, they more than make up for in numbers. It’s common to be fighting 20 or enemies at a time. Fortunately, during parts when your fellow Marines are with you, you can use them as a handy distraction, as they seem to be invulnerable. So if you need a breather, just break out of combat and run for cover, letting your allies keep the enemy busy.

Now for the multiplayer.

It’s fun. Really.

Sure, it’s currently imbalanced as all hell, and has major technical issues that need fixing. But all in all, it’s something you can jump into for some quick and easy violence.

You get to play as Space Marines or Chaos Space Marines. For those who don’t know the setting, Chaos Space Marines are basically regular ones corrupted by the forces of Chaos. Simple.

You play as one of three customizable classes. Tactical Marine, which is your basic soldier with a wide array of weapons. The Assault Marine, a jetpack equipped melee expert. And the Devastator, the heavy weapons specialist.

There are two game types.

There’s Seize Ground, which is a score based game. Each map has a few control points. For each point that a side controls, they slowly increase their team’s score. First team to 1000 wins.

The other mode is Annihilation. Your standard team death match. First team to 41 kills takes the victory.

Seize Ground games will last a lot longer than Annihilation. Plus they tend to be a much easier source of XP for players. As you gain XP, you level up, unlocking new perks and abilities.

There’s also weapon perks that can be unlocked by using the weapon and scoring kills as well as other specific objectives, such as kill streaks, or multi-kills. These perks can really turn the tide of battle for you. And when killed by an enemy, you get to re-spawn with their weapon and perk load out, which gives you a chance to keep up while you’re still learning.

One of the great things about multiplayer is the customization. As you play, you unlock various armour sets to use on your character (for both sides). You get to select every part of your armour. Helmet, left/right shoulder pad, left/right glove, breastplate, left/right leg, and backpack. And each piece can be coloured with primary, secondary and an optional colour is you like. This leads to you seeing all sorts of interesting designs in game. Though many people like to select pre-made official chapter colours.

The problems with multiplayer however, are many.

Firstly, there are no dedicated servers. And as any shooter fan will tell you, this is a horrible mistake for a shooter. A host is randomly selected from the players in a match. This leads to a lot of lag and connection issues.

There is also no push to talk option. Everyone’s microphone is ALWAYS on. Naturally, this leads to a lot of feedback… not to mention morons munching a sandwich into their mic, or arguing with their girlfriend to the entertainment of everyone else in the game. The polite players unplug or mute their mics so as not to irritate others.

Team balance is another issue. Basically, there is none. Players are randomly tossed together on teams. And it’s quite common to see a team full of pros up who can snipe someone at full run from across the stage up again a team of newbies who are still learning the controls. Seize Ground games will often end with a 1000/0 victory, which is a big turn-off for a lot of players, who will get a pounding and then give up on the game.

The balance for weapons and perks is also iffy. Some weapons are basically one-shot kills, while others will leave you emptying a clip into the enemy in vain. A lot of skill is needed to get good at the game, and even survive basic encounters with the enemy. And the perks suffer from this as well. Some are just downright useless, while others are pretty much a must have. You’ll see the same setups coming up on most players.

Then there’s the basic game bugs, such as clipping issues, stuttering, disconnects, graphical bugs and all the rest. These tend to not be as big an issue as in many new releases, but there have been complaints by quite a few about them.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with Space Marine. Of course, a big part of that could be because I’m a huge W40K fan. And as I said, for those who don’t know the world, you’ll probably enjoy it, but you will miss a lot of the little things here and there.

Once they’ve fixed the issues with multiplayer, the game will definitely be a must have. As it stands now, I’d recommend it to Warhammer 40K fans… but for the rest, you might want to wait for a price drop.

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