In the grim dark future, there is only war...and ponies. Ok, maybe not so much with the ponies, but there is a boatload of war. Lots of war. Like there was a sale on at a warehouse store and the Emperor felt the need to buy out the place. Every second of every day of every year, Humanity is fighting someone, somewhere. That someone can be the savage and brutal Orkz, the space elves known as the Eldar, the communistic Tau, the world devouring Tyranids, the traitorous forces of Chaos that have turned from the Emperor's Light, or various and sundry other alien races.
The premise of Warhammer 40000: Space Marine is that you are one of the Emperor's Chosen, Captain Titus of the Ultramarines Chapter of the Space Marines, sent to the Imperial Forge World Graia. Your purpose is to fight, crush, and exterminate the invading Ork forces that threaten the Imperial war effort.
Graia is a highly important Forge World that produces countless items of war material, including the god-machines, Warlord-class Battle Titans. As such, it is too valuable a world to allow to fall in Orky hands. That also means that more...pyrotechnic...methods of cleansing, including orbital bombardment and Exterminatus (sterilizing the entire planet) are unusable. Hence the need for boots on the ground in the form of Captain Titus and his battle-brothers, Veteran Sergeant Sidonus and Brother Leandros.
The story does take a fairly predictable twist, if you are familiar with the universe. I won't spoil it though.
Gameplay is your standard third-person action title. If you are familiar with Afro Samurai, Batman: Arkham Asylum, or Transformers: War For Cybertron, you'll be able to pick up this game no problem.
Combat consists of ranged and melee attacks with a variety of weapons for each. Melee attacks are pretty limited with not much variety or number of combos. But what combos there are are delivered in combat that is frantic. Getting bumrushed by a dozen or more Orkz? Take out a few with your Bolter then go to town with your Power Axe or Chainsword. Got damaged in combat? Well, then you better Stun an enemy and execute him! Combat rewards you by going into melee, but be careful, you can still be hurt and/or killed while Executing an enemy.
As is typical with such games, throughout you'll come across multiple upgrades to your equipment and weapons. You start out with your basic Combat Knife and Bolt Pistol, eventually finding a Bolter, Plasma Pistol, Plasma Gun, Melta Gun (shotgun-type weapon), Lascannon (sniper weapon), Stalker-pattern Bolter (sniper weapon), Kraken Bolter, Vengence Launcher (grenade launcher), Chainsword, Power Axe, Thunder Hammer, and three types of tripod weapons that are un-reloadable - the Plasma Cannon, Heavy Bolter, and Autocannon. You can also find upgrades to your armor and your special ability.
I really liked how they presented the upgrades in the game. Instead of just finding stuff lying on the ground, you find various...sepulchers...I guess, not sure what to call them, that activate upon sensing the presence of a Space Marine.
There are also approximately 50 collectibles in the form of audio recordings of various personnel. I haven't listened to them all yet, as I still need to find 3 more. They aren't too hidden, standard game-collecting methods apply here, i.e. look everywhere.
There is a downside to the gameplay. This game is heavily on rails. There's really no exploring to do as there's plenty of walls in your way. Granted, they are thematically appropriate walls, namely building/vehicle wreckage, but still walls channeling you along. The game is also quite good about locking previous areas off in that you'll "jump" down a ledge, or a door will close, preventing you from returning to previous sections. Meaning, always reload from weapon caches as you won't be returning.
There is one type of section that I absolutely loved...the Assault Jetpack sections. Basically, you strap on a jump pack and super jump around. You can smash into the ground and stun (or outright explode!) your enemies. The sections aren't optional as the jet pack is needed to traverse some places (once you're done with the necessary sections, Titus informs you that the pack is out of fuel). You get to do this three times over the course of the game.
Edit - There is one other problematic section when it comes to the gameplay. Namely, the placement of the checkpoints. A lot of the checkpoints are right before major combat scenarios. The problem is that the checkpoints are just far enough away to be a hassle if you die. There's also a love of putting text/cutscene/talking/etc right before said combat, but after the checkpoint. It gets annoying pretty fast, especially on stuff like the final boss battle and a few other spots. They could've put the checkpoint after the talking and made things a lot better for the player.
This is one of the top notch things about this game. The graphics are simply beautiful. It really feels like it's an actual world where people lived and worked. The developers really captured the immense scale of a Forge World, along with the various touches, such as skulls on everything. Even the sewers of this planet, places where you wouldn't think to find artistry, are full of touches.
Enemy mobs are pretty much cut and paste. One Ork Shoota Boy looks exactly like another Ork Shoota Boy. But given the frantic pace of combat, one can overlook this. You get some variety in the different enemy classes, but within the class, it appears there's only one or two models.
One bright, shining spot for me...seeing Invictus. That alone was pretty much worth it.
World graphics were pretty seamless and I only encountered one section where I was able to see outside the bounds of the art. Only had one loading screen appear for some inexplicable reason.
Combat graphics could've used some final touchups. Multiple times I was able to Execute an enemy and have the action take place mostly in a wall. Some extra clipping work would've been good there.
The background music was pretty much forgettable for me. Thematic, but essentially all overtures and instrumentals. No blaring pop music.
Background sound effects were neat. Every now and then, you'd hear a vaguely female voice say something like, "If you are injured, return to your home. The Omnissiah will care for you." over the PA system.
Human voices were quite well done. At one point, I thought Frank Welker (the VA for Megatron) was voicing a character, as it sounded very close to ol' Megs. I really got the sense of honor and dignity from Titus and Sidonus. Kudos to those VAs.
Ork voices on the other hand. I am sick of hearing WAAAAAAAAAGGGGHH!, which you'll hear about a dozen times per combat encounter. The Warboss' voice was pretty good though.
Multiplayer consists of (at this writing), two game modes with five maps each. Seize Control, which is your standard territories game type, and Annihilation, standard team deathmatch mode (though the goal number seems pretty arbitrary at 41 kills). You are limited to being either a Space Marine or a Chaos Space Marine. No Orkz or other races at this time.
And yes, this game utilizies that malarkey known as an online pass, though it's called "Elite Pass" here. Just one way of making sure that your game loses some value, should you ever decide you want to sell it. I really wish I had known about that before I bought it, but oh well. You can play up to level 5 in MP without using it, but if you want to continue gaining xp, you'll need to either use it or pony up some cash for another pass. However, iirc, anyone who uses the console that has the pass, can play the multiplayer.
Customization of characters is pretty substantial. Once you get to level 4, you can change the colors of your various armor pieces to create your own Chapter or War Band. Other armor pieces are unlocked as you progress through the Campaign and complete various Challenges in MP. There's several different sets of armor to choose from, such as Master-Crafted, Veteran, Mk 8, and Corvus, to name a few, with individual and customizable helmets, arm pieces, chestplates, backpacks, leg pieces, etc. There's also predefined color schemes for various Chapters and Warbands, like the Raven Guard, the Imperial Fists, the Thousand Sons, Alpha Legion, etc.
But fret not! You can boost all the way to the level cap without ever playing against another person. You can also boost the Challenges in private matches.
The MP could really have used a lot more variety, both in maps and game types. There is a co-op mode called Exterminatus (think Firefight or Escalation) coming in October that will be free DLC. Xp gained in that will also transfer to your overall level.
There's a decent variety of achievements in this game. You've got your standard MP level ones, mission finishes, and kill counts. There's also achievements for using certain weapon combinations in a level, specific kill-types (headshots, executions, etc). There's also a particularly tough one for playing through the first few missions on Hard without dying or restarting. Ick. A fairly mixed bag of achievements. Some hard, some easy, some time consuming.
To sum up...
This is a game for fans of the Warhammer 40k universe. It was fun to step into the shoes of an Ultramarine for a while. Ideally, I'd rate it a ~4-4.5, due to the problems I mentioned above, notably the Elite Pass, the heavily on-rails bit, and the checkpoints, but I'm feeling generous today. It was a bit short, but that's pretty endemic to video games nowadays.
Thank you for reading my first review here!