Welcome to Easter Eggs, where the TA Team shines the spotlight on games that many gamers might have missed, perhaps hidden away behind the millionth copy of Call of Duty or FIFA. Much like a gamer who finds an Easter Egg hidden away in a game and proceeds to trumpet it from the highest hills and forums, the TA Team is going to be featuring these Easter Egg games on the front page for all to see.Warhammer 40,000 (40k) was that game table that sat in the corner of the local game shop that only a few people every played and most never fully understood. The miniatures, the detailed landscape and the ostensibly gargantuan amount of stuff you had to buy to begin the table top game were, for a zero income high school or college student, insurmountable barriers to entry into the universe. Some people got it and were sucked into the rich universe Games Workshop had created. But the majority didn’t and asked questions like, “Why can’t you use your imagination like old school D&D players?”
For these reasons, 40k never really took off in the console marketplace. That, and every attempt to bring the universe to modern age consoles was flat out mediocre. A 1995 attempt entitled Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels was dismissed as far too difficult and a 2003 attempt, Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior, pitted itself against Halo and made the asinine question “Who needs Halo?” a centerpiece of their marketing campaign. This question became especially moronic considering that Fire Warrior was widely disparaged as a complete let down. Regardless of how good the underlying stories may have been in previous releases, the gameplay was so bad that it gave console gamers another excuse to ignore the 40k universe.
For the next eight years, THQ never allowed the Warhammer series to venture away from PC where it did reasonably well. But then came Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team. A XBLA, top down, twin stick shooter designed to once again whet the appetite of console gamers for the 40k universe and lead into the upcoming Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. In September 2011, with the release of Space Marine, THQ finally delivered a 40k game that fans of the series and the 40k universe itself deserved.
Forge World Graia, a military production planet, has been invaded by Orks, a brutish race of warriors. You embody Captain Titus, a highly trained Space Marine and Commander of 2nd Company. You are accompanied by two brothers-in-arms, Sergeant Sidonus and Leandros, an inexperienced Tactical Marine. If the weapons on this planet fall into Ork hands it could mean the end of humanity itself. It is your duty to defend this planet, destroy the invaders and save humanity.
The game begins with Captain Titus and his team, complete with jet packs, jumping out of a dropship and landing on an Ork ship where you are walked through a quick tutorial. This is your first introduction to the combat system which is a unique mix of melee and ranged combat using a combat knife and bolt pistol. In the tutorial you will face a few low level Shootas and Sluggas and eventually face Warboss Grimskull, the leader of the Ork invasion. The ship crashes, he escapes and you are now faced with your first task. You must disable the planetary gun that has been commandeered by Orks and is being used to prevent Imperial forces from landing.
Here is where you begin to see just how fun this game can be. It is a blood pumping, adrenaline inducing kill fest in which you and your fellow Space Marines tear through Ork flesh like a chainsaw through a loaf of bread. This is definitely not a duck and cover game. You are a highly trained, fearless, unstoppable force and these insolent invaders must be put down. Your initial defense is shielding. If that is depleted damage then chips away at your health, but no worries, health can be regenerated by performing an execution. These are beautiful, but sometimes a bit lengthy, animations that are both satisfying and panic inducing. The panic comes from the fact that you can still take damage during the animation. It is therefore smart to plan ahead and not let your health get too low.
Whereas many games aim to point out the player's vulnerability early in a storyline, Space Marine leaves you with an indomitable feeling of invincibility after the first mission. And this is by design. In the 40k universe, when it comes to battling Orks, Space Marines are as close to invincible as it gets. Crushing Orks fills the player with an evil joy rarely found in gaming and can leave you feeling as giddy as a preteen girl at a One Direction concert.
As you progress through the story, however, the game begins to change. Rather, the enemies you face become stronger and the Forces of Chaos are introduced. For those not versed in the 40k universe, Chaos is basically the root cause of all evil. They are far more powerful than Orks and force you to adapt to a more traditional run and shoot style of play. This is ultimately bad because the real joy of the game is found in shredding Orks into tiny bits of blood covered, green goo. Still, it does not detract from the story which is a great adventure that does a tremendous job of highlighting all this is cool about 40k.
On the multiplayer side, there are only two competitive gametypes: a standard deathmatch mode and a capture-and-hold mode. Both are fun but ultimately pale in comparison to other games with bigger development budgets that make multiplayer more of a focus. There is also a horde mode called Exterminatus. As it turns out, this is by far the best part of the online experience in the game as it drops you and up to three others into an environment where you get to destroy wave after wave of oncoming Orks.
The Space Marine achievement list is truly a mixed bag. Several are as easy as simply finishing the storyline. While doing so you will get a few like The Might of the Righteous that requires that you kill 100 enemies. 98% of all players managed to achieve this task. On the other hand, there are some real doozies that demand that you either possess insane skill or a masochistic desire to grind until your thumbs bleed. The Emperor Protects is the one you're looking for if the former describes you; while True Son of the Emperor will satisfy the most sadistic of those who suffer from the latter condition.
19,570 gamers have fought for the emperor with a paltry 374 (less than 2%) completing the entire list of 50 achievements. The main culprit keeping completion hounds attaining the goal is the aforementioned "True Son of the Emperor" achievement.
The TA community has rated Space Marine at a respectable 3.8 out of 5. The internet at large seems to agree with that rating as Metacritc has it 76 out of 100.
For U.S. shoppers the game can be had for just under $15 from Amazon. The same source lists it at just under £8. It can also be found directly from Xbox.com for $19.99/£14.99. For the more economically inclined amongst the crowd, used copies are showing up for about $5/£5.
For the few fans of the 40k universe that have not tried this game; get it now. It is a a faithful adaptation of a world you already love. For everyone else, there is very little in gaming that compares to the frenetic action Space Marine can produce. There are moments when you find yourself in the middle of a horde of Orks so deep you can barely see yourself. When you slash your way through that mass of flesh and come out alive on the other side it is remarkably gratifying.
There are some critics who have called Space Marine a low rent Gears of War. There are similarities between the two, especially when comparing some of the weapons. Although Space Marine may not win a head to head matchup against Gears of War, it is still a very solid game that produces some serious adrenaline pumping moments. If you have got an extra few bucks and are looking for a game that will give a few hours of good fun, you would do well to grab a copy of Space Marine.
If there's a game you'd like to see featured in Easter Eggs, be sure to let us know in the comments!
We've got the full list of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine achievements - check the list for guides to unlocking them.