My Top 5 Games of 2011: #5 Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (360)

Developed: Relic Entertainment
Published: THQ
Genre: Third-Person Action
Platform: 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC

In my honorable mentions of 2011 article, I had a list at the end of games that I had yet to play but am interested in and Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine was among them. Soon after I posted that, I saw it for $20 new on Glyde so I picked it up. After beating it a number of times, I just knew it had to be in my top 5 of 2011, so my list has changed a bit since my previous articles about games from 2011.

My knowledge of the Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40k universes is pretty limited. I've never played the tabletop games or read any of the books, but I have played two previous video games based on 40k: Space Hulk, back when I was still a kid, and more recently, Fire Warrior, which I didn't really enjoy that much. My point is, this article is coming from the point of view of someone who is an outsider to the Warhammer 40k universe, so I apologize in advance for any inaccuracies in this article. Just wanted to get that out of the way before the article proper.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine follows the exploits of Ultramarine Captain Titus and his squad mates, Sidonus and Leandros as they fight to take back an industrial planet from an army of invading Orks.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is a game that is fairly light on story, but its narrative was interesting enough to hold my attention throughout. I'll hit the finer points.

The game opens with a squad of Ultramarines, one of the most talented chapters of the Space Marine military, as they arrive on "Forge World Graia," a human colonized planet with an extensive network of military factories. An army of Orks, one of the enemies of mankind, has invaded and is attempting to plunder the world of its vast store of weapons.

Captain Titus, the player character, and his squad of Ultramarines are forced to abandon ship during an intense melee between hundreds of ships high above the planet's surface. Titus manages to land on an Ork ship and disable it in one of the most badass scenes in the game. He fights through a horde of Orks and turns one of the ship's own guns towards its bridge, causing it to crash.

Titus reunites with his squad and they head to a nearby base where they aid the local imperial guard soliders. They move on to a massive cannon that the Orks have commandeered and are forced to destroy it to save their ships from being shot down, and head to a huge factory where they meet up with Inquisitor Drogan, a high ranking member of the "Imperial Inquisition."
Drogan leads them to a powerful device that he claims can be used to wipe the Orks out in one fell swoop. Titus is separated from the others as he takes the device that emits "warp energy" which is normally poisonous to humans, but has no effect on him for reasons unknown to him. He reunites with the others once more and they make their way to the "orbital spire" high above the planet's surface, where they activate the device but rather than killing the Orks, it opens a portal that an army of Chaos, another powerful enemy of mankind, pour out of.

The leader of the Chaos army, Nemeroth, reveals that Drogan has been dead all along and he's been controlling his corpse to allow the Chaos invasion. The Ork leader shows up and attacks Nemeroth, allowing Titus and his squad mates to escape for the time being. They head back to the factory where they met Drogan and meet the Ork leader again. Titus kills him and they activate the Titan Invictus, a massive robot, which they use to destroy the orbital spire in hopes of closing the Chaos portal.

Sidonus is soon killed and the warp device is taken by Nemeroth who takes it to the remains of the orbital spire. Titus soon follows him and finds him in the middle of a ritual that transforms him into a daemon. Nemeroth and Titus battle as they plummet from the orbital spire with Titus managing to kill the beast and destroy the warp device just before he's saved from his fall by a ship.
Okay, I normally hate quick time events but I have to admit that one where you smash the last boss' head is pretty epic.
The ending shows Leandros selling out Titus to another Inquisitor who arrests Titus for his possible corruption because of his inexplicable resistance to warp energy. Titus goes quietly but not before berating Leandros for his by the book attitude in a pretty epic hero speech.

So the story is pretty standard but I liked it. I'm sure if I was a Warhammer 40k fan, I would probably understand it better and find a few extra things but even as someone who knows next to nothing about the franchise, the story is pretty enjoyable. The characters are all very charismatic, especially the Ork warboss who harasses you for most of the game. All of the Orks are pretty hilarious to me actually with their thick cockney accents.

As far as graphics go, the game is gorgeous. Relic Entertainment is always pretty good in that department. I definitely have to complement how intuitive the game's visuals are. A problem that I have with many shooters is being able to tell when far off enemies are dead because of crappy animation or just a bland color scheme. Space Marine never has that problem though, with easily noticeable and quick death animations, as well as a fairly distinctive popping sound whenever in enemy dies from gunfire.

One thing I should mention is a problem that I've always had with Warhammer 40k: That Space Marine armor is just too damn big. The fact that the three main characters don't wear helmets only emphasizes this. Their heads just look TINY compared to that bulky armor. I swear I'm not trying to troll here, 40k fans; I just want to be honest.
Here's the game's opening shot. I think I've made my point.
Anyhow, Space Marine's sound and music don't stand out too much. The music is competent enough to entertain but it's a fairly standard Hollywood style soundtrack. The voice acting is definitely the standout of the game's audio. Like I said before, the Orks are all really charismatic because of their delightful accents and most of the other voices are just as well done.

The only exception to that is Drogan who is either voiced by someone who just wasn't trying or perhaps he speaks so strangely because he's a corpse being controlled by Nemeroth the whole time you fight along side him. Who knows... Also, I was unaware that the English pronounce the word lieutenant as LEFtenant. You learn something new everyday.

Gameplay is where Space Marine really shines. I know a lot of people have compared it to Gears of War, with some people being stupid enough to call a game based on a franchise that started in 1987 a Gears of War knock off. While I'd concede that many comparisons are apt, as a fan of the Gears games, I have to say that Space Marine is Gears of War done even better.
The control scheme is quite similar with ranged weapons controlling pretty much the same as Gears, but what Space Marine does to rise above Gears is in its melee combat which I would say is similar to Rocksteady's Batman games. The only BIG problem I have with the melee combat is executions.

If you manage to stun an enemy, you have the opportunity to perform an execution on them, which heals you for whatever reason; I'm sure there's an in universe explanation that I'm unaware of. The problem with executions is that many of them have overly long animations during which you can still take damage which can lead to some cheap deaths. I would just say don't bother with them but they are the ONLY way to heal so sometimes you have no choice.

Other than executions, Space Marine has some of the most fun and addictive gameplay that I've experienced in a long time. The game is a bit on the easy side, even on hard mode which I beat with little difficulty. I kinda wish there was an even harder difficulty to challenge myself with but I still have fun with the game regardless.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is one of the most pleasant surprises I've had in a while as a gamer. It's gameplay is fast and addictive and it's presentation is on par with any huge name blockbuster game. It also features a fairly extensive multiplayer mode from what I hear, but If you have read many of my previous articles, you'll know that I'm not a big online game player. It is available on 360, PS3 and PC for around $20-$30 so I encourage any fan of third person action games, especially Gears of War, to give Space Marine a shot.

Number 4 in my top 5 games of 2011!
A first person puzzle game sequel with all the charm and wittiness of a Pixar film.

I'll leave you with Valkyrie Run, though I'm afraid I can't remember where in the game it plays but it's a great song regardless. Video brought to us by YouTube user IAMARAGHAST.

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