Review: 'Warhammer 40,000' well worth the investment

Titus, the main character in "Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine," attacks an ork.

Story highlights

  • In "Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine," players control Titus, a captain of the Ultramarines
  • All the action takes place in the third-person point of view
  • Hand-to-hand weapons can be knives, swords, axes and hammers
"Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine" (Relic Entertainment, THQ) deftly takes the popular tabletop miniatures game and puts it into a video game with gun-blazing, sword-swinging action and a story that flows well.
Players control Titus, a captain of the Ultramarines, as they and their comrades attempt to battle orks, demons and the forces of Chaos. There are plenty of weapons to satisfy your melee or missile tendencies in battle.
All the action takes place in the third-person point of view, so the field of battle is easily kept in sight at all times. Minor enemies attack en masse and in waves, while tougher enemies usually show up to scrap all alone.
Boss battles are demanding, and pulling off multiple attacks is almost required to conquer the last foe. Players often are accompanied by two other space marines who contribute to the wholesale slaughter of lesser opponents but seem to have little effect on boss battles.
Hand-to-hand weapons can be knives, swords, axes and hammers while long-distance weapons start with pistols and go all the way to cannons. Ammunition and grenades can be found strewn around the battlefield to supply whatever weapons you have in your possession.
Modes of combat are interchangeable and offer plenty of ways to wipe out enemies. Trigger buttons control the long-range weapons while controller buttons activate hand-to-hand abilities such as stun and execution. Performing an execution on a stunned enemy also rewards the player with points for good health.
Hack-and-slash action makes for an enjoyable fight and really enhances the game. But it is more than just blood and gore (which, incidentally, gets splashed all over your character during battle, then magically disappears afterward) that make "Space Marine" worthy.
The characters seem like they are ripped right from the British navy, with accents that sound like they come from the streets of London. Each character has his own feel and motivations, giving personality to even the lowliest speaking ones.
The game's three main space marines all have their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. They are outfitted in colorful armor that probably would feel right at home in a "World of Warcraft" setting but with nods to symbols and icons of ancient civilizations.
I found myself listening a little more intently than normal as characters spoke about their trials and tribulations. Small bits of soldiers' lives were revealed, helping make the entire experience more immersive.
The story -- one of honor, courage and sacrifice -- could have readily been ignored or glossed over to focus more on the combat. However, developers were able to knit together a tale that also includes loss and betrayal while giving the player a feeling of omnipotence that makes it unique for shooters.
But the single-player campaign game felt like it didn't last long enough, and the maps, while beautiful, were linear -- not allowing for exploration. The panoramic views and immense weaponry teased with the prospect of a wide world to be explored and liberated, only to be stifled by rubble and downed machinery at every turn.
The ending, a cliffhanger of sorts, really was a jaw dropper. It's a testament to the writers for crafting an interesting (but short) story as well as the developers for making me feel so invested in my characters.
I have never played "Warhammer 40,000" on the tabletop (mainly because I didn't have the funds to lay out for the miniature figures that are required), but "Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine" on the console is well worth the investment.
"Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine" is available for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It is rated M for mature due to blood and gore and intense violence. This review was done playing the single-player campaign on the Xbox 360.