Like with Star Wars, Warhammer 40,000 has a very rich mythos, with numerous characters and factions all engaged in an unending cycle of war. Unlike with Star Wars however, few people even know Warhammer 40,000 exists, and that is because the 40k series primarily is in novel form. Warhammer 40,000 initially started its life as a tabletop war game and rose to prominence through that route. Eventually it became popular enough that Games Workshop, the company behind the game began producing books based upon the series and not long after, several video games were created to capitalize upon the series. Now we come to Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine, a game that embodies all that Warhammer 40,000 stands for so this game really does use the franchise well and is a very good jumping off point for non fans for the series.
The graphics for Space Marine look quite good, all of the environments are detailed, and they really show off the sweeping architecture of the grim far future. The enemies are decently detailed although they do all look the same for the most part. The armor and weapons the characters use are also well detailed as well and the armor and weapons actually match the descriptions given in the Warhammer 40,000 novel series. The main issue graphically is the facial animations they do look unimpressive and the lip-syncing is sub par.
The game takes place from the third person perspective, however the Gameplay is anything but standard, instead of being a cover based shooter like the Gears of War series, combat in Space Marine is melee focused. The enemies in the early parts of the game use swarm tactics to try and kill you and you do not have enough bullets in your ranged weapons for them all, so more often than not you will need to use your melee weapon to smite your foes. Unlike with other games switching to your melee weapon feels natural, on the PC it’s the right mouse button. With the controls set up the way they are you can slice through a horde of foes, and then quickly start firing a ranged weapon at a distant target all without having to pause and switch inventory. You can carry up to four ranged weapons in addition to a melee weapon at one time, and the weapons all complement themselves well. In a rather unique move, Space Marine does not include regenerative health or health packs, instead you have to perform special finishing moves on stunned enemies in order to regain health and you can also regain health by using the Fury Mode. Fury Mode is a special mode that you can send your Space Marine into that regenerates health, and increases speed and damage. This is a good mode to use if a large number of foes are swarming you or you have to face a large number of miniboss level enemies.
The story for Space Marine is really well written so fans of the series should love it as it does not break with canon, and actually parallels the popular Ultramrarines novel series by Graham McNeill. The developers really chose the best faction to play as since the Space Marines are genetically engineered super soldiers that are designed to give and take tremendous punishment. They are basically giant engines of destruction, in fact in the game when you sprint you get a loud thudding sound effect and the screen shakes. In the game you play as Captain Titus of the Ultramarines, you are being sent to a forge world that has come under attack by the alien orks, and you must help fight the invasion. You are joined by two companions, a veteran Sergeant and a relatively inexperienced youth. The companion AI is terrible, they have trouble killing one enemy between them and if you are getting attacked they will sometimes just stand there doing nothing at all, so how either one of them survived training is beyond me. The orks were a great choice for an enemy seeing as how they are basically video game enemies to start with. When the orks attack a planet they usually bring millions of troopers, so it makes sense that Captain Titus has to chop and shoot his way through hundreds of them. The plot also features moments of betrayal and deceit that are staples of the novel series. The voice acting is decent, however the voice actor for Titus himself gives a very low-key performance with all of his battle cries sounding fairly weak.
Multi-player is fairly standard, there are the basic modes such as death-match and control point capture, and you can gain experience points to unlock new weapons and armor. Cooperative mode is based around fighting a large horde of enemies. Overall the multi-player is fairly well designed and is a good complement to the single player campaign.
Space Marine handles the franchise well and uses the elements that makes Warhammer 40,000 so popular, the PC version is a decent port, it controls fairly well, but it lacks a manual saving system and whenever you reach a checkpoint the game tells you not to turn off your system. Those are only minor complaints however as the game is really quite well made and a good deal of fun no matter what system you play it on. I do highly recommend it for Warhammer 40,000 fans and fans of action games in general.
If you'd like a little closer look into the gameplay of Space Marine, Hydriatus has this review to offer.