I know what you’re thinking. Yes, Warhammer 40k: Space Marine came out w-a-a-y back on September 6th. Why am I doing a review now? As you may or may not know, Space Marine did not have co-op until recently, and I couldn’t do a proper co-op review without co-op content now, could I? Besides, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve done a review for a game that’s been out for a while. Compared to my Demon’s Souls Co-Op Review, I’m like a year and a half early. So there.
If you want more details on the single player campaign or the multiplayer, I strongly suggest reading our WH40k: Space Marine Single Player and Multiplayer Hands On Preview. If you wan to jump to the co-op portion of the review, go right ahead. It’s clearly marked. If it seems that the co-op section doesn’t make up much of this review, that’s because it doesn’t make up much of the game.
I wanted to reacquaint myself with Space Marine’s single player campaign before I dove into the co-op. I checked my achievement list and saw that I began playing the game on September 7th and I finished it on September 9th. Ah, yes, I remember now. This is not a long game. If anyone tells you there’s a 12 hour campaign, they’re straight up lying to you. For me, the campaign lasted about seven hours on Normal difficulty, and it felt like five. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Time flies when you’re having fun - and I remember having a lot of fun.
I chose Chapter 12, “Dying of the Light” for my refresher. I marched the main character, Captain Titus, into battle against the Ork Horde. The purposefully clunky shooting controls made me feel like I was piloting a heavily armored mech. Titus can dodge and roll, but he feels more like a machine than a man. Of course, he’s wearing a ton of armor, so that makes sense. I used an array of ranged weapons, pulverizing Orks with my trusty Bolter, long-range Lascannon, and over-powered, (but painfully slow to recharge) Meltagun.
The pistol works well, too!
My ranged weapons could not stem the tide of the encroaching xenos, so it was time to whip out my Power Axe and begin the dance of blue-armored death. One of Space Marine’s strengths is the seamless transition between ranged and melee combat. I instantly morphed from lumbering mech-man into a giant ninja, slicing my enemies to bits with ease. The camera adjusted nicely from an over-the-shoulder view to a slightly zoomed-out, third-person action game perspective. As I mutilated the enemies of Man I took substantial damage. I was now faced with the most frustrating aspect of the single player game: the health system.
A large, heavily armored Ork Nob was closing in. They’re like the Incredible Hulk version of a normal Ork. I had dispatched the surrounding mob and was prepared to fight with tooth and claw, Power Axe and Bolter. We hacked at each other for a few seconds, until I finally connected with my stun attack and staggered him for a finishing move. My health was low, so I quickly engaged, wary of the new wave of approaching Orks. After a button mashing sequence I was locked into an execution animation, and promptly hacked to death by the fresh batch of Orks. Now I had to play the whole battle over again. This SUCKS. And it happens all the time.
When the health system of Space Marine works right, it’s okay at best. Titus has a regenerating overshield, which we’ve all seen in other games. When this shield is depleted his actual health bar begins to take damage. The only way to replenish it is to perform an execution or to activate your ever-increasing Fury meter. Simply put: hide behind something = regenerate shield, execute an enemy = get some health. This concept seems sound at first, but quickly becomes stale.
The problem is that each execution locks you into an animation where you can continue to take damage. If your health bar is too low you will be killed before completing the execution. This can be infuriating in the later battles, where checkpoints are few and far between. And don’t get me started on the enemy rockets and grenades. Ranged enemies will shred your health, and Orks wielding rocket launchers love to spawn when you’re in the thick of a melee battle.