Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine • Page 2

Astartes well.

There's a chainsword, a power axe and a thunder hammer to use close up with a range of basic combo attacks, as well as a Fury meter, which amplifies damage once you've filled it with basic attacks, and contextual execution moves that recharge your health.

There are no vehicles to master - a shame, although given that you only play as Titus it wouldn't make much sense to control a dreadnought or what-have-you - and oddly, given Relic's vast experience with Dawn of War, there are no strategic squad controls. But you do get occasional use of a jump pack, which gives you a temporary jetpack boost into the air for reaching high platforms. You pick one up every couple of hours for a few minutes of variety.

Variety, though, is something that Space Marine soon starts to lack as you dig into the campaign. The initial combat sequences where you hack away with one or two buttons look fantastic and threaten to evolve as new weapons come into play - but they never do, thanks to a dull collection of enemies and rather bland level layouts.

Instead, the game simply increases the difficulty by swarming you with adversaries up close while pecking away at you from range with eerily precise machinegun rounds, grenades and rockets. The melee combat is prosaic, but at least it's gloriously violent and impactful - yet you can't enjoy it because you're frequently whittled down to a corpse by distant enemies you haven't got time to shoot.

This is all exacerbated by another misjudgment. Sometimes you can regain health by entering Fury mode, but the majority of the time you need to execute enemies to build up your life bar again, and you quickly discover that you are exposed to additional damage for several seconds while the execution animation plays out.

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Online you play as Space Marines or Chaos Marines.

This is fine early on in the game when the going is relatively easy, but before long it becomes the principal cause of your many deaths as you hurry to stun and execute an Ork only to receive a fatal bullet from miles away just as you are about to receive your health bonus. Talk about grabbing defeat from the kerb-stomped jaws of victory.

This is less of a problem in multiplayer, at least, where health regenerates automatically. Online there are two modes - Seize Ground, a form of capture-and-hold, and Annihilation, a team deathmatch mode where the winning team needs to amass 41 kills. Seize Ground feels like the better of the two, with the action moving between several fronts and the loadouts more relevant to success or failure.

However, the combination of the close camera angle, a lack of visual feedback from the enemies you strike and unpredictable network conditions mean that hand-to-hand combat - the best thing about the game, despite its flaws - is much less immediate and visceral. There are no clean kills and the abundance of jump packs means projectile combat - which already feels like the weaker part of the game offline - is even less agreeable.

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The melee kill animations are awesome. It's just a shame you are still open to damage while they play out, frequently killing you.

Overall, when you strip away our automatic affection for the universe, you're left with a simple story full of thin characters and predictable twists, where the combat quickly descends into a repetitive war of attrition, and a small suite of online modes that can't compete with the bigger boys in the genre.

In campaign and online, all of this is buoyed by beautiful visuals that really capture the scale and artistry of the Warhammer universe - right down to the way the Space Marine armour is textured to resemble the finish you get when you paint Citadel miniatures - and the customisation suite is wonderful.

But then we already knew Relic could build likable and authentic things out of Warhammer 40,000, so it's no surprise to find we like the trimmings in Space Marine. What we now know, sadly, is that Relic isn't quite so comfortable doing a third-person action game for them to fit around.

6 / 10

Read the Eurogamer.net review policy Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Tom Bramwell Astartes well. 2011-09-06T17:00:00+01:00 6 10 Follow Eurogamer.net on Steam to get more PC game recommendations

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