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+++Inquisitorial Review - Space Marine+++

Posted 09-19-2011 at 05:39 PM by Kael

++Transmission++DELTA LEVEL++
+Inquisitor Kael - Ordo Hereticus+
+++Ordo Hereticus High Council+++

+++CLEARANCE LEVEL DELTA REQUIRED+++


Greetings honored Lords.

I am pleased to offer here my report in full on the recent events surrounding a Captain Titus of the Ultramarines Chapter of the honored Adeptus Astartes.


So, the action begins, or rather doesn't, with a pict screen displaying the surface of a Forge World as text flits back and forth between two anonymous functionaries having a leisurely discussion about the current situation, in particular the condition of a manufactory that we soon learn houses and repairs Warlord-class Titans. It is currently under invasion by Orks, who have overwhelmed local assets including a regiment of Cadian Imperial Guard who happened to be nearby and were already redirected. One wonders what kind of bored ex-Juvie-ganger managed to get himself seated on one side of this conversation, as the very first suggested course of action to save this beleaguered world is to order an Exterminatus. Unfortunately for this bloodthirsty Administratum bean-counter, who probably just wanted a chance to push that big red button on his console, the Titans are deemed too valuable and must be saved. A full relief fleet is en route, we learn, but will not arrive for some weeks, and this is deemed simply too long. Fortunately for us (and the game's plot!) there is one asset that is apparently in range for more immediate involvement: a contingent of Ultramarines, though exactly how many we are never privy to.

Exit this dramatically zoomed and panned text convo and open to an exterior shot of a Thunderhawk screaming down through high atmo, swerving around the remains of the last few Imperial ships as they get thoroughly thrashed by a few Ork Kroozers. This all seems to be happening in distressingly low orbit, and I think the entire reason for that will become apparent. Cut to the interior of the Thunderhawk and we get our first glimpse of our hero, already stylishly helmet-less, as is his gruff, grizzled, and scarred Sergeant. One might be forgiven for feeling the urge to tell said Sergeant that he might not be missing that eye if he'd ever bother to wear the damned helmet in the first place. A third Marine is present in the hold, actually wearing his helmet(!), which might lead one to conclude that he is along to provide a dramatic death at some point. But, don't fret, our currently faceless friend will doff his head-covering as well within the first 10 minutes of gameplay.

The Captain is advised by the pilot that there is a great deal of bad shit up here and he cannot vouch for anyone's continued safety if they push on (though of course he is more than willing to should the Captain ask it). Titus instead tells him to pull back, then grabs a jump pack and opens the back hatch. When queried by the still-helmeted Brother on the perspicaciousness of this plan, due to the lack of cite-able Codex Astartes passages, Titus tells him "Try and keep up," before leaping dramatically out of the ship, still stylishly helmet-less. See what I mean about why all this happens in dangerously low orbits?

Throughout the game Titus and Gruff Sergeant (Sidonus) remain bastions of un-coifed dignity, with New Guy (Leandros) joining them as soon as he can get his knocked off by an off-camera blow/shot that from the damage would likely have killed him if he hadn't been wearing it (you'd think they'd clue in). One wonders why the Forges bother making all those helmets, with their enhances sensors, armor, communication equipment, and sealed atmosphere if no one ever uses the fucking things.

From there (only minor spoilers ahead) you fight lots and lots and lots and lots (and lots!) of Orks, become involved in a treacherous plot, and then fight some Chaos. All of this culminates in a suitably dramatic final confrontation with a Chaos Lord-cum-Daemon Prince, whom you knock off the very, very high platform you were on (part of the "orbital spire," a space elevator-like contraption) and proceed to plummet toward the surface while bashing his face repeatedly in a glorified quick time event. Once again, one is struck forcibly by the usefulness of helmets in so many situations. You may hate quick time events, but it really is the only one, and I actually kind of enjoyed it, mostly as a change of pace from the standard rhythm of the game.

The single-player campaign is a fair amount of fun, though depressingly short. It really would have been nice to see more content, and one can hope to see more in the future even if it's in the form of cash-sucking DLCs. But, shooters these days cater to the multi-player demographic, and here there are some definite pluses. The basic gameplay is identical, so the single-player actually is good practice, especially on Hard. You can finally shed the Blue-and-Gold of the Ultrasmurfs and don literally whatever paint job you want. You have five custom appearance slots for both Imperials and Chaos Marines, plus one that holds all the super-special things like the un-modifiable skins you got a code for if you pre-ordered from certain places, or the un-modifiable ones you unlock for completing the single-player campaign. All the other skins are fully customizable, for both sides, and as you play various challenges and achievements will unlock new armor looks that you can mix-and-match until you're happy with it. I'm very pleased with this part overall.

There are only two kinds of matches so far, Annihilation (deathmatch) and Seize Ground (capture points), but there is supposed to be a co-op mode released within the month that's more of a horde gametype. We'll see how that one turns out. Both game types are 8-v-8 teams, and if you go for a Public game (I don't have enough friends to try a Private one) your team is randomly assigned as is your faction (Chaos or Imperial). Classes and equipment are identical for both factions, only skins and war-cries change. In addition to customizable looks, you can also change your starting loadout, weapons, equipment, and perks, within the confines of the three classes. Tactical gets all the rifle-class weapons, from the standard Bolter and its scoped or double-barreled cousins to the plasma rifle and melta gun. Devastators (Havocs for Chaos boyz) get the heavy stuff, and have a brace mechanic that ups their rate of fire and accuracy while freezing them in place. They're also tougher by default and can usually survive a grenade at their feet, to make up for the lost mobility. Assault (Raptors) get the melee stuff and an accompanying pistol, along with their jump pack which is just as fun in multi-player as it was in the campaign.

You gain levels in the multi-player, up to 41, and I hope you can all join me in a moment of Microsoft Hate, as they require you to purchase an "Elite Pack" to advance past level 5 for 800 MS points (about $10). This would normally be a completely crippling blow to those who don't want to fork over the cash just to unlock all the features of a game they already paid for. Though lots of perks and armor upgrades are unlockable just by being really good at shooting people in the face, nearly all the weapons apart from the starting ones unlock at various levels, so if you can't level up, you can never start a match with a plasma rifle, or a melta, or a Thunder Hammer.

In order to try to get you poor slobs who won't feed the cash-cow to keep playing anyway, they have a mechanic that allows you, upon your bloody and painful death, to completely copy the gear of your executioner for your next spawn. This is on all the time (you always have this option at death) and it will give you all their gear including any you haven't personally unlocked yet. Even if you have bought the past-level-5 pass, this is a good way to test out gear you've never seen before, and to play with perks you haven't earned yet to see if you want them. It does make dieing to a ninja Assault Marine or a level-crossing lascannon shot 5 seconds after you spawn a bit more frustrating than usual, though.

Notably absent from the multi-player experience is the Execution mechanic, mostly because A) you can't go into dramatic bullet time every 10 seconds in a multi-player match, and B) your health slowly regenerates if you can catch a lull in the action. There are still no health packs in the multi-player. Grenades feel like they need tweaking, as they do more damage from a close detonation than a direct hit from most other weapons, and of course there is no shortage of obsessed players who can land one near you from two rooms around the corner with precise bounces. This is somewhat mitigated by the dodge-roll and by grenade indicators whenever one is nearby.

++++

So, all in all I really enjoyed the game. I'm not sorry I bought it, which I was afraid I might be after placing my preorder and then reading some reviews. It won't hurt to wait until the price comes down a bit if you haven't bought it yet, but I do recommend it for fans of 40k. Oh, and

++End Transmission++DELTA LEVEL++
+Thought for the Day: Burn the Heretic! Kill the Mutant! Purge the Unclean!+
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