The lights are on
Your first hour or so will be a blast. This game gives you several ways in which to splatter Ork-brains all over the screen, and Captain Titus is extremely adept at doing just that. With weapons out the wazoo, you'll carve a swath through Ork after Ork... after Ork... after... uh... more Orks...
... then some more Orks come... wait... why are the Orks here...? And... where the deuce ARE we, exactly???
Now, keep in mind, I've been a Warhammer and Warhammer 40K fan pretty much since the beginning of the franchise (or whatever?). I painted the miniatures and played the tabletop game for many, MANY years. So I know the backstory about Orks and Space Marines and Ultramarines and whatnot... but a LOT of people wouldn't, if they were coming into this game fresh off of the streets. And the game itself gives you the absolute BARE BONES of narrative to guide you and fill you in history-wise. "In the future, there is only war..." and that's really just about it. Who is the Emperor that we're fighting for? What's Ultramar? What is 'Chaos'? None of this is every really addressed, so... you're kind of left either wondering in utter confusion or (if you're already filled in like me) thinking "Man, they really could have expanded on that...".
Gameplay-wise, there's nothing to complain about. The controls are smooth and responsive, and definitely a LOT of fun to play with. I guess you can say that various 'play-styles' will be rewarded in various ways, but... meh, not really. You pretty much just wade through enemies and splatter them. You DO have the option in a few areas of hanging back and sniping, but not enough to nearly make much of a difference for 98% of the game.
The music is pretty minimalistic but adds to the atmosphere of the game very well. The voice-acting is great, but after the first 45 minutes you'll get REALLY sick of the Orks and Gretchins shouting the words "SPICE MAWEEN!" (misspelling intentional). Seriously. I get it- Titus is a Space Marine. You don't have to remind me on every wave. "SPICE MAWEEN!!" "KILL'EM SPICE MAWEEN!" "COOORRRR ISSA FAIGHT NOW SPICE MAWEEN!". It gets old.
Graphically, there's a LOT to love, especially in the minor details of the level settings. The half-skull of the Mechanicum, the slowly grinding cog wheels, the ever-present smoke in the background... there's a LOT of attention to detail and some homework went into the level design. Buuuuuut, then you've seen it for awhile and it gets a bit old.
I guess that's sort of the theme of this game- for me, it got old. Squishing Orks like a Boss was a lot of fun at first, but then it just got to the point where you're squishing Orks on top of Orks, and just sort of scratching your behind while doing it. Then a new Ork type is introduced, and that's fun for awhile... until it's not. The level design is great... until it's not... and the entire game just sort of trudges onwards for awhile. Now, no spoilers intended, but there IS a bit of a refreshing change about 2/3 of the way through, but even that failed to really keep my interest.
The plot isn't water-thin, but as I said before, without the backstory pretty much anyone who isn't already quite familiar with the series will be left out in the cold. I didn't hate it, per se, it just didn't really give you much to care about.
I guess my greatest problem with this game is that I wish it were SO MUCH MORE. The Warhammer 40K universe could be the setting for an entire series of games and spin-offs, a la Final Fantasy. We should seriously be on Space Marine 23 by this point in time. Delve into the histories of each chapter. Let us play a stealth game as an Eldar. First-person shooter as an Imperial Soldier. JRPG as a hopeful minion of Chaos. There is SO much that could be done in this series... and THIS is the best that could be come up with? It saddens me, truly.
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