Saturday, September 24, 2011

Warhammer 40K Space Marine (Demo Review)

So I've been seeing commercials for this game and decided to check it out. I did a little bit of research and apparently it's a running franchise I'd never heard of with a lot of fans excited for this release. Maybe it’s just me but the commercials seem a little misleading. I hear customization is extremely well done and there are many combinations and the commercials have people talking about all the different things they can do as space marines. This gives the false impression that you create your own character and customize their abilities, like in Elder Scrolls and Fallout, except in this game you take them into online multiplayer. In reality you can only customize your character’s appearance and the gameplay variety is that you pick one of 3 classes with those sets of abilities. I don’t really care that much about appearance customization, nor do I care that Space Marine literally has roughly 1 billion options for it. That’s impressive, but I don’t place much value in it. 

Anyway, I checked out the demo. I don't know anything about the series, so I went in not knowing what to expect. And it was over before I figured anything out. “So, like, Orks are invading and we have to fight them because this is our home planet? Really, that’s it? Well, pff. If that’s it I’m just gonna go play Halo and Mass Effect.” And there’s something about a secret experimental device they’re after and there’s a Manufactorum, an unnecessary stupid fake sci-fi name for a factory, and there’s an inquisitor and a skull thing that displays video messages…….and there is no cutscene that introduces the story telling me what’s going on, so I can’t get interested. Better yet there’s no tutorial so I don’t know that you have to kill enemies in a special way to regenerate your health, causing me to die a lot even though easy mode said “you will rarely die.” I’m wandering around looking for health packs everywhere and waiting for my shields to regenerate even though monsters keep following me around the corner. Look, this isn’t 1985 where everyone reads the manuals and memorizes what every button does 5 seconds later. Building a tutorial is very basic and they didn’t make one for the demo. The first time I tried it I never realized I had more than one gun weapon. And when I did figure it out during the second time I didn’t even know the explosive launcher thing actually requires you to detonate it after firing. I have almost no health, there’s like 30 Orks charging me and I’m firing this thing like crazy wondering why nothing dies. 

That said, once I did eventually figure everything out, it actually was pretty fun. I like what they’ve done with their combat system for the most part, except the part where you get health from defeating enemies in awkward ways. I like the blend between sword combat and shooting. Yeah, that part’s not as good as the Fable games, but at least Warhammer has a chance of being good overall. The gameplay wasn’t awesome, but it was pretty good. However, considering the other problems this demo has had, I don’t see a reason to buy it. 

Here’s the thing…..based on this demo (again, not the full game), there are a lot of other games that not only have better gameplay than this, but also have pretty decent stories to go with them. You know, Skyrim is coming up soon and I think I might just give Oblivion one last go while I’m still willing to give it the time of day. Or I might create a new character and make a whole different set of decisions in the two Mass Effect games. Or give several Zelda games a good 25th anniversary run for old time’s sake. And so forth. Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine isn’t promising enough to be worth my money or my time if this is all they got. I’d rather replay games I already own.

Their whole advertising campaign for this game seems to be intended to excite people who are already fans of the franchise. But there’s nothing that draws in and hooks people who are new, unfamiliar, and curious. To them it looks like a Gears of War knockoff with a more “medieval knights” feel to it. I’m not saying it’s a GoW rip-off. I’m saying….if that’s what it’s like, then what’s there to be excited about?  

I have heard a number of fans say the demo was good. But I’ve seen newcomers say it wasn’t. I think I know why that is. Warhammer has, so far, been an RTS style game, right? Gamers who are already Warhammer fans are wondering “Hey, it’s a third-person shooter now. I’m completely confident all the regular elements of the series are still present, but I am concerned about gameplay because it’s different from tradition.” They play the demo and the controls are good and the gameplay is enjoyable, so they are satisfied. As a newcomer, I’m not just looking at gameplay; I’m also wondering what this is all about. And based on the trailer and demo, it looks like an incredibly tired and overdone story: a race of aliens and/or monsters is invading a civilization of humans and you have to fight them. Go to certain checkpoints, stop the bomb, stop the launch, destroy the control tower, defend this position, find the special doohickey plot device, and so forth. If you keep doing that the aliens/monsters go away and everything is saved. And all you fans are about to cry out that there’s a lot more to it than that. You say there’s a history and lore and a good story somewhere in those generic elements. That’s when I say “well, it’s not in the commercials, trailer, or demo so I have no reason to believe it’s in the game.”

I’m not saying the full game is bad, nor am I saying the series is bad. I’m saying their attempts to make me, a newcomer, interested have failed. So why am I talking about this instead of ignoring it and moving on?.......I don’t really know. Curiosity maybe.  I just….I guess I just don’t get it. Could a fan tell me what the big deal is? I don’t mean that in a cynical way, I’m just genuinely curious. I want to be impressed with something new that I haven’t explored yet. And don’t tell me anything about the multiplayer. Multiplayer never actually matters, it is always either a bonus or a guilty pleasure. What is it in the singleplayer that gets fans excited? I wanna see what you see in this new game. Is it an epic conclusion? A reboot? A remake? A continuation of a good story? Please, let me know what the primary appeal of the series is. Again, not trying to bash the game I’m saying I’ve tried and I don’t see it. What do you guys think?

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