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Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Review

Warhammer's melee combat is the highlight of this action title.

Part third-person shooter, part hack and slash, developer Relic Entertainment is trying to toe the line between these two popular genres in its latest release, Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine. But does this multi-platform title that's light on story but heavy on action find a proper balance or lose its footing?

You play as Captain Titus, a decorated Ultramarine -- an elite space marine -- who has seen more than his fair share of the battlefield.Titus and his Ultramarine squad are out to ward off the Orks, a savage alien race that overwhelm worlds with their massive hordes.

Even though Titus is astonishingly outnumbered, Ultramarines are outfitted with a solid array of weaponry. Melee weapons like the chainsword, a sword-like contraption that has motorized teeth, a power axe and thunder hammer are at your disposal. The close-quarters combat is extremely visceral, as Titus will wield this weaponry with bloody efficiency. During these gory sequences, blood will splatter everywhere and Titus will emerge covered in it. Finishing moves are the coup de grace, slowing down the action while Titus viciously decimates his enemies. These moves are not merely for show either because it's one of the few ways to regain health. But during these slow-motion moments, nearby enemies can still inflict damage.

If you'd rather keep your distance, Warhammer has solid variety of handheld guns. A good mixture of short-, medium-, and long-range weapons provide some options, but the gunplay never lives up to the immersive feel of the melee combat. The weapons, which will rarely run dry of ammunition, don't pack enough of a punch to match the over-the-top close-range action. It also doesn't help that the game lacks a cover system. This decision does keep you pushing forward but also leaves you exposed during hectic battle sequences. When Titus is inflicting damage, a fury meter will fill. Once filled, Titus can unleash devastating close-range attacks that will afford him health and also slow down time while using his long-range weapons.

The genetically engineered, 7-foot space marines sport nearly indestructible armor and lumber throughout the world because of it. During rare sequences Titus is given a jet pack, which is a refreshing change of pace from the repetitive battle set pieces. The jet pack provides more freedom, allowing players to gain high ground on the hordes of Orks. When in the air, Titus can dive toward enemies for an ariel melee attack.

Despite some intense action moments, the lack of assorted enemies and set pieces hold back the single player. The story takes a backseat in this shoot-first-ask-questions-later campaign. Though the melee combat is quite satisfying, it can't make up for the less-than-thrilling gunplay.

Warhammer's multiplayer offers two modes -- Seize Ground (domination) and Annihilation (team deathmatch). It has what you what you'd expect from a current-day multiplayer -- leveling system, perks, loadouts and classes. But the slow movements and lack of a cover system hinder the experience. You can unlock jet packs, which do improve mobility, but they maybe should have been available from the beginning. Most matches devolved into players shooting from long distances across the map, accentuating the game's weakest element.

Warhammer is a solid action game that bites off a little more than it can chew. It has a visceral melee system, but its shooting mechanics don't pack a similar punch. The campaign doesn't offer enough variety to keep the player engaged, relying on numerous skirmishes that can become monotonous. Warhammer has some great ideas and with some tweaks the next installment could really be genre defining.