Wot I Think: Space Marine Multiplayer

By Alec Meer on September 9th, 2011 at 1:00 pm.

Imperial Fists: not very good at camoflague

I’ve already word-splurged about Space Marine’s singleplayer, but what about its multiplayer, which I spent most of yesterday running my cursor over? Does it make Relic’s third-person 40K stompathon a fuller package? Well, yes and no. There’s things I want to whine about, but more importantly there are two very specific things that endear me to it.

1) Helmets! No grizzled, surly war hero faces here, as is disappointingly the case for the singleplayer’s Captain Titus (I’m genuinely amazed there isn’t a helmet on/off option, a la Mass Effect), but instead each and every player gets to wear an iconic Space Mariney/Chaos Space Mariney tinlid. Phew! Steely anonymity restored.

2) Armour and paint customisation! You’ll have to reach rank 4 to unlock this option, but that’ll take you an hour max. Then you can pick a Space Marine chapter or Chaos warband of your choice, or create a paint scheme from the ground up. I dolled myself up as a Dark Angel the very instant I could. You can pick different armour parts to some extent from the off, but most of them are bound to unlocks which’ll take yonks to attain. That aside, as per Relic tradition it’s bringing the hobbyist element of Games Workshop into 40K’s latest videogame incarnation. To whine again about singleplayer, it’s a relief to get away from the rather vanilla Ultramarines and into one of the core appeals of GW’s games – making your army/soldier your own. It’s a definite benefit of this being a third-person rather than first-person game: I get to stare at my painstaking pseudo-paintwork at all times.

This stuff is, of course, mere dressing – what of the multiplayer itself? Well, it’s on the basic side – 8 vs 8 point-defence or team deathmatch in mid-sized maps. The playable factions are Space Marines or Chaos Space Marines, which are identical in everything but appearance. This means they are big, strong, have regenerating armour, a wide choice of weapons (eventually) and make a great thudding noise when they run. A shame there isn’t some asymmetrical play in there, using the Orks or Imperial Guards who litter the singleplayer, but I can imagine that’d be incredibly hard to balance (uneven team sizes would be the only way to even start doing it). Nominally you’re fighting for your team, but really you’re playing for experience points and unlocks, as is The Law according to marketing people who salivate at Call of Duty’s endless success.

Levelling up and meeting certain challenges – for instance, dicking 50 people over with a chainsword – gets you new weapons, armour parts and perks. That’s why you’re playing. That’s why I played for most of yesterday – determined to unlock the power axe and the Mark VI armour. For the Emperor? I couldn’t give a hoot about enforcing the will of the living corpse on his golden throne. I just want a hat with a beak on the front. Only I’ll need to perform 200 kill assists to get it, so that’s not happening any time soon.

And that’s, speaking from a sometime 40K enthusiast’s point of view, the single greatest oversight in multiplayer. It could have been squads of Space Marines working together, but instead it’s eight self-serving guys running around with only an ostensibly common goal. It’s a shame there aren’t any squad mechanics in there. Even the armour customisation sort of undermines the potential fiction, as you’ll inevitably have eight Space Marines from eight different chapters. I might try and arrange a few people to play as Dark Angels so we can look like a fearsome, united force, but that’s going to be complicated by the very limited match-finding options – auto-matchmaking or entirely private game only, alas, in the now-standard console-prioritised way.

However, what’s very much to the good is an extension of one of the aspects I most dug in the singleplayer – working out your preferred playstyle and sticking to it. By level three, the work of about half an hour, you’ll be able to choose between Tactical (standard), Devastator (heavy weapons) or Assault (jump pack’n’melee) archetypes, to which you can apply better/different weapons and buffs as you unlock them on the long journey to level 41. That’s right: I said jump pack. Unbound from the lunatic, scripted limitations in singleplayer, you’re free to use it throughout. It does mean you’re pretty guff at ranged combat, but frankly I enjoy the ol’ whoosh-bam and then a deadly battering with my chainsword or power axe far more than trying to headshot dudes. I get killed a lot, but the freedom to semi-fly around these maps is wonderful, the thrill of successfully managing to cleave a heavily-armoured opponent to death in melee combat so much greater than hanging back with a Melta. The battlefield can look pretty corking at times, a meaty spray of assorted bullets, death-beams and crunchy melee fights, and a constant rain of jump-pack guys across the map. It might not be realising the military aspect of 40K, but it’s certainly got an awful lot of its toys – and it’s a delight to get to play with them so up close and personal.

Like the singleplayer though – if only there was more to it. More modes, more maps, more classes and gear. While there are a few new weapons in the mix, for the most part I’m just slowly unlocking stuff I’ve already played with extensively in singleplayer, which can feel a bit sour. Fortunately, a very smart mechanic allows you to copy the loadout of whoever just killed you for the duration of your next spawn, so you get to try everything reasonably regularly, as well as getting a headstart on some of the weapon-specific challenges. Most importantly, it means that those with high-end unlocks don’t have a totally unfair advantage over the lower-level types. That was a major factor in keeping me playing, rather than rage-quitting the first time I got smacked to bits with a Thunderhammer. It didn’t take long before I was participating usefully in the fight, not feeling hopelessly out-classed, and that’s something to celebrate.

Space Marine multiplayer is a good, meaty time, taking some of the better elements of singleplayer and sticking them into a smart new context, but at the same time it does feel a little… standard. It pulls a few punches, it throws out the splendid YOU ARE A WALKING GOD feel of the mass Ork slaughters in singleplayer in favour of rapid death and rapid respawns, there isn’t all that much to it once you’ve grabbed a few of the major unlocks, and frankly it’s in the mould of solid but forgettable multiplayer modes such as BioShock 2’s – that voguish tendency towards basing everything around hunger for ranking-up and rewards. Space Marine’s unquestionably a better package for it and I can see myself sticking my helmeted head in a few more times yet, but like the singleplayer I wish it had gone a bit further.

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70 Comments »

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  1. Nihilille says:

    Any more details on the unlocks, are we only talking armour bits and bobs and 4 new weapons or are there tons of stuff to grind through? Any perks or so? I love me a good grindin’ you see.

    • iniudan says:

      Each weapon has it own perk that are unlocked by doing killing with them, all have a basic kill x number of dude, some also have a second challenge, for the bolter it is killing streak with the bolster (it the one I am currently working on, along thunderhammer and poweraxe, those two are annoying for I prefer the chainsword, but the chainsword perk it not that great for my play style). For the bolster the kill one is uprading your bolter to kraken pattern, while the killing streak seem to be something that help with accuracy or aiming (didn’t unlock yet and have not not been kill by anyone using yet, so couldn’t copy to see)

      All the armor piece require you to do different thing, for example the hate armor piece require you to do grudge kill (which is killing the same person without them getting revenge, not sure if you are permitted to die in between by someone else, but seem to the be hardest to unlock armor on chaos side for me)

      Each glass also get 7 class perk that unlock by simply leveling (there is 8 but you start with 1 at first level). For example for the assault class some of the perk are been able to use a bolter or having your jump pack explode when you die (seem to be a favorite of most assault right now, since it let most just charge blindly and hope to get kill something even if you come to die, but I prefer to go for more hit and run tactic)

  2. DK says:

    About 20 perks per class, with about 10 pieces of armor per body part. 4-5 weapons per class.

  3. reticulate says:

    Only one question need be answered at this point: Can you paint your marine as a Grey Knight? If so, sold.

    • scorcher24 says:

      You can paint it like you want. But I am quite sure I spotted a Grey Knight Preset.

    • reticulate says:

      Apparently it doesn’t have the GK chapter symbol, boo hiss. I’m sure you can put something together that looks pretty accurate, lacking of course the wrist-mounted storm bolter and power glaive.

  4. Dominic White says:

    I really wish they hadn’t gone the rapid-death route. I’m meant to be playing as a regenerating giant in an even more giant and incredibly advanced suit of power-armor. Let me soak up a few shots and a couple punches! It really won’t ruin the game!

    • Creeping Death says:

      To be fair, everyone else is stomping around as a massive genetically enhanced killing machine too. And they’re pretty efficient at killing each other :P

    • Dominic White says:

      If multiplayer brawls felt more like Marine Vs Ork Nob, that’d be great.

  5. Baka says:

    More or less exactly my thoughts, except: HOLY CRUD WHERE’S THE MUTE ALL BUTTON?

  6. fuggles says:

    It should be fairly easy and one would assume less server intensive to create a fix option which makes all players look the same as you on your team. At least this would give the illusion of a chapter fighting off the enemies.

    • wccrawford says:

      That seems like it could be potentially unfair to anyone who doesn’t use it. All your guys are 1 color and easy to mentally filter out. The other team is many other colors and easy to spot…

    • Baka says:

      Your teammates have huge symbols over their head. You’re spotting this before noticing the armor of their color.

    • Hallgrim says:

      Not sure if you guys are unaware of or hostile towards recent cannon, but Deathwatch would explain away any complaints about individuals from different chapters working together.

      See http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/01/22/cardboard-children-deathwatch-rpg/

    • mejoff says:

      Which would make sense except Deathwatch are anti-Xenos specialists… Eh, I suppose they might just happen run into a Chaos warband… of multiple different chapters and faiths… because they all get on with each other so famously.

      Nah fuckit, I want a mod that makes it look like the teams are teams.

    • kadeton says:

      Hallgrim: Except then they’d all be in black armour, with individual chapter shoulder markings.

    • fullbleed says:

      @mejoff

      I think in the Eisenorn books the Deathwatch lend a hand to fight chaos, in fact despite Eisenhorn and Ravenor being ordo xenos inquisitors they don’t seem to spend a lot of time fighting, well xenos.

    • DazedByTheHaze says:

      Colors like glowing neon-green and forcemodels to biggest character possible with the loudest walking sound you can find? Oh wait, that was an other game. A real multiplayer game… ;)

    • Jim9137 says:

      I don’t believe it would be stretch to program a filter that would make your teammates look like you /to you/. This has been done in America’s Army, after all, in an fashion.

      Eitherway, still can’t hear that buzz.

  7. wccrawford says:

    I’m typically not interesting in multiplayer, but you make this sound like a lot of fun. I may have to give it a try.

  8. Jazz42 says:

    Sigh
    Can’t play it at the moment, too much lag. But the 30 seconds of normal game time i had was fun.
    Iron within, Iron without and all that.

  9. P4p3Rc1iP says:

    So, what about co-op? Future DLC, a patch, an expansion? I’d love me some last stand type co-op with unlocks and all!

    • Askeladd says:

      Something like that is in the making… watch the official forums.

  10. Premium User Badge

    JB says:

    It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again. That last screenshot is very pleasing to the eye.

    (Also, Dark Angels? Pfft. Death Guard for me, please.)

  11. Jim9137 says:

    I think the biggest lack of the multiplayer is either the lack of tyranids (I hope the terminator game will have so many genestealers I literally swim in their guts) or the lack of IG. I want to shoot my pussy lasrifle at those hulking demigods, and swarm them with the others of my hopeless brethern who are about to die in less than two seconds, but not much more than that.

    • Calneon says:

      I think the most requested feature common among all Warhammer 40k games is Tyrannids. Damn would it be sweet to be a Carnifex in multiplayer or something xD. Maybe in DLC or expansions.

  12. tenqual says:

    The multiplayer is really quite fun, having just finished playing it for like six hours straight. Some of the maps make the 8v8 seem pretty much perfect, while others are just a bit too large, but they’re all pretty fun. There is a good balance between all the classes, and not having to pick one to be your avatar, means you can switch between deaths (very helpful), and they all level up together.

    Major complain is the way they do matchmaking, it’s pretty awesome getting a game full of Aussies (me being from Australia), and having nearly zero lag, but throw in a few US, and suddenly we’re turned to crap because of three of them.

  13. Mystrunner says:

    I for one am having a blast with Multiplayer. When you find yourself on a team where a few people have mics (and are using headsets) and are willing to communicate, the game shifts impressively. Things like the teleport beacon allows you and your coordinated team-mates to remain as a coherent group and generally rofflestomp your way forward.

    • iniudan says:

      Would gladly use my mic but most people are too dump to set activate when pressing a key in steam setting, so I just tend to mute everything for I am tired of hearing game echo, someone playing while heaving a professional phone call (not joking), people breathing, the usual sound troll…

      You just stop caring about the wanting to speak when half the player with a mic are a source of constant annoying sound.

  14. Kollega says:

    I understand that since this article is already a few hours old, this comment will probably fall on deaf ears – but does Space Marine really deserve separate Wot I Think articles for singleplayer and multiplayer? Do you do the same kind of thing for other triple-A shooters that include both single- and multiplayer, or was Space Marine just given a pass because it’s a Warhammer game?

    • Alec Meer says:

      The rules: there are no rules.

    • iniudan says:

      Cannot really tell for I don’t tend to play a lot of AAA shooter outside of the single player, actually don’t play a lot of them period. Thing I play in multiplayer are strategy games, MMO (rarely now), TF2 (played TFC before), Red Orchestra (Day of Defeat went to the trash can when it came out =p), Mount & Blade and Space Marine. Some maybe I just come to enjoy it for I am not over saturated since for me the only thing that come close in play style is TF2 (TF2 been a hat simulator and Space Marine been a power armor simulator, so I guess you can imagine assault class to be something like a grenade jumping eyelander/targe demoman, who can also charge the ground while in mid-air =p)

  15. Cyberpope says:

    just thought id pop this here
    I caved in and preorderd this from Game. I just got a lovely email from them saying theres a problem and its been delayed.
    well ive learned my lesson

  16. ivan_dolvich says:

    so just a few notes from me.

    matchmaking is a terrible thing, it takes forever and i have no clue whats actually going on .

    mic always on is a terrible thing, i do not care how loud you baby or dog is and what your mom made for dinner.

    2 game modes and 5 maps that are approx 100mx100m is just not enough for a modern multiplayer portion

    i have lost all stamina to level up to 41!? if only this was a huge map on a server i can pick with 64 or more players this would be awesome fun

    short sp campaign and very lazy mp.

    buy when it goes on sale

    • iniudan says:

      The mic is not stuck in always on it people that are too dumb to adjust their steam setting to be on press key to activate microphone, since the game use the steamwork voice chat.

  17. Ergates_Antius says:

    “I dolled myself up as a Dark Angel the very instant I could”
    As is only right and proper.

  18. Shortwave says:

    I can’t lie, I’m terribly depressed that this game isn’t fully coop.
    That would of been a day one sell for me instead of a “Wait for a good sale” sell.
    This game would of crushed the likes of Gears of War were it fully, REALLY, coop.

    Sorry to say but I’m sick of only actually being able to fight off waves of repetitive enemies with my friends.
    I’d like to enjoy the stories with them, like it were us watching a movie together.. I have a LAN for a reason.
    I DON’T CARE IF IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE IN THE STORY, we can adjust our brains for that.

    Please start doing real coop again devs. : /

  19. Premium User Badge

    mcnostril says:

    It’s a bit annoying that the matches can be so short.
    I’ve had quite a few games where just as the tension is mounting, the timer runs out. I understand their goal of fast-paced quick games, but when you have two teams that are working well together, it’d be nice to get some extra playtime before everything gets shuffled again.
    It’s even more irritating because private games allow you to set all kinds of options (including one to let you disable custom armors), but public games all use the default settings which lead to very short games. An option to filter or something would be nice, although I’m not sure how it would work with the horrendous matchmaking crap that is now the norm (to be fair, it does have some appealing features).

    The actual gunplay is pretty fun though. It’s interesting to watch people slowly get used to weapons and tactics, and when teams start working in a semi-organized fashion and have a good ol’ standoff at a point, it looks like what 40K should look like. Bolter fire everywhere, jump packs streaking across the skies, explosions, gruff metallic screams and the roar of chainswords. And a 15 year old telling his mother that he doesn’t want meatloaf for dinner. WHY RELIC, WHY? (amusingly enough they did the same bloody thing with DoW2)

    Shame there aren’t more game modes. Annihilation is rubbish (and the default kill limit is much too low considering the pace of the game), so that only leaves Seize Ground, which is quite fun, but other modes would have been great too. I’m surprised there isn’t some type of Assault gametype considering how much fun defending (or taking on an organized defense) can be with the mix of classes on offer.

    • iniudan says:

      The always on microphone is not Relic fault at least for Retribution and Space Marine, since it people too dumb to switch their steam setting to press key for the microphone. For Vanilla DoW II and Chaos rising forgot if GFWL live has such setting, the voice chat quality was poor on GFWL anyway.

      They suppose to be a coop mode next month, not sure if they planned to release new multiplayer game mode.

  20. wazups2x says:

    No dedicated servers means no multiplayer for me.

    • Shortwave says:

      That sucks, hm.

    • DazedByTheHaze says:

      Depends on what you mean Shortwave. Shooters with no dedicated servers suck, yes. We played a century on dedis, stop giving us this crap developers pleeease we really WANT to play multiplayer. But every thing over 100ms delay is a step back into the fucking analog/ISDN days coome on! We have over 90% DSL users in europe, last time we had delay was around 1999 or something, god damn this shit makes my blood boil…

  21. westyfield says:

    Question: if you can fully customise your character’s appearance, how do you tell friends from enemies?

    • Chuck84 says:

      Spikes and horns that sort of thing. At a glance, Chaos Marines look different. Oh, and allies have a marker over them, apparently(won a copy, still waiting on it)

    • aircool says:

      One side is Imperium, the other Chaos. The spiky, ‘Lordi’ lookalites will be the kiddiwinks, the heroic, super warrior types will be the old farts.

    • westyfield says:

      Ok, that makes sense. Thanks!

    • Karol says:

      Not only that, but considering that you get placed in the Imperium or Chaos camps randomly, it’s much easier to tell who is on your team and who isn’t by the huge name-plate appearing over your team-mates.

  22. Sardaukar says:

    You can absolutely play as a squad, and it will pretty much always net you victory. I play with five others and during the matches we coordinate via ventrilo, we generally demolish the enemy, working either in pairs or two teams of three. There’s solo-effective, and then there’s a Devastator luring out some Chaos marines so that two chainsword-happy Assault marines can STRIKE FROM THE SKY BROTHERS.

    Or there’s the game where we all kitted out with melta guns, the fast respawn perk, and the mobile respawn point perk. That was pretty hilarious, from our end of the guns.

    • Karol says:

      That sounds really awesome. And really – it makes sense! I mean, I remember making a firing line (multicoloured, of course), of 4 marines next to that middle point in the open map with the fall to your death edges, right after the corner.

      Any heretic turning the corner would feel hot plasma, kraken bolts and bolt pistol bolts poisoning his blood flow.

  23. aircool says:

    I’m looking forward to the Exterminatus mode. Hopefully they’ll pump out a ‘nids campaign and Exterminatus mode at some point as the game is pretty much ideal for rampaging through the intestines of a Hive Ship (like Advanced Space Crusade, but with real Marines, not Scouts).

  24. Jazz42 says:

    Space Hulk game mode.

    That is what we want.
    Though reading all these people wanting terminator armour in mp..do they have any idea how unbalanced that would be? Why we don’t have Techmarines or Apothecaries is a better question. Getting XP from harvesting gene seeds would be an awesome meta game.

  25. shagen454 says:

    I guess it’s time for a new Homeworld?

  26. Syra says:

    I would say it’s more than just forgettable, the vertical element the jump pack guys add makes it a really exciting game. I’m loving it, played for like 8 hours straight, and I’m really not a competitive multiplayer kind of guy.

    The lack of dedicated servers totally kills it though, the lag is fucking horrible in 60% of games. After the mess Relic made of Dawn of War 2’s community with their terrible p2p lagfests I’m amazed they haven’t actually learned anything.
    On the community forums relic pretty much said they won’t be fixing this, so fuck them.

    It’ll be a wait for coop, and after that’s gotten boring it will be a dead game.

  27. kombatunit says:

    Too bad team damage is not on. My World Eater cannot abide those pink and fuchsia scumbags.

    • iniudan says:

      At least they are been more original by choosing a Slaanesh dedicated legion (which are usually the one in the pinky armor tone), but the hate is understandable since Slaanesh is the enemy of Khorne. =p

  28. strikerduece says:

    After playing 3+ hours of multi and getting to level 7 or so all I can say is I’m off to another game to find some fun for myself instead of being the target of fun by some tricked out uber 31+ level player. I’m tired enough of this reward time over skill crap that I’m just so done really…really tired and done. There are so many other things that time/practice/money improve that I just can’t see spending any more of anything I have to ‘get’ to level 8 while fueling some level 31’s satisfaction.

    • Jazz42 says:

      yeah that really does suck. At least it’s not as bad as Assbro with the hidden gun.
      ergh

    • aircool says:

      Ooops, I meant see below….

    • aircool says:

      Except that you can choose the use the equipment and perks of the person who’s just killed you, whether you’ve unlocked them or not.

      Yup, if you think some little upstart has an unfair advantage, if they kill you, you can match them like for like. That should put to bed most arguments about gear being overpowered.

  29. aircool says:

    MP is far better than SP. I won a me v 3 melee with just a Bolter and a Knife. I felt fekkin’ awesome. I might be looking at the game through Crimson Fist Tinted Glasses, but I love it. Just needs some PC loving (and an option to turn off voip completely… I hate Heavy Metal!).

  30. Cavendish101 says:

    Just as a comment to the repeated “Just change the steam options to not have the mic open all the time!!one1″… You know that DOES NOT WORK right? Its open REGARDLESS of your steam settings for voice.

    You have to set your computers default mic to something else then what you use for it to be off, then change your Teamspeak/Skype/Ventrilo to your “real” mic. Thats currently the only way to have press-to-speak in Space Marine. (Oh and yes, that indeed means you cant use the in-game voice in any good way. You need a private TS server or something.)

  31. aircool says:

    Despite the nasty P2P connection business, I’m really enjoying this game. I was under the impression that the game was a pretty mindless hack and slash, with an equally shallow multiplayer. I’m quite happily being proved wrong.

  32. Barman1942 says:

    Definitely agree with the review. I’m enjoying MP, but I wish there was more to it. Luckily we should be getting just that with the free DLC Relic is planning.

  33. soylentrobot says:

    i just wish this mode had a proper server system, like tf2