Among the myriad of digital content that GW are throwing at us right now, electronic entertainment is still somewhat thin on the ground. Since THQs dissolution a couple of years back the few GW based game franchises we did have were cruelly snuffed out and fans pleas for Dawn of War 3 or Space Marine 2, or even a remake of Final Liberation have gone unheeded. Of course there is the Eternal Crusade MMO and Space Hulk on Steam (also coming to next gen consoles soon) but that aside it’s been desolate indeed.
Step unto the breach mobile gaming. Easy and quick to develop and get out there they fit very much in with the GW bite size DLC policy, plus lets face it, GW can just farm out the license and reap the rewards. The problem with this approach is more or less the same problem Nintendo encountered with the Wii a few years back. Shovelware. By not being closely involved in the development process they have little control over the final quality of the product. This means you can get some utter crud turned out. Such was the case with the last GW Mobile title Storm of Vengeance. Ostensibly a Plants Vs Zombies style tower defense game but without any of the charm or playability it was horrible, I only played 5 minutes of it on Lees phone but that was enough to convince me I wanted no more.
Thankfully Storm of Vengeance is not the only mobile phone game to grace our handsets and we have a few other options. One of these is Warhammer 40,000: Carnage from Roadhouse Interactive, a sidescrolling action shooter game. As some might know I’ve been off work recently after an traffic accident and in a moment of weakness I downloaded it. Now I have been plugging away at it for a little while and feel qualified to tell you all about it, is it another mess like Storm of Vengeance or is it actually a rather playable bit of action fun? Read on….
|The game map, the little marine in the left hand corner is actually animated which is a nice touch.|
First of all lets look at the cost. Warhammer 40,000: Carnage is £4.99. Now this prices it towards the higher end of the Mobile game market but at the same time reassures you that its not a free to play but pay to win effort. Still, it might be a bit offputting to some and will deter some from the impulse buy that these games are clearly looking towards. It is also worth noting that the game will not run on all devices. My phone would run it but my Tablet (which is newer) would not. Worth checking before you buy….
Jumping into the game, one is greeted right from the off by a nice crunchy heavy metal soundtrack, not overly heavy and really just a few guitar riffs looped, think something along the lines of Dooms soundtrack at a higher bitrate and you are about there. Presentation on the game is minimal, a couple of pictures tell the bare bones plot (planet in trouble, sends for help, marines come) and away you go. You start off with a fully kitted and tooled up Ultramarines Captain and will settle into the basic concept very quickly. Buttons are forward, back (rarely used) melee, shoot, Block, jump and a couple of powerups. For the most part the controls are fairly responsive and you’ll be hacking and blasting Orks apart like there is no tomorrow. Jumping in the air with a jumppack and then hitting melee results in a hammer of Wrath attack which is loads of fun. Overall it is instant punchy simple action, run shoot, jump every now and again and generally enjoy killing stuff. Of course this is just the tutorial level and at the end the captain goes missing. Then the game starts proper with a basic marine, it feels like a bit of a fall to earth to suddenly lose all the prowess you had but as customization and leveling is a large part of the game it makes perfect sense.
|Hammer of Wrath!|
So demoted to battle brother you start all over again, in early levels you will encounter mostly Grots, these will offer no resistance and will fall before your warrior like wheat before the scythe. Fear not, as you progress you will encounter more stern opposition although in all honesty anything that attacks you in combat will cause you no problems, the Astartes far outclassing his greenskin foes. Boyz with shootas are definitely something that caused me issues though and careful use of the block button (a limited use shield of sorts) will be required, snapping off shots in between. There are also little items to collect here, codex entries and power ups and the like and some of these will not be reachable on your first playthrough adding to the replay value.
|The ability for customization is one of the best things about the game.|
The game, by its very nature is fairly derivative though boss battles and the odd level where you are running away from a Megadread add a little variation. The levels themselves are fairly similar with only placement and type of enemy and maybe the jumps varying. Of course as more dangerous foes are introduced and you will need to start improving your marine. This is where the upgrade system comes in. At the end of each fight you will be rated up to 3 stars and earn loot. You are then taken to a screen where you can buy, upgrade and equip wargear. This includes weapons armour and accessories like purity seals or when you unlock it the jumppack. A few more slots would be handy to add to the customibility potential but overall you can tinker about to a reasonable degree. Some options also change the look of your marine too which is a nice touch though you are limited in chapter choice to ultramarine at least at first (You can unlock a Blood Angel later). Then after you have increased the lethality of your warrior its back into the fray.
There is a fair amount of content in the game, I have not finished it yet but have already played through around 30 levels maybe more. Of course as I have said it can get a bit repetitive and in all honesty this is a game designed to be played in short bursts with the occasional replaying of levels to try to maximize your stars. Earning 3 stars on each level seems to unlock firefight mode for that level which appears to be some kind of co-op mode though I have not tried it so cannot pass comment. Stars also unlock rewards so as you get 30, 50 stars you will get loot or some other reward. Further adding replayability are the difficulty levels. One you have completed a sector on normally difficulty 2 additional levels will be unlocked, each of these has modifiers attached to make the level harder so the enemies might have increased health or do more damage or even regenerating health. It helps mix things up a little bit and definitely adds more challenge to the levels. You will need greatly upgraded equipment and skills to tackle the highest difficulty.
|For the Emperor!! Die Xeno filth!! etc etc....|
In the inevitable event of your death you can either restart the level or respawn from where you are at the cost of gold. Now gold can also be used in lieu of loot to buy items so be careful how you spend it. Of course you can always buy more gold (this is Carnage's only concession to the microtransaction model) from the store if you want to. Personally after dropping a fiver on the base game I don’t feel like forking out extra so I am being frugal with my respawns! Overall I am having rather a lot of fun with the game, the levels being rather short means that restarting or replaying them rarely feels like a chore and only the Megadread level presented a major stumbling bock. It also feels nice and authentic with everything looking as it should although it is definitely thin on the ground from a narrative sense.
In summary Warhammer 40,000: Carnage is a brash shallow bit of action fun. Don’t expect any kind of plot or strategy, this is straight up arcade action. There is a pleasing sense of authenticity to proceedings and it is evident that a degree of care has been employed in its design and construction. Everything functions more or less as you would expect although there are a couple of jarring inconsistencies that the Die hard fan might pick up. Now admittedly the game does come in at a premium price but there is rather a lot of content for your buck with the multiple sectors and difficulty levels and enhanced kit to get. Also replaying the mission to get the codex entries and improve your score will eat up a fair few hours im sure. So far I am quite happy with the value for money I have received from the game. Roadhouse are to be applauded for creating something immediate and loud and heavy, celebrating 40ks rock/metal roots and serving up bite size bouts of mindless violent platforming fun. Were it 2.99 I would be able to recommend it without reserve but as it is I would certainly urge you to pick it up if you are just hankering for a bit of blasting and hacking Greenskins to pieces along to a loud soundtrack.