Few pop culture brands have got the hopes of its fans up with new video game announcements only to dash them repreatedly like Warhammer 40,000. The classic Games Workshop tabletop game could translate to the gaming world in any number of ways, but so far its seen as many misses as hits.
Maybe the solution is just to keep the gameplay simple but the brand flavor high, which is what Roadhouse Interactive does with Warhammer 40,000: Carnage does for mobile gamers. The look and feel provide as much of a gateway into the struggle to protect the Imperium as you’re likely to see on iOS or Android devices, but the gameplay feels like someone dropped Space Marines into Contra — a pretty awesome concept if you can get past some impreciseness from the controls.
The set-up for Carnage appears fairly bare bones at first glance. The planet Mithra, on the far reaches of the Imperium, has sent out a call for help. Only your lone Space Marine apparently makes it to lend a hand, but as we all know, that can be plenty.
Each level has you rushing from left-to-right across different locations in Mithra, attempting to reach the next checkpoint in one piece while dispatching as many Orks as possible. As a Space Marine, you’ve got a melee weapon and a ranged weapon to help send the Xenos to the afterlife, plus a shield that can provide protection in short bursts from enemies up close and at a distance.
Simple virtual buttons activate attacks and move your character left or right, though once the screen scrolls, you can’t backtrack to ground you’ve already covers. These are perfectly responsive, but there can be problems with the button that activates your jump pack. It can be tapped for a short jump or held down for bigger leaps, but the inexactness of both is bound to have you uttering curses against Chaos as you fall prey to environmental hazards on occasion. A side-scrolling platformer with jumping elements needs to have dependable jumps, and these aren’t, at least not all the time.
Those issues are compounded by the fact that your score for each level is reduced by how long it takes you to finish and how many wounds the Space Marine suffers along the way, both of which can be affected by missed jumps. Still, the combat is a good mix of twitch-based action and strategy, and everything but the bosses comes in some nice variety even in the early stages. There’s even a level later on that requires you to literally run and gun, firing a storm bolter or plasma pistol behind you as you run like heck to avoid a screen-filling Ork Gargant.
Speaking of weapons, Warhammer 40,000: Carnage has plenty of them, all taken directly from the source material. A big part of the fun is finding the combo that fits your sensibilities the best — I’m a fan of a Plasma Gun/Lightning Claw loadout myself — though you are somewhat beholden to the gods of randomness when it comes to your Wargear. Silver earned during levels can buy the gear that comes out of mission caches at the end of a successful run, but you don’t know how good the loot is going to be until you open each chest, and you might need the silver you just spent upgrading your armor to buy that shiny new weapon. It’s a system that can be frustrating at times.
The game is also still missing some features that seem promising, like putting Fire Teams and Companies together to tackle group objectives. Solo play did get an extra boost with the recent (and challenging) Dark Angel update, bringing the total number of Space Marine chapters you can use to three. The fact that you need to unlock the new content with in-game Gold leaves a slightly bitter taste, as you simply don’t earn much of it during gameplay. Essentially paid updates on top of an app that is premium-priced to begin with never sits too well.
Alas, it can be hard to care once you see the great care with which the Space Marines and their foes have been translated to the game. The graphics are superb, especially when you see the close-ups of your Space Marine during the Wargear screens. Periodic lore updates keep you firmly immersed in the world of Mithra and the larger Warhammer 40K universe as well.
It’s going to be a question for each fan of the franchise to decide if there’s enough substance for the price to go with the unquestionable style. Warahmmer 40,000: Carnage simply lets you run amok with with a full complement of Space Marine weapons against an unending horde of Orks, and if that sounds like your idea of a good time, it’s worth checking out.
Pull the trigger on Warhammer 40,000: Carnage if …
- You want a more action-oriented Warhammer 40K mobile game to play
- The lone wolf style suits you better than playing alongside others
- You want to see some Space Marines in more glorious detail than you’d be able to paint yourself
Don’t pull the trigger if …
- Missed jumps in a side-scrolling platformer will make you throw your phone or tablet
- You were born to play in a Fire Team
- You’re not fond of grinding for Gold or paying to unlock new Space Marine chapters