Hello, ladies and gents at Streum On and Focus Home! I have waited quite a while to see a first-person Space Marine experience brought to video games, and I have to say you've nailed a great portion of it. Excellent sound design, the only music required is that of the creaking, groaning hunk of ships that the game takes place over. Models and textures are fantastic, environmental clutter is immersive and detailed. Playing as Terminators feels appropriately chunky, and is a great facet of gameplay in terms of having enough space in a room or corridor to get proper firing angles, and location based damage brings a lot of interesting variety to how each combat plays out.
However, it is clear that the game is lacking polish and well-rounded design in a good deal of areas, and I would like to describe a few in hopes that the most easily fixable issues could possibly get solved on the horizon. I am all for expanding the game with more classes and gameplay, but I believe that fixing and polishing the existing, wonderful core game would go even further to improving player's experiences and recommendations to others. This will probably be quite a long post, but I don't want to skip over anything, and I want you guys to get the fullest feedback you can about some things that I see as important issues with the game, I just hope that somebody reads this.
To start off, one strange inconsistency I noticed immediately when I started playing the game was that not all guns drop their clips when reloaded. The Librarian's Stormbolter does, and so does Hellfire, but Redemption, and the basic Stormbolter used by classes other than the Librarian do not. It feels bad to watch your marine shake the gun downwards, then lower it to insert the next clip when the original clip never left the gun. There are probably other guns that may have this issue as well, but these are the ones I know have that issue for sure. A small problem, but believe me that the little things wrong with the game build up into an overall lessening of its first impression. It really compounds when you use these guns often and reload them dozens and dozens of times even in just one level. Reloading a weapon is an inherently satisfying capstone to the magazine you just used and punctuates moments in the action with satisfying respite and restocking. I would also like to point out that with the alternate assault cannon 'Vengeance' its firing animation brings the ammo counter below your armor, making it impossible to see how many bullets are left in your clip while firing. Moving the counter up or forwards on the barrel of the gun would perhaps solve this issue without needing to alter the animations.
I think that one of the biggest issues the game currently has is a lack of tutorialization and explanation of basic mechanics. The tutorial currently in the game only teaches you a few things. How to move, sprint, shoot and zoom, destroy walls using your melee, and pick up relics. There are many, many facets of the game that are not explained whatsoever, such as how to find relics in the first place: listening for the whisper sound effect. The sound plays during the tutorial, but for a first time player unfamiliar with the game's ambient sounds they may not realize, and I have seen players deep into the game that never understood how to look for relics.
Another commonly misunderstood basic mechanic is the psy gate bar to the left of your suit's damage layout. Initially when I started playing the game I assumed that was a health bar, but was extremely confused when I noticed that it didn't fill up when I was healed, and did not reduce when I was damaged. Only when other players told me did I realize that it fills when you pick up relics, and also kill Xenos, and once filled gives you an extra psy gate charge. I am still not entirely sure what fills up the bar and by how much, and it is a bit much to expect players to learn such a basic facet of the game by experimentation or being told by others who had to figure it out themselves.
The multiplayer XP progression system could also do with a little tutorial blurb explaining exactly how it works. From what I can tell it seems that you level your class every time you start a new session, but I am not entirely sure if that's the case or not, it's not really explained anywhere if it's a meta-permanent progression, or if it's done per-session, more akin to a MOBA's leveling style. I am sure it's not a very complicated system, but there needs to be somewhere for new players to read about how it works instead of jumping and having to ask people or figure it out themselves, these are basic facets of gameplay that should be understood in order for people to properly play the game with others, I know that a lot of these sorts of things will be learned over time, but I'm more than a dozen games in and only have a rudimentary grasp on many of these parts of the game.
The tutorial could also do with a section explaining the different types of weapons and their effects, allowing you to fire a few, and explaining what situations they would be useful for. The plasma cannon can stagger broodlords with each hit, this is important knowledge for people wondering about which weapons to use or how to properly fight those Xenos. Entering the loadout screen for the first time you are greeted by statistics bars for the weapons, that are mostly useless as the weapons behave so radically differently that it's more about a situational playstyle than maximizing which weapon has the best fire rate or accuracy.
In the same vein as the weapons, there should be a bit more explanation on the classes and their purposes and abilities. The only way to learn the abilities is to sit on the loadout screen and read Levels 1-4 for each class, then figure out for yourself that 1-4 also corresponds to the key you press on your keyboard to use each skill, and that you're not just selecting which skill to bring in the loadout menu. My friend and I both initially thought that when selecting Levels 1-4 we were making a loadout selection, since each level gets highlighted when you click it.
While I'm talking about the abilities, I'd like to point out an issue with audio/visual feedback on the abilities. There are some skills such as the Chaplain's team buffs that are not properly displayed to your team upon use. The Chaplain gets a screen aura depending on what buff he uses, but when using them he shouts nothing to the team, and nobody else gets any screen auras. Without the Chaplain player typing into chat themselves, no one would even know they were being buffed. An extension of the screen aura to the other players would do just fine for that, it's how players know they're being healed, as well. I would like to point out that the Chaplain is a great class, looks great, fulfills a support position not delivered by any of the other classes. Good work, guys.
While a lot of people play this game on normal as a basic shooter, I believe the strength of the game lies in its tactics and methodical pacing. I think that with adjustments the multiplayer community can be ushered towards a more tactical style, and this would benefit the game and its reputation more than its current state. On the tactical map you can make custom waypoints by pressing the E key where your cursor lies. How did I figure this out? By noticing that in the map legend there was a custom waypoint marker. Left and right click don't do anything on the map, but the E key drops a waypoint marker. This isn't an inherent issue, but it's not logical compared to most other video games where one of the mouse buttons drops a marker, and it wouldn't be an issue at all if there were a blurb of text anywhere in the game saying that you could even drop custom markers and how.
The other biggest way to beef up the tactical edge of the multiplayer is to radically alter and improve voice commands. This would probably be difficult to fix without adding more voice commands, but I think it would go a long way in improving public games and the teamwork of a squad. The current voice commands are cannibalized from the single-player commands, and lack any variety in actual vocal call-outs. Many different commands simply use the "move to this point!" call out, forcing any players to take their eyes off of their firing lines to look at what point is being highlighted and what they are actually meant to do at that point. Hell, I'd even record some lines, they don't even have to be well-voice acted or acted by the original actors, the utility of knowing a command without looking is incredibly useful in a tactics-oriented game with chaotic situations such at this one.
There also need to be more commands for multiplayer than there are now. Basic things such as affirmative or negative in order to confirm that you are following orders or are coming in to heal somebody. You should also be able to tell a team mate that you wish to heal them, so that they're not running away from you, and you don't have to type that you wish to heal them, which can be dangerous in this game. Aside from that there need to be a few basic tactical commands, such as 'stick close', 'fan out', 'form up', and 'cover this angle/hallway'. These would make teamwork a lot smoother and more calculated and allow for inherent player satisfaction from giving and following complex tactical orders. The game certainly creates combat scenarios that call for this level of tactical depth, but the in-game communication do not allow for easy compensation.
As a small closing suggestion for the multiplayer, I would also like to point out that at this point there still isn't a way to know what difficulty a server is playing on, or if friendly fire is on or off, which are important details depending on what kind of player you are. I think that you should also consolidate Codex Rules on and off into one server browser. The game doesn't have enough servers at any time to warrant having to flip between Codex on and off to find a server. Listing them all in one group would show that there are more people playing than one might think, and make for quicker, easier access to a part of the game that you see every single time.
The final portion of the game that I would like to touch on is the single-player. I believe that the single-player mode is secondary to the multiplayer in its current implementation, solely because of the implementation of your two AI squadmates. The biggest issue is that your team mates are incapable of healing themselves autonomously, which is simply unnacceptable in this game. Situations can get quite intense, especially with only three marines, and there are times when you wish that your squaddie didn't just die because he didn't get your express permission to heal himself. Having a set of thresholds under which your team mate would heal himself or others would do much to make single-player easier to get into and play. Even if there were one threshold that the player couldn't change, it would still be better than none at all.
Some low-level rules of engagement would also do great things for the AI, such as being able to tell the assault marine to focus on large enemies or small fry, telling one of them to watch your backside while you move forward, things like that. I think that increasing their awareness would also help. They shoot well enough, but sometimes they have a lag time at identifying threats and beginning to mitigate them, and in this sort of game, as trained and genetically enhanced super soldiers they should be able to do a better job.
Above all, I believe that the biggest issue gating people out of properly enjoying and reviewing this game is its performance. It's had many patches, and I have only arrived at this latest one, but even still the game has freezes and stutters often, even on the lowest settings, bringing me to believe it's a CPU issue. If the game ran smooth it would go to incredible lengths at allowing more people to get into it and enjoy it properly.
I hope that these suggestions can help improve this game's future at all, and I can extrapolate any point if need be, and if any of these complaints are simply wrong and I haven't understood enough of the game to see its solution I apologize. This game deserves a better reception than it's got, because there's a lot of great stuff in the game, but there are many ways to lower the skill floor and teach players about the high skill ceiling.