Retribution doesn't add any new multiplayer game types to the mix, but it still offers several improvements that distinguish it from the previous games. The most notable addition is the inclusion of the Imperial Guard faction for the skirmish modes. Basic Imperial Guardsman infantry squads, while fragile, are extremely useful units because they can fix allied vehicles, as well as create their own heavy cover and construct automated turrets. Each of the Guard's hero units can deploy bunkers that, in addition to sheltering troops, may be upgraded to heal nearby vehicles or infantry. Additionally, the bunkers may be booby-trapped, just in case the enemy captures them. While these bonuses make the Imperial Guard excellent at locking down an area, they have also been blessed with awesome tanks like the Baneblade, which is a behemoth adorned with at least a half-dozen turrets. Thus, the Imperial Guard faction is incredibly useful in team games; it's capable of both holding strategic points in the early game and contributing awesome firepower once it's time to crush the enemy under gigantic tank tracks.
Orks can always be counted on to brighten up a battlefield.
Additional improvements to multiplayer include the scuttling of the Games for Windows Live service in favor of Steam alone. Furthermore, all six factions and 30-plus skirmish maps are playable regardless of whether you own DOWII or Chaos Rising, which makes Retribution more enticing for people who skipped the last two games. Also, the Last Stand mode now boasts a new map, as well as a hero unit from the Imperial Guard, but these don't come at the expense of your older characters from Chaos Rising, which can be ported over without any difficulties. Cooperative campaigns have also been improved by allowing both players to build new units during levels and rewarding you with special war gear for helping a friend through the campaign.
Retribution remains as visually stunning as its predecessors. The environments are still largely destructible, and watching your tanks demolish an enemy's cover never gets old. Individual units have excellent animations, and the sight of a Space Marine turning an Ork's head into a fine red paste with a giant warhammer is truly beautiful. However, the maps sometimes get a little repetitive because they have a tendency to be littered with the ruins of destroyed tanks, craters, and burned-out buildings. Maps set on the pristine jungle planet Typhon really stand out in comparison, with its waterfalls, rivers, and lush canopies showing the potential beauty to be found in Retribution.
The excellent production values don't stop with the visuals. While the score and sound effects are generally excellent, it is the voice acting that really shines. Lord General Castor in particular has a wonderfully pompous "Great White Hunter" vibe about him, though that stems from good writing as much as the voice actor. Additionally, the Ork hero, Kaptin Bluddflagg, will define what an Ork pirate sounds like for generations to come. As always, too much "Dakka Dakka Dakka" can be grating on the ears, but it wouldn't be Warhammer 40,000 without it.
Is there any sight more majestic than a matured Hive Lord?
Retribution offers a lot of content for its $30 price tag. Each play-through of the campaign takes somewhere between five and 10 hours, which, coupled with multiplayer, makes this a superb value. The ability to play every faction in both multiplayer and the campaign; the high production values and attention to detail; the hilarious characters and spectacular set pieces; the single-player, co-op, and competitive game modes; and Retribution's incredible value all overshadow its few failings. Retribution isn't just a stand-alone expansion; it stands out as the best iteration yet in this series.