Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
Quiet down at the back. We know what you’re thinking: ‘Another game with a bald space marine in power armour, stomping around shooting people. Yawn.’ While we don’t blame anyone for thinking this, we’re giving Space Marine the benefit of the doubt – and think you should too – for two reasons: one, Warhammer 40,000’s rich and ludicrously deep mythology and iconography is at least in part the inspiration for the likes of Gears Of War, and secondly, it’s looking really quite good.
The back story sees an Imperial Forge World, responsible for churning out the weapons and supplies for the Imperium’s interstellar battle to kill everything in the galaxy, under siege from a horde of space Orks. The planet is of strategic importance, and, being the only Space Marine unit in the vicinity, it’s up to you and your squad of genetically augmented Ultramarines to get down there and hunt some Ork.
Stepping an oversized, power-armoured foot onto terra firma, the character models are nice and chunky, as you would expect from guys wearing a protective suit that weighs more than a small hatchback, but pleasingly they’re also finely detailed. The Warhammer universe is, of course, spun out of tabletop games with a heavy emphasis on painting your own models, and so Relic would be remiss to not reflect the heritage of the brand.
Even so, seeing the royal blue and gold of the unit clashing against the Forge World’s ominously dreary, almost Fincher-esque setting is thrilling, both as an alternative to the dull greys of its competitors and also as a device to echo the vaguely fascistic paradigm out of which the marines operate.
Although superficially similar to Gears, Space Marine stays true to its inspiration and actually plays rather a different game. The eponymous marines are genetically altered, rigorously trained and religiously indoctrinated to be the most fearless warriors in the universe. As such, there’s none of this namby-pamby hiding behind walls nonsense: it’s straight into the fight and no questions asked.
Luckily, 40K’s Orks aren’t obliged to hide either: bred for war, the only way they can become larger in stature is to fight everything and anything that moves. Progressing through the Forge World’s dank walkways and molten, moulding passageways, we were beset on all sides by various sizes of Ork, ranging from tiny weaklings to ten tons of muscle that required some beating. Fortunately, being the most efficient killers in the galaxy has its advantages.
Your standard weapon, an automatic weapon known as the ‘Bolter’, will tear everything to shreds. It’s a way of not only emphasising the feral power of your character, but also of making sure that the absolute stunning number of enemies on screen are put to good use.
As you and your buddies bring the fire, repelling wave after wave of Ork rush in a hail of limb-severance and haemoglobin-splattering like the dark shadows of a grasping empire, it’s hard not to be reminded of the images that Warhammer 40K made its name with, that adorn countless Codex covers and other paraphernalia: a handful of righteous men fighting off impossible numbers with a righteous stoicism.
It’s obvious allegorical stuff really, but the game, to its credit, captures it absolutely perfectly. Still, it’s not all romping and stomping. The Warhammer 40,000 universe is rich and diverse, and Relic is amping up the set pieces in accordance. One mission begins with the player providing fire support from a Valkyrie, shooting down a squadron of Ork flyers – those are Orks in jetpacks, of course, flanked by their grinning, 19th Century aircraft designs – before they literally tear the wings off friendly aircraft.
Another sees one of said dropships attacking a flatbed freight train: following an explosive stand-off, the ship falls from the air, crashing into the rear compartment of the train and throwing it down the track, arcing toward the player with venomous intent before falling just short. We took a sharp intake of breath as it unfolded. Our Space Marine avatar just shrugged it off.
We were looking forward to Space Marine, even despite it having a title that would be better used in a game satirising the genre, not endorsing it, when it arrived, and we are looking forward to it even more now that we’ve seen it. The fact that the main menu has a mode for co-op and online multi – THQ declined to comment there – suggests that our excitement for this game will grow further still, brothers.