There have been several games in the past based around the Warhammer 40K universe, and up until Relic's Dawn of War series, most have been pretty average.
Now, the teams at Relic and THQ have turned their attention to the 3rd-person action/shooter genre with their latest title, Space Marine.
The premise of Space Marine is fairly straightforward at first: a Forge World (an entire planet dedicated to manufacturing weapons and war machines) is under attack by an army of Orcs, looking to break the defences and plunder its rich stockpile of weapons and secrets for themselves. Who else but Space Marines can turn back the tide of greenskins and save the day?
Taking control of the titular hero, Captain Titus, you lead a small band of veteran marines through the single player campaign.
The build I got to play, from E3 this year, featured two levels and brought me into battle against both Orcs and the forces of Chaos.
One of the first things that is noticeable on entering the game is that the team at Relic has definitely captured the Gothic feel of the 40K Universe. The landscape is littered with buildings that are half ruined and the atmosphere is one of pollution and smog, perfectly depicting a galaxy that is constantly at war. All of the characters have a grizzled and grimy look about them that gives an inherent sense of veterancy and personality.
The controls in Space Marine will be pretty familar to most people that have played a 3rd person shooter before. Crisp and responsive, they work well, are easy to learn and are fairly intuitive.
The combat, and let’s face it, this game is all about the combat, is bloody and brutal. Charge through a crowd of Orcs with your Chainsword and blood starts flying all over the place. Firing a plasma cannon at full charge will turn a mob of enemies into an exploding hazy red mess and pressing B in close combat will initiate a special kill move, of which there are plenty, with fantastically gory variations.
During combat, your character charges up his Fury meter, and this power can be unleashed as a melee area of effect attack to decimate and stun enemies, or used in range combat to enter bullet-time to nail that precision headshot.
Weapons are mapped to the D-pad, allowing you to carry four at any one time (not counting your melee weapon) and we encountered a wide range of options in our time with the build, from Bolters, to Plasma Cannons, to Melta Guns and Lascannons. Weapons generally seemed to fit into the standard sterotypes, with Bolters being comparable to Machine Guns, Lascannons similar to sniper rifles, and Melta Guns filling the role of Shotgun.
While the game is all about taking down thousands of enemies in ever-increasing amounts of gore, it was surprising that the game showed a lot of balance in how you choose to play. Charging into a mob of Orcs, Chainsword swinging, is a very effective tactic, but so is using a mine launcher to boobytrap the area in front of you, while you stand back, firing devastating bursts of plasma into the enemy mobs.
Based on what I have seen so far, it’s clear that Relic has a huge amount of passion for the 40K universe, and I can’t wait to look at the final build of the game.