Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

It’s almost a year since the first footage of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine escaped Relic’s offices, but what a difference twelve months can make. Originally pitched as a melée-heavy Gears of War with a speed boost (ranged weapons subdue enemies but you need to get close and trigger one of the ‘cinemaction executions’ to finish ‘em off) it’s now an action RPG with hand-to-hand combat.

If you’re unfamiliar with Games Workshop’s futuristic world it’ll take tomes of information to fill in all the details, so here’s our sixty-nine word slapdash version. Deep breath. In the future, galactic battles are waged between varying factions of good and evil: Humanity, Chaos, Orkoids, Eldar, Tau, Tyranids and Necrons. In Relic’s game you play as a Space Marine of a faction of your choosing (Ultramarine’s the default but you’ll likely have the main nine to pick from) and battle swarms of Orks, bio-engineered insectoid Tyranids and the evil Chaos armies in a fight to save humankind. Got all that? Good.

The three other space marines who fight alongside you are currently AI-powered, but online co-op is planned. If Relic is successful, their RPG-lite Space Marine effort will fill the four-player vacuum that Silicon Knights infamously failed to deliver with Too Human. There’s less focus on rare drops and swathes of enemies here though: each kill is delivered through a careful combination of face-button melée attacks and shoulder-button ranged hits, giving the humanoid bruisers a slight Devil May Cry quality (but only slight – crazy acrobatics are off the menu). With a jetpack strapped to your back you’ll even be able to hurtle around levels and clatter into groups of Orks to knock them flying.

Underneath this action lives a system of leveling up, gear upgrades and ability modification. The main focus may lie in beheading and disemboweling Orks with fisticuffs, but Space Marine is proud of its stat-crunching underbelly which brings more thought into the button-mulching action. Ready for war sometime in early 2010, this could be one to watch. No, really! Nobody knows how to make Warhammer games quite like Relic Entertainment, but the lack of experience outside PC RTS games – middling launch game The Outfit notwithstanding – is, we’ll admit, a tiny bit worrying.

Jul 16, 2009