In the 41st Century, the only thing standing between the Imperium of Man and the approaching Xeno threat are the Space Marines, genetically enhanced superhuman warriors that form the heart of the Warhammer 40,000 (40K) universe. As Ultramarine Captain Titus, Space Marine sends you on a mission to save the forge world of Graia and its Titan war machines from a million-strong Ork assault.
Developer Relic has been making real-time strategy games set in the Warhammer 40K tabletop wargame universe for years, but Space Marine shifts the viewpoint from far up in the sky to an over-the-shoulder perspective. The combination of a huge armoured marine and the third-person view has drawn the inevitable comparison with Gears of War, but Space Marine is a very different game.
For starters, although you can hide behind objects, there’s no real cover system – you can’t even jump or crouch. Space Marine is all about getting stuck in, softening the enemy up from afar with your boltgun and charging in with a variety of melee weaponry from the 40K universe – from chainswords and power axes to giant hammers. Close combat is frantic, and dependent on chaining attacks together to fend off enemies on all sides. You’re usually swamped with aliens trying to chop you to pieces, so most encounters are a bloody button-mashing evisceration-fest.
Aside from your main weapons, you have a few special moves; charging into the enemy from a sprint can knock weaker foes off their feat, even causing the weakest aliens to explode. Pressing F performs a stun attack, which can be followed with an execution move that dispatches an enemy in a particularly bloody and satisfying way. This takes time, during which you’re vulnerable to attack, but it’s also the only way to regain health mid-fight. Timing is important, as respites from combat are rare.
Ranged weaponry comes into its own during the later levels, where you face tougher foes that need picking off from a distance. There’s plenty of choice, from short-range blasters such as the awesome Melta to the sniping Stalker Bolter and rapid fire Storm Bolter. As you dispatch enemies either from up close or afar, you fill up your Fury meter. Once full, you can unleash the fury, doing extra damage in melee mode or slowing down time when shooting, letting you chain together a succession of headshots.
Despite its rather blunt nature, the combat is fun and relentless, with the game doing a good job of making you feel like a one-man army wearing a half tonne of power armour. The ground shakes with every step when sprinting, and there’s a satisfying clang when you fall to earth. This feeling of sheer power is portrayed particularly well when you find a jump pack, which lets you soar into the sky and crash down on your enemies, throwing them to the ground in a wide radius.