Format: Xbox 360 (tested), PS3, PC
Stomp, stomp, murder, murder. That’s the rhythm of Space Marine. It’s a refrain that will ring through your head as you traverse the 18 levels of the game, your chainsword dripping with viscera, an exuberant smile twisted onto your lips. You’re a hacking, slashing instrument of war, a cosmic butcher in a suit of armour, wielding guns that fire out globs of burning plasma or searing hot lazer.
You are a Space Marine, the Emperor’s sword, and you’re going to turn everything that gets in your way into a fine red mist.
The game is a third person action adventure, mixing together bloody melee combat and a cover-less shooting system with seamless aplomb. You play as Captain Titus, an Ultramarine tasked with the defence of the forge-world Graia, which has been overrun by Orks.
The melee combat is thunderous and brutal. You’ll cut bloody swathes through the oncoming hordes, your blade flashing in the forge-world’s gloomy caverns and bright, crumbling battlefields. It’s not as nuanced as some, but Space Marine favours the direct approach – a few combos followed by a crunching coup de grace that usually detaches limbs or appendages.
Tapping the right shoulder button swaps you into ranged mode in an instant, allowing you to cut down waves of attackers with machine guns, fire spewing shotguns or lazer powered sniper rifles. You are a genetically altered behemoth, grown solely to kill, and Relic Entertainment have built a game that allows you to prove it.
After the first couple of hours, the game loses a little of its immediacy. To begin with, the rip and tear of flesh was enough, but the spark starts to wane as you plough through yet another gaggle of roaring alien scum. It’s still fun, and you’re still smiling, but beyond the repetition of slaughter, there doesn’t seem to be much more waiting for you in the cavernous expanses of Graia.
Once you’re past that slovenly centre though, Space Marine screams back in to life with righteous fury. The final act is a master work of explosive action. You storm a bridge, in the dying twilight, aided by a company of other marines, your blades and guns showering death and justice as you go. There might be unimaginative boss battles to follow, but there, on that bridge, Space Marine shows you how glorious war can be.
Multiplayer offers customisable marines and loadouts, and team battles for up to sixteen players. The class based system is a little unbalanced, but there’s visceral fun to be found in the war between the Empire and Chaos. A promised Horde mode derivative is supposed to arrive in the coming months, but right now is conspicuous in its absence.
Space Marine is a refreshingly honest shooter. There are no “bro” moments, no phallic symbolism or juvenile cuss words. Relic have built a game loyal to the universe that spawned it, grim and blood soaked. It’s not perfect, but it’s a hugely enjoyable, violently playable addition to the genre.
Just remember: Stomp, stomp, murder, murder…