Courtesy Relic Entertainment

The miniatures wargame Warhammer 40,000 and I have something of a history. There have been periods in my life where I’ve had enough disposable income and free time to seriously consider the hobby. While the atmosphere and lore of the universe created by Games Workshop still holds appeal, more often than not I’ve found myself needing to feed myself and invest in other pursuits rather than properly outfit and paint an army of Eldar, Dark Angels or Black Templars. The Dawn of War RTS games circumvented the need to buy units by allowing gamers like myself to create armies within the context of those games, but the distant viewpoint necessary to corral several units of elite troops meant that things might feel less than authentic. You haven’t been able to properly experience first-hand the awesome size of a superhuman Space Marine, the visceral nature of close combat or the grim darkness of the far future… until now.

Courtesy Relic Entertainment
“Thank you, Captain Titus! But your Inquisitor is in another manifactorum!”

Space Marine puts you in the power armour of Captain Titus of the Ultramarines. Since this is only a demo we don’t get too much in the way of story, but it’s enough to whet the appetite. Savage orks have overrun a forge world, where the weaponry and machinery of the Imperium is created, and they are threatening to seize some sort of powerful device. With the Imperial Guard’s backs against the wall and Inquisitor Drogan missing, it’s up to Titus and his compatriots to fight their way through the tide of greenskins. Unlike some other games set in the 40k universe, the voice acting is relatively subdued when it comes to the humans and appropriately boisterous for the orks. But enough talk of story, we’re here to get our bolter & chainsword on.

Courtesy Relic Entertainment
Just another day at the office.

The very first thing I noticed, which has been said elsewhere, is that the characters and objects in this game feel like they have weight. Space Marines are massive, and not the kind to go bounding from cover to cover like they’re floating an inch above the ground. In fact, the Imperial Guard has a tendency to use the Space Marines as cover when the shooting starts. The ponderous pace of Titus as he tromps towards his foes, the barking sound of the bolter or bolt pistol and the way the rounds from each explode inside their targets leaves the game feeling authentic, as true to the mood and descriptions in the massive 40k tomes as possible.

Outside of the exciting prospect for fanboys of a ‘proper’ 40k game, there’s other aspects this shooter/spectacle fighter has going for it. You can carry more than a few weapons on your person, and there’s a good deal of variety. The Stalker-pattern bolter allows you to do a little sniping, and the Vengeance launcher provides the means for tactical set-up of a coming battle. And don’t think you can just duck out of the way and your health will magically come back to you. The force field that protects your armour will regenerate but your health does not. To get that back, you must channel the fury of the Emperor (which you can only do occasionally) or execute a foe. And these executions are brutal. Being reduced to a mere sliver of health only to manhandle an ork and pull off a wince-inducing kill in order to keep fighting is deeply satisfying in a way I should probably discuss with a professional.

Courtesy Relic Entertainment
So, sometime in the next dozen millenia we’re going to get our damn jet packs.

The demo provides two relatively short missions, one to give you the feel for a scenario start-to-finish and one to tease you with some jump pack action. Assault marines are some of the fastest and nastiest units in 40k and strapping a jump pack on has the same authenticity of the other aspects of the game. Hopping into the sky only to slam down onto an enemy placement intent on sniping your buddies with rockets (sorry, in ork speak that’s ‘rokkitz’) is just as satisfying as hefting one into the air, body-slamming it and stomping on its face. It’s very difficult not to enjoy the experience.

On the PC, the controls are smooth and fully customizable. The game has a great look and feel to it, with excellent sound design and a full orchestral score. While this title will mostly appeal to fans of the universe and spectacle fighter veterans of God of War and Bayonetta, from what I’ve seen Relic is doing just enough differently from both it’s own previous titles and current industry standards in both shooting games and action games to make Space Marine memorable and worth the time to play. The full game will be released in September.

The Emperor Protects.