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The Game Space Marine Makes Me Want to Play

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I’m at the end of Chapter 8 in Space Marine. I have killed a veritable shit-ton of orks at this point: stomping in their heads, gutting them with a chainsword, slashing them with a power axe, crushing them with a thunder hammer, shooting them from distance — I even killed one poor greenskin point blank with a damn melta gun.

There are scenes in this game that fulfill 20 year old 40K fantasies for me. Sitting back with a bolter and mowing down charging orks? Oh, man– a simple yet entirely guilty pleasure. Not that I don’t have issues with the game — I certainly do. I’m writing the review for Gameshark while Master Barnes will be doing the full review here at NHS.

THQ and Relic said repeatedly that they wanted the game to come off like a blockbuster piece of entertainment. Mission accomplished. It’s a shockingly visceral game. 100% pure adrenaline and with Relic’s ability to absolutely NAIL the 40K universe’s look and feel, it’s a dream game for a 40K nut. If you’re NOT a 40K nut? I’m not sure it’s going to resonate as much. But I am a 40K nut so I cannot say that with full confidence but the gameplay is exceedingly straight forward: see ork — kill ork. Space Marine is ALL about the delivery.

The characters lack any depth at all — in fact how weird is it that I like the characters in a real time strategy game more than this epic action adventure? There’s more depth in the talking heads of Dawn of War than there is here. I also don’t fully grasp the idea of how “Send in the Ultramarines” means…three dudes vs an army of orks. Ultramarines are tough, but…how often is it that you have to suspend your disbelief in a game about space orks? I used to play 40K with an ork army…I don’t remember them being marine fodder.

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Anyway, as entertaining as the game is, it makes me want to play something with a bit more bite to it and not just a run and gun and smash and stomp ork killing simulator. There is a brief section in Space Marine where you enter a sewer system. It’s quiet. There are tunnels everywhere and even though it’s still, like the rest of the game, a totally linear corridor with one entry/exit point, it’s a pretty cool section of the game. I want more of that.

In fact, this is what I want someone to make…

I think it would be a guaranteed success and a game that 40K and non 40K fans would take to.

I want a remake of Space Hulk.

For those unfamiliar, Space Hulk is a game about teamwork, close quarter fighting, and is really akin to sci-fi horror.

Imagine this:

You and four buddies join up to play a game of Space Hulk on the 360/PC/PS3. Each player takes the role of a Terminator Space Marine. Not the regular schmoes you see walking around E3 or even the captain from the THQ game — I mean total bad ass Terminator Marines.

These guys:

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Each player picks out his/her weapon loadout, depending on the mission objective — all of which include the five of you boarding a floating derelict spaceship. Maybe you are after a lost relic? Maybe you just need to cleanse the ship with purifying flame, whatever the goal may be.

Anyway each player picks a weapon from lightning claws, flamers, auto cannons, etc. No pistols — Terminators bring the big guns.

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The ships are dark — pitch black except for some track lighting in some places. The corridors are narrow, in places allowing only singe file walking. As Terminators, you can’t run — it’s a slow process as the team investigates the huge ships. Constant communication with teammates is essential — a lonewolf Terminator, as bad ass as they are, is no match for a lightning quick attack from the enemy — the Genestealers.

These guys:

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As thick as Terminator armor is, Genestealers can go through it like it’s paper, especially if a Terminator doesn’t have hand to hand weapons like lightning claws or a Thunder Hammer/Shield combo. So working as a team would be absolutely critical. I have played many a team based game and a game like this would provide a lot of laughs with the right group.

“Ok look if you go off down the first corridor you see without telling anyone you are doing it, you’re going to die.”


“Hey, where’s Todd? He was last in line…did he turn down that first hallway?”

“Hey guys, I found the room we’re supposed to burn and…holy shit these things are everywhere!”

“I’m going to say…yeah, he did.”

The Genestealsers outnumber the Terminators — almost always. They appear as green or red blobs on a scanner much like the creatures in Aliens. This provides multiple “Hudson” moments.

“Man, this is a big fucking signal!”

The slow pace, the initial quiet only to be followed by bursts of furious fighting is the hallmark of Space Hulk. Now imagine that another group of players is playing the Genestealers–respawning after getting blasted by a Terminator set to Overwatch as he waits for the first sign of movement coming from the long, black corridor. The tension in a game like this is really off the charts, especially if your mission is to blast a room with flame and the guy carrying the flamer has five shots and if he dies, it’s game over.

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You can get this experience in boardgame form by playing Space Hulk, which is one of the best Games Workshop games ever produced.

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Or you can dig up the old Amiga classic from EA — one of the very first games to ever use Direct X. I played this game to death and loved every minute of it. Just a great, great game.

As cool as playing Space Marine is, this is the 40K game I want to play. It would be like Left 4 Dead…with more scares, better weapons and the fulfillment of blasting a room with a heavy flamer and winning one for the Emperor.

Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

40 thoughts to “The Game Space Marine Makes Me Want to Play”

  1. While I don’t have the gaming experience to articulate my feelings towards Space Marine (at least from playing the demo), this is pretty much it. I know there’s a game in there somewhere that I could and want to be really passionate about and have a lot of fun with but Space Marine as it stands just isn’t it. I mean it’s just not… dark enough. It’s like an anime remake of the fiction and art that I’ve come to admire for it’s unapologetic sense of brutality and despair.

    Dare I say it, Gears of War is closer to what I wanted Space Marine to be. A lot of this is style choices, but the blandness of the characters, the easily mown down Orks… the fact that your weapons work all of the time and the overall “push X to win” feel to it… it just isn’t 40k to me. It has all the ingredients but somehow it lacks the feel. Where is the sense of lost humanity? Of the desperate, stubborn fight against impossible odds? To me these things are what the Space Marines represent and they are notably absent among the bright red and green piles of bone and gristle left in the wake of a one-dimensional protagonist.

  2. If you’re just pushing X to win, play the demo on Hard. You will die, and frequently, until you start using all of the tools at your disposal. Even then you’ll die with some regularity.

    I’m having a lot of fun with SM; I hadn’t been looking this forward to a release since Mass Effect 2, and my personal hype-meter for SM went off the charts about a month ago for no reason I can recall. There are certainly flaws in the game, ones I can agree with as pointed out in the few reviews I’ve read so far, but I’m having FUN. The PC port is fantastic and the Steamworks-based matchmaking/partying in multiplayer works very smoothly. I stayed up late the day it unlocked and took Wednesday off from work just to play, which is something I didn’t do 10+ years ago in college never mind with job/wife/kids since then.

  3. In terms of just pressing X…

    Wait til the end of Chapter 7.

    The Orks get pissed and the difficulty definitely ramps up. I’m on Ch 9 now and man…

    However it would be nice if my other marines did more to help. The death ratio between me and my brothers is about 20:1

    But so far the mid game is a lot better than the first few chapters.

  4. Modern day Space Hulk would be EPIC!

    Damn…Bill you’re right on the money with this. This would be a sure fire winner. You could even mix it up with chaos marines in addition to the Stealers.

    If this were ever announced, especially if Relic went in this direction, — sold.

    Just keep Cyanide away from it..

  5. Space Marine is great…if you buy into the 40K thing. If not…it’s a highly polished, competent shooter.

    It’s all pretty meat-and-potatoes and almost to a fault. It’s a very well made game though, with smooth mechanics and great controls. The melee/ranged thing works incredibly well. Visuals are awesome. But without the strength of the 40K game setting- which may be the best in all of gaming history- it would probably be fairly unremarkable and would likely be completely buried by GoW3 in a couple of weeks.

    But Relic’s respect and understanding of 40K tease out lots of awesomeness. I’ll hand in the review next week, I’m just in chapter six out of sixteen.

    The Space Hulk PC game is one of my favorites of all time and I think it’s as good as Relic’s games in capturing the 40K look and feel. I _adored_ that game. It was awesome, it captured the tactical bits of the board game with some simple FPS elements. And it really played up the _threat_ of the board game, the Terminators were far from invicible and the Genestealers incredibly dangerous at close range.

  6. I feel like Chaos took longer to show up than I expected/wanted, but I was definitely ready for a change-up in enemies by the time Bloodletters and CSMs started pouring out of the Warp. I can’t remember what chapter I’m in, but I just turned the power back on to some IG turrets.

  7. I must say that I really enjoy Space Marine as it is. And I do agree that they nailed the 40k setting just the way I want it. Except for the ork voices. They don’t sound orky enough for me. I enjoyed the ork voices in the Dawn of War series a hell of a lot more than the ones in Space Marine. The orks in Space Marine just sound too “posh” and their english is too clean. Especially the shoota boyz sound more human than ork. Also, I dislike their choice of protagonists immensely. Ultramarines are just too bland for my tastes. Also there are more than just 3 Ultramarines on the planet, in one cutscene Titus talks to a squadleader (who is fighting his way to some place if I’m not mistaken) over the vox.

    Whatever happened to the proper orky values, like fighting and looting and stomping and plundering? =(

  8. “THQ and Relic said repeatedly that they wanted the game to come off like a blockbuster piece of entertainment.”

    Given the state of blockbuster movies today, maybe that’s the problem.

    I’ve stopped seeing action movies in the theater. They’re inevitably disappointing, not despite of their big budgets, but because of them. Too much reliance on special effects. Too much repetition of the same scenes, the same characters, the same everything. Too little character development. (Even a little bit, like the Marines in Aliens, or Bruce Willis in Die Hard, goes a long way.) Too much one-upmanish, trying to top the last action movie in sheer ridiculousness of buildings destroyed, cop cars overturned, hired goons killed.

    Sound familiar?

    Even in the 40K world, which is founded on epic-scale destruction (hey, there’s even a variant called Epic!), there needs to be some first-person anchor for a first-person anything. You might throw in an outlandish moment of extreme carnage, like an ork spaceship crash-landing in the middle of a city, or thousands of Chaos cultists bursting out of the sewers in one frenzied rush. But that’s all it can be, a moment. The next ork ship that crash lands is just more of the same.

    Unless, of course, there’s someone whose perspective anchors you in that world. When you’re pulled into that fictional persona, you don’t need ever-escalating amounts of ridiculousness. As you say, a handful of Terminators in a corridor, getting ambushed every step of the way, is enough. When you want to crank the situation up to eleven, it’s that much more jaw-dropping or terrifying. Better yet, you can drop back to the small scale without losing your audience at all.

  9. Yes, that game has to be made! I assume there are no tyrannids in this game (there were in Kill Squad)… that’s a shame as it would make things easier for mods. Someone needs to convince Relic and I think a Left 4 Dead meets Space Marine shooter would be the right pitch.

    PS – I also love Necromunda and it would make a great group game (team deathmatch and team whatever)

  10. A report of Space Hulk to the PC would need one killer feature: the further you are from your buddies, the quieter/more staticy the voicechat would get. If I’m all alone in the dark, I want to _feel_ all alone in the dark.

  11. That’s the biggest drawback, yeah. Granted, other than with RUSE, I’ve never had a problem with steamchat.

  12. The fact that it defaults to voice-activated means you HAVE to (individually…) mute everyone or else you’re stuck listening to a lobbyful of feedback loops.

  13. Wow, just reading that bought back the days of playing Space Hulk – Vengeance of the Blood Angels on the PSX with my brother.
    Back when games needed loading screens for their loading screens, this game was certainly our first experience of WH:40K. What I can remember is being totally apprehensive to play, knowing that this giant armoured Marine, while deadly from range, was almost helpless up close when it came to fighting the genestealers. Regardless of how much practice you put in, eventually you’d see static as the alien’s claw came at you. Close combat was certainly winnable, but with so many enemies to deal with, it was inevitable that your first mistake would be your last, and then it was a quick transfer into the helmet camera of the next marine.
    Keep in mind this was ’96/’97, and even then the game’s visuals were nothing spectacular (but a special mention to the electric effect of the thunder hammer lovingly applied to the skull of the genestealers), but it was a very tactical game, with plenty of weapon choice, and as Bill mentioned, settings like Overwatch to try to keep the upper hand. Even pausing the action to issue movement and fire orders to your team was time limited, and your objectives were very specific; such as fire a certain number of flamer rounds into this room, with an autofail if you use too much ammo before you get there.
    Sound was a great factor too, with the explosive rattle of storm bolters, the whine of assault cannon and the soft expulsion and then low thump of a flame round. Genestealers screamed and Space Marines shouted to each other (Lionus!) and to the Emperor.
    Excuse me while I search Ebay.

  14. While in the Warhammer 40k game orks are not Space Marine fodder they are always represented like that in the fiction. In the fiction it usually takes a Nob to even raise up a sweat for even a basic tactical marine. There was a brilliant article in White Dwarf a few years back (issue 300 google tells me) where they created an army list called the Movie Space Marines which depicted them as they were in the fiction. You could only fit 1 tactical squad into a 1500pt army but they were still pretty overpowered. Personally, I’m pretty happy that this is the direction Relic went with Space Marine.

  15. …an archive record. (oh the joys of SH on the PSX)

    The only problem I had with the original Space Hulk on DOS was the appalling AI for the squad. This is Deathwing FFS – shoot straight and when they’re in front of you – that ‘stealer doesn’t want a kiss.

    I’d love to see a Space Hulk/L4D type game, where every bulkhead or corridor is a major test of nerves or steel.

    Skirmish mode for DOWII reminded me of Space Hulk and how it could be done.

    And Bill your dead right about the voice acting. Mark Strong, as cool as he is, sounds too relaxed all the time… or maybe I just haven’t reached a point where he fires up – been too busy playing Annihilation.

  16. I’m telling you, Space Hulk pitched as a L4D type game would work. The initial feeling of being a bad ass in a Terminator suit only to see lightning fast Genestealers tear it apart…the feel of mowing them down with an auto cannon or ripping a head off with a set of Lightning Claws…mmm.

    The downside is that playing as the marines wouldn’t be a “fast paced” action-style game. Still, I’d love to see something like that.

    And yeah, whoever said the Orks in Space Marine sound like regular dudes — spot on.

    The Warboss sounds good, but the regular Orks sound like…actors using gruff accents.

  17. I got to admit though there is some satisfaction when they yell out “Shoot me again!” and the next bolt round explodes their head.

    Yeah the Orks in DOW/DOWII sounded orkier imo. Hell all the VA work in DOW 1 and expansions are top notch.

  18. Considering most of the Boyz in the game are total scrubs I assumed that they were, as another poster suggested, posh Orks. Like maybe from a more well-heeled clan. So naturally they’re terrible fighters, and die early and often. But they still try to talk like the lower-class Orks.

  19. It’s definitely not a “press X a million times” game. There’s slightly more detail to the combat than that, specifically in regard to the executions. I’ve seen reviewers complain that you get damaged during the execution animations, but that’s the point- you have to decide tactically when you should do it or you could get hurt worse than you were in the first place. Time doesn’t stop when you do an execution, which is smart. That’s one of the less good things about Deus Ex- the takedowns apparently cause the entire world to stop while you put a dude in a sleeper hold.

    The melee/ranged/grenade triangle works really freaking well, and it gives you as a player a fun toolset to kill Orks. Lately I’ve been letting myself get mobbed, I look down, and lay down a grenade and then roll the hell out of the way. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but it’s a fun trick.

    Definitely true about the other marines laying back- “Captain Titus, we need you to go do all the dangerous stuff. We’ll be here…um…praising the Emperor. And Leandros has to stick more Holy post-it notes to his armor.”

  20. BTW when Chaos does show up — coolest cut scene ever.

    That was REMARKABLY well done.

    I don’t consider that a spoiler either lol.

  21. …posh Orks…

    As soon as I read that I got the image of an Ork, complete with top-hat, monocle and cane in hand yelling “Riveting story Humie!”.

    Now I’m going to have to resist converting all of the Orks warcries in my mind to Victorian-era lingo.

    “I say chaps, would you like to go to war?”

  22. I love the way grenades work in this game ie- where I aim is where they go.

    And while they’re still useful in multi, there’s a lot less grenade spam.

  23. I ask only because I’m doing a personal first – playing a new game on HARD for the first run-through…ever. Almost every game I’ve played I play easy mode, all day every day.

    Only just finished blowing up the AA Cannon (the lure of multi is like Chaos), and I’ve died a host of times to little errors in judgement during certain waves.

    So it seems I might be in for some real fun later on… lol.

  24. Is a dead man.

    One ‘stealer that close in front, and the other charging from the left… I hope he’s not jammed.

  25. Gun jams…yeah you’d think those bolters would be a bit better than a 1968 piece of technology.

    Screw that though — if I’m the lead Terminator — gimme the claws.

    If I’m gonna die I’m taking several with me.

  26. I’m on the final battle right now (literally just got up from the sofa) and I’m on normal and there have been 3-4 set pieces that were a bitch — several deaths and ugh the load times on the 360 combined with a few save checkpoint issues..

    On hard?

    Yeah those would have been tough.

  27. I see where you’re coming from.

    It IS blander than the volumious fiction (a hoard of which I own) that has helped shape and flesh out little known Dystopian Sci-Fi/Fantasy military table top wargame… but it has to be to make money – worldwide.

    This is the price of success in a world with classification/ratings to protect minors, as it should be. Just look at the travesty that was the Ultramarines film – a story (written by the Dark Lord Dan Abnett himself) that was 40k in name and appearence only. I practically frothed at the mouth like Kharn himself when I sat through it.

    The gameplay works, there a few bugs, it can be repeative (as ALL games are) – but where the world seems bland I fill it with the dark fluff I have spent the last 15 years or so filling my mind with.

    There’s only so much evil, depressing, sickening stuff a dev can put into a game before they start crossing lines that shouldn’t be crossed – which we all know lead to Heresy and far from the Emperor’s Light.

  28. Awesome.

    I’ll have to dig around my relics for my Imperial Fist’s pain glove to prepare my soul for the coming pain… maybe buy a new controller too.

    Cheers for the heads up.

  29. From memory they were the most dependable weaps in the game, even for the AI without you having to take control of them all the time.

  30. This final fight *sucks* btw.

    Multiple waves of enemies w/o any save checks between waves.

    You die — you go back to the start of the entire fight.

  31. Hopefully by the time I get there I will be as skilled as one of the Emperor’s own.

    Maybe that will help my laggy ass in multi. It’s either that or make a covenant with Tzeentch to see the future positions of my opponents.

  32. *****Spoilers*****

    I got to around chapter 13 on hard, and then had to stop. Right after you blow up the spire thing with the titan. You have to fight 8-10 chaos marines up on the ledges after a short cut scene. I tried about 20 times and then gave up. I think I messed up by not having a long range gun in my arsenal. I just could not kill them before dieing to grenade spam. And with no guys to melee, and thus no way to regain lost health, I could not get past that part. Also the save point was BEFORE a cut scene, which I hate.

    I traded it in towards Rage.

  33. I had a lot of trouble on that fight too. The best strategy I found was to run straight forward all the way, then only the Chaos marines on that far left platform can see you. Take care of them the slowly work your way back, only letting one or two into sight at a time.

  34. Every time while playing Space Marine that I saw a closed door, or blocked off passage, I started to realize what kind of 40k game I really want someone to make: an open-world game with less of an action slant, and more of an RPG slant. Only idea that initially comes to mind would be a game where you play as an inquisitor … something very Mass Effect-ish.

    Now THAT’s a game that would steal away many many many days of my life. And put me in Warhammer nerd heaven.

  35. Drop the Hammer and grab a Melta and a LasCannon.

    Must’ve re-tried at least 10 times.
    The wave that always broke me was the 2nd (x3 CSMs leading the x6?9? Traitor Guards). That’s where the LC comes in handy; after I dropped the first CSM flanking on the right on the high ground, I was able to either use that on the other 2 CSMs or switch to Melta and get then get the execute.

    Grab some ammo, kill the ‘Letters with the Melta.

    Switch to LC for the Psykers. Grab Ammo. Melta the ‘Letters and then I think you’re done.

    The final try/win was weird though – I can’t remember if 3 CSMs came with that 2nd wave (hectic), and the Psykers appeared before I’d finished with the 3rd ‘Letters wave.

    And I always fought using LOS/cover at the back left stack of boxes, helps funnel/train the Daemons and gives some shots at the CSMs/Psykers before they can hit back.

  36. That was just after Sidonis legged it right? Leaving you and the whelp to fight of a couple of CSMs/Guard; after you kill a few CSMs Hvy Plas CSMs warp in correct?

    Died a few times there – mainly due to grenades and some bolter crossfire.

    Best tactic I came up with was hiding behind some boxes, taking some snap shots at the CSMs ’til they dropped.

    Think I had a Plas and Storm Bolter.

    My main tactic throughout all of my HARD playthrough was abusing the LOS mechanic – picking off individual ranged enemies (staying out of sight of other ranged) until I could engage in melee. Also, at extreme range you can snipe with almost any weap (barring the storm bolter/pistols) as long as your target refuses to run around.

    Hope this helps.

  37. There’s a few trailers on youtube as well. It’s being made by THQ and Vigil (Darksiders).

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