The life of a Space Marine is not an easy one. Setting aside blood-soaked galaxy-spanning conflict and the fact that simply writing down the date in the year 40,000 is a bit of a faff, just look at that one-ton outfit they're clad in.
Doors are going to be a problem with that on. A trip through the living room of the average suburban home is going to turn into baggy-pants pratfall comedy. The prospect of just getting dressed in the morning must be utterly dispiriting. Darling, have you seen my half-ton ceramic breastplate with the flaming angel's skull picked out in Platinum? And my iPhone charger?
At least one thing is pretty straightforward: the day job. As humanity's last hope in a cold, hard universe filled with a half-dozen alien races gunning to put a size-15 boot through the last of the genome, clocking in as a Space Marine guarantees you a streamlined workflow composed of hacking people to pieces and then shooting up their corpses a bit to make sure they're dead. And the odd wash-up PowerPoint session afterwards, obviously. Just to make sure we're all still in the loop.
Relic truly understands the simple pleasures of the Space Marine's lot, by the looks of it, and it's put the alien splatter front and centre in its new third-person actioner. With the Orks moving in on a crucial Titan-producing Forge World – that's a factory planet that makes really big killing machines – you're there to hold them off long enough for an Imperial fleet to turn up and give them an almighty shoeing.
Luckily, a single Space Marine is worth 1000 Orks, according to the fiction (that's in old money, and explains why popping out to the shops for Pocky and a toffee apple is such a bad idea in the year 40,000. So while the whole event is probably a bit of a suicide mission, it's one where you'll get to take quite a lot of the enemy with you on the way out.
If you want to get a good understanding of the kind of game Relic's dreaming up, all you need to do is ponder its approach to two elements: snap-to cover systems and RPG upgrading. Both, while originally part of the plan, have been more or less removed: the cover because it broke up the action too much and didn't make sense in a world where the walls would be significantly flimsier than your own body armour, and the RPG stuff because the carnage-first approach to action didn't really need much in the need of finessing.
Both have left lingering traces, but even that is emblematic of the slaughterous gameplay you can expect: your enemies can still use cover ( you can bust through it with a smart shoulder charge) and your guns gain experience as you use them, leading to persistent unlocks like smarter designs and explosive secondary fire treats. Cowering behind rocks and sifting through tech trees, though? Not these Space Marines.
With such a streamlined approach, it's nice to see that the game is getting the important stuff right. Set in a rusty, dusty factory wasteland, Space Marine is a very hefty game. Your personal super soldier and his occasional squad mates (there to provide narrative chatter and additional firepower but not available for ordering around) move with an earth-shuddering weight, plucking Orks out of the ground with beefy hands and then popping them open as if they were a race of unpleasantly evolved watermelons.
Combat is split between ranged weapons, which pulls the camera in for a familiar over-the-shoulder view, and melee offerings like Chainswords and large, nasty hammers. These push the screen out a bit so you can enjoy the thumping, chewing and goring. Nothing happens in Space Marine if it doesn't end with Orks lying around in chunks and gun barrels sending out snaky wisps of smoke.
The occasional set-piece will break up the action now and then – a turret section as you provide support for a fleet on Valkyries looks better than expected, in part due to the hilarious Orks-on-jetpacks animations – and there will be the odd special weapon for you to run across.
These are generally five minutes of fiercely-overpowered fun with a single clip of ammo, and they give the developer a chance to ramp up the enemy numbers even more than normal. For the most part, however, you'll be fighting through a range of industrial settings one bullet and sword-swipe at a time.
Variety could be a problem, but the locations shown so far – sewers and abandoned cities for the most part – manage to make dereliction look pretty, if rather brown. While there's a train section, the train in question is vast and filled with tactical intricacies, and you're on it while trading rockets with an Ork dropship that comes with its very own mohawk.
Equally, while there are only a handful of different enemy types in the current build, taking in small Orks, slightly bigger Orks, and Orks with shields, these are early days, and there are dozens of others coming together in art packages back at Relic HQ, apparently. No word yet on whether it's an Ork-only affair, however.
With co-op and multiplayer offerings still to be revealed Space Marine is looking like a supremely visceral shooter, with chunky weapons, chunky enemies, and chunky sci-fi words littering the predominantly grunty dialogue.
Ever since Danny Bilson took over core games at HQ, his mantra has apparently been, "release it only when it's ready." That worked well enough with his daughter, who was apparently in the womb for 13 years (this is not true so don't put it on Wikipedia), and things look to be turning out okay here, too. With a little luck, then, this is the game to prove that although a Space Marine's job may be simple, it's rarely boring.