Space Marine

The Emperor's new groove.

How much do you know about marine biology? Now, I'm not talking about that creepy subset of real-world science where you learn how clams can get depressed or how sea urchins mate (the answer is "carefully"). I'm talking about Space Marine biology. Because whether or not you're excited about Relic's upcoming 3rd person action game could probably come down to how clued up you are.

Thanks to extensive genetic augmentation, each Space Marine is 7'6'' tall and weighs 700lbs before you put the armour on. They have a third lung and a second heart that's capable of pumping steroids or adrenaline into the first. They're implanted with something called Larraman's Organ, a high-tech liver that allows them to survive by eating dirt. Their salivary glands allow them to spit poison or chew through iron bars. And when they choose to sweat, they secrete a waxy substance that can protect them from extreme temperatures or even a vacuum.

They are superheroes hand-designed to protect humanity. They're also quite literally heavy metal fascists. Many Space Marines feel the need to protect "mortals" gets in the way of their job of eliminating the enemies of the Imperium.

None of this really comes across in Relic's Dawn of War series of RTS games. There, Space Marines are kept at a distance, both physically, by the game's airborne camera, and through the need to balance them with all the other races. God, the marines would be furious if they knew. If, y'know, they could feel fury. Or emotions in general.

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Space Marines can also learn about a planet by eating local wildlife and absorbing its memory-related DNA. I'm still not making this up.

It's not the case here. Space Marine is going to make a lot of nerds very, very happy.

The focus of the preview event I attended recently was competitive multiplayer, but I also played the first half an hour of the single-player campaign. Oh, man. There are tutorials and then there are tutorials.

The campaign opens with a long shot of a Forge World. Specifically, it's a Titan-production facility, Titans being the skyscraper-sized bipedal robots of the 40k Universe. Ice-cold text flashes up on the screen, communication between far-flung sectors of the galaxy.

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Between jetpacks and the level design, there's a happy verticality to things. By which I mean enemies will drop onto you like bats. Good luck with that.

Orcs have invaded the planet, it says, a world with "Strategic value: Absolute". "Exterminatus?" it asks, cheerily, referring to the common Imperium practice of bombing a captured planet back to the stone age. "Negative," it says. "Strategic value: Absolute". This continues for a while, before finally, with all other options exhausted, the decision to send in the Space Marines is sent in. Yes, you are such a valuable badass that sending you in is only considered when blowing up the world isn't an option.

Cut to your character, Captain Titus, leaping from a dropship and being thundered down towards the planet like some act of God. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, an orc ship carrying hundreds of the greenskins happens to be between you and the ground. Space Marine's tutorial sees you battling the ship's entire crew and attempting to crash the vessel armed with nothing more than a pistol and a massive knife.

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