Space Marine • Page 2

The Emperor's new groove.

Having accomplished this task, the game proper starts as Captain Titus emerges from the wreckage of this ship, punching crumpled girders out of his way. A late title card flashes "SPACE MARINE" up on the screen as Titus stands back up to his full height. I peed myself a little at this point, and you will too. And I hadn't even got to the point where Imperial Guardsman fall to their knees as they see you.

But yes, that multiplayer. Space Marine is shipping with co-op, but also with 8v8 competitive multiplayer that sees Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines (marines who've been seduced by dark gods) picking one of three classes before battling it out in one of two game modes, Annihilation (team deathmatch) or Seize Ground (Battlefield-style point capturing). That doesn't sound like much, and it doesn't particularly generous either, but there are a couple of hooks worth noting.

The first is Space Marine's combat. Where Halo first slotted a greater emphasis on melee combat into the shooter and Gears of War pushed this even further, Space Marine is almost 50% melee combat. Where Gears is all about flanking, Space Marine is about either closing in or keeping your distance.

The Tactical class is adaptable, being able to shoot or stab with equal amounts of gusto. The Devastator gets an enormous gun but no melee weapon (though he can stomp about like a Broadway dancer), and the Assault gets a terrifying jetpack and melee weapon combo. The end result is Devastators and Assaults slinking around the map, trying to stay safe but also get the better of one another, while the Tacticals run around in packs, overwhelming everything they meet.

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The Devastatorís heavy bolter has to be deployed to reach its full potential, whereupon it shoots so fast it practically purrs.

There's a really nice play to how it works. Fundamentally, it's about knowing when to charge. Because hacking at an enemy with a chainsword, thunder hammer or whatever else is so much more effective than taking shots at them, the most effective way to kill any enemy is to tap the sprint button, unleash a ram attack (or ground-pound them from the air if you're an Assault) and finish them off with a few quick slashes. The problem is, not only can enemies shoot you as you're running over, they can roll out of the way of your charge attack, swap to melee and cut you down themselves.

The end result is a constant, weird tension; you're all already fighting, but in any scrap you're constantly nervous about whether another player's going to go all in and come barrelling up to you, at which point you'll have two options: gun them down or get cut up. Actually, you do have a third option. Point the camera in a random direction and hit the sprint button yourself. But at that point you might as well hand in your Space Marine badge, your gun, and your nineteen gene-seed internal organs.

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There is a sniper rifle in the game, but also a two-handed laser cannon so big that it comes with a backpack. It's not a hard choice.

The second hook is that most fashionable of features these days- persistent unlocks. Space Marine has 41 levels of progression for you to get through, unlocking everything from perks and weaponry to new armour segments, allowing you to piece together your own hideous, day-glo suit of power armour. Make no mistake, these screenshots you're seeing are nothing like the multiplayer will actually look a week after launch. The customisation options are much too in-depth for that. Everyone will be either jet-black, an effeminate rainbow of an ubermensch or they'll be the default colour of the other team. One of the three.

But it's co-op that I'm sure will see the most play in Space Marine, so here's hoping that the reason for THQ's silence on that front is for no other reason than they're saving the best till last, and not something untoward. I know I said before that Space Marines could feel no fury, but that might be cause for an exception.

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