Does anyone remember the current-gen multiplatform title Space Marine? Space Marine was a highly derivative but ultimately excellent third-person-shooter.When I first thought about getting this game, I was really unsure about it. Reviews were good but not overly enthusiastic. It was almost a begrudging type of praise; “Well, we thought it was going to be shit but actually it’s not bad”. Damn the faint praise, I think the critics were just pissed that they had to put their knives away.
As I mentioned, Space Marine was a third person shooter but it was one without a cover mechanic, so it didn’t follow the Uncharted / Gears of War staple of staying in one place and popping off shots from safety. In fact, there was no real safety in the world of Space Marine. Progression on a battlefield took a lot of strategy and a lot of careful maneuvering. You needed to view the enemies, quickly decide priority targets and take them out as fast as possible. This usually involved switching up your arsenal, as the combat has a rock-paper-scissors element with it’s weapon effectiveness. This was really fun as the weapons were super-intuitive and had great, meaty feedback. Taking out rocket launching orcs with a sniper weapon before switching up to a plasma pistol for foes on the middle distance while fending off close quarters threats with a chainsaw while rolling out the way of enemy explosives… Take a breath now… was AWESOME! You also had to balance that with leaving a few minions alive so that you could regenerate health via an execution kill (no health packs, you see). It’s a lot of balls to juggle at the same time and it made every single battle intense and thrilling. There just wasn’t any filler in Space Marine because the combat was so satisfying and fun.
The story in Space Marine was fairly basic (a by-the-numbers mission gradually spinning out of control), but it was acted with such vim by the game’s cast (led by Mark ‘rent-a-cockney-villain’ Strong) that it genuinely entertained and made you want to know how it ended. The art design was on a different level, however… Warhammer 40’000 – Space Marine contained perhaps the greatest sci-fi world ever created in a video game. Big praise indeed, but the game’s every pour reeked with attention to detail and a deep sense of love, care and passion for the subject material. I’m not a Warhammer fan. To be honest, I never understood people’s fascination with the Games Workshop and all that miniature painting and shit. Space Marine was so fucking cool, however, that it actually compelled me to read a couple of Ultra Marine novels (which I enjoyed in a guilty otaku kind of way). More importantly, it was the only game of this current generation to make me immediately restart another playthrough after finishing it… Not including Journey, of course.
So yeah… Mad, mad love to Space Marine. Whatever else THQ did in their lifetime, they will always have a clean slate in my eyes because they gave me this game. It’s a title I will remember forever and one I could never leave out of a discussion surrounding the PS3 / Xbox 360 console generation.