Space Marine preview


I am winged death. I am bounding through the skies, scouring the battlefield for targets.

A hapless Space Marine stumbles below my perch. I fire up my jump pack and pounce. Bam! Daemon maul to the face – and away I fly, back into the shadows to wait. If there was a single reason to be excited about Space Marine's multiplayer offering, this is it.

After years of making sharp strategy games set in the Warhammer 40K universe, Relic are turning their hand to third-person action, and they're focusing on that milieu's muscle-bound humans. So far all we've seen of their chainswords, shoulder pads and male-pattern baldness though, has been the singleplayer. That changes now.

It turns out that Space Marine's 8v8 multiplayer mode is rather basic, pitching Marines vs Chaos in just two traditional match types. There's the standard team deathmatch shenanigans of Annihilation, and the king of the hill stylings of Seize the Ground. It's a meagre selection, but one brought to life by the obscene amount of fun you'll have with the Space Marines' Assault class soldier, or the Raptor if you're batting for Chaos.

Of the three classes you can select, Assault marines are by far the most agile, specialising in melee weapons such as the Thunder Hammer and Chain Axe. More importantly, you're equipped with the jump pack which, despite needing some time to get to grips with, allows you to master rush attacks – diving in and out before the enemy realise they have a chainsword buried in their head.

If getting up close and personal isn't your style, fret not. Everyone begins their multiplayer career as a Tactical marine – your basic everyday soldier. As you begin to earn XP and level up, you'll unlock both the best-in-show Assault class, and traditional heavyweight bod, the Devastator. In comparison to the Assault soldier's agility, the Devastator moves like a glacier through golden syrup, and comes armed with monstrous guns such as the plasma cannon and heavy bolter.

In fact, all of Space Marine's grunts move with a degree of heaviness, stomping around like bulls at a plate-smashing competition. For those used to the silky speed with which the men of Battlefield 2 and Team Fortress move, it takes some getting used to. But let's be honest – fans of the 40K universe's various nutjobs aren't after a finessed display of tactical warfare. If you're making a game about Space Marines, it has to be about metal clanging on metal, and frantic confrontations. That's what you're going to get from this, thanks to the lack of a cover system.

This makes engagements a real case of kill or be killed, which Relic encourage and reward. Your Marine will regenerate his health every time you kill a man. A neat feature that compensates for absent environmental defences, and turns battles into a real clash of titans.

Given that Warhammer lore offers an entire universe full of life, it's strange that there are only two available races in multiplayer mode. Relic balance this limitation with their insanely in-depth customisation options.

There are apparently 1.8 billion combinations you can put together of Space Marines and Chaos Marines, so if you have a favourite Space Marine chapter, or warband from the Chaos Legions, you can create those guys. For the fanboys, that's a big deal. After having a quick look through the list of armour sets, I found everything from Black Templars to Emperor's Children.

For those who think Ultramarines are a branch of the US Navy, your needs are catered for as well. If you just want to create a crazy dude who's bright pink, you can do that too. The aim isn't to be slavishly canonical with this stuff, but to give people the tools to have fun with it. You can change all the different armour pieces on the marine – shoulders, helmet, mid section – and if you do love the official lore, you can paper yourself in logos from Games Workshop.

Admittedly, after spending a good 20 minutes creating a monstrosity in lime green and fluorescent blue with subtle hints of raving orange, it was as if I was back in my bedroom, tenderly painting my miniatures. Albeit with less chance of gluing my fingers together.

This customisation extends to your weapon loadouts too. You begin with basic gear – bolters, chainswords, frag grenades – but as you level up, you'll unlock the more exotic flavours of death, such as Power Swords, Vengeance Launchers and Stalker Bolters.

These are the same weapons from the game's hefty singleplayer campaign, but in multiplayer they all have perks and modifications. If you're good, and you play for just a while, you'll end up with an arsenal of extreme, over-the-top variations. And you certainly can't get more extreme than a Daemon Maul souped-up to enable one-hit kills.