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  • Writer's pictureRoberto Nieves

Looking back on Warhammer: Space Marine

The sound of a chain sword rips through the speakers of my TV screen. Legions of orks pour out the woodwork. The thunderous sound of the bolter pierces bone and flesh. The enemies of the Imperium are determined to destroy humanity, but in the presence of an Ultramarine, they are destined to fall. The enemy is in the hundreds. They are dangerous and savage. They take no quarters. However, when the Emperor is by your side, all it takes is just one Marine to turn the tide of war.

With Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 coming fairly soon, I had a moment to take a look back at its predecessor, the appropriately titled Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. The original game was released on Steam, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in 2011. Just like that, you can feel a few grey hairs. Having decided to revisit the game on my Steamdeck, the game helped excite me for the upcoming sequel. However, upon further inspection, it’s abundantly clear that Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine was far ahead of its time.

Meanwhile, in Pomona, New Jersey

It was Autumn in the fall of 2011. There was a school built deep into the woods of the Pine barrens in southern New Jersey. The school was so deep in the woods that you’d mistake it for some secret school of wizardry or a top-secret fortress for superheroes. This was Stockton University, New Jersey’s Distinctive Public College. It was my first time away from getting the good old-fashioned college experience. On the campus was the old-fashioned Housing 1, a rooming complex built of concrete and stone. I was in the infamous G-Court, known for having the coolest people at Stockton University. It was here that I got my first glimpse of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine.

Trying to bring video games into the college experience was a must for a gamer like me. I turned the main living area into a de facto entertainment area, where my roommates and I could play games like Sonic Adventure and Castle Crashers. It was a place where, every Thursday night, we gathered on a flimsy couch with good college food and beer. Between learning the ropes of computer literacy and visual art, I fired up my PS3 and played an abundance of games. I got to learn the layout of the local area at the time, from Level Up! Entertainment to Chickie & Pete's. I visited the local GameStop and secured my copy of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine.

In that year of twenty O eleven, video games were in their prime. The last few years have seen some of the greatest games ever assembled, and while there were a few disappointments (i.e., Brink and Duke Nukem Forever), gaming was remarkably exciting. Summer 2010 saw the likes of Halo Reach, Read Dead Redemption, Split/Second, Alan Wake, Modnation Racers, Blur, and Transformers: War for Cybertron released that summer alone. 2011 saw the likes of Battlefield 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Uncharted Drakes Deception, and Portal 2 release that year.

With Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, there was an action game from a fairly known developer. In an age where the Gears of War series reigns supreme in gritty sci-fi action, it was a tough sell to introduce an audience hyped up in Killzone 3 warzone matches and Sniper Shotties in Halo: Reach. The Marines delivered. Like a chainsawsword, Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine carved a big mark for itself that could stand alongside the best of what 3rd person action games could provide.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is a third-person action game. The gameplay combines third-person shooting with all-out melee combat. As an honorary member of the Ultra Marines, Captain Titus and his men represent the best of the best in carrying out the Emperor's Will across the galaxy. These marines are equipped with a lethal arsenal of bolters, explosives, and dynamic melee weapons. From the very moment the game begins, players diver from the sky and head first into war. In the grim dark of the far future, there is war, and war is chaos.

Take every visual interpretation of the battle. Concept art, comics, cartoons, anime. Grand battles are always depicted frame by frame. But have you ever seen or participated in something that feels just as grand? Movies like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings give that sensation of grand scale, but to participate in something is a euphoric experience unlike anything else. From the very beginning of the mission to take back the Forge world, players enter the chaos that is the war of the future, and the mythological battles come to life.

The interpretation of grand biblical battle is the center of the gameplay mechanics for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. The enemy Orks come at the player in the many hundreds, each with a blood-thirsty impulse to break your bones and play with your guts. The enemy seeks to decimate the player to be nothing more than a big splatter of red DNA in the ground. The game goes to great lengths to see hundreds of enemies fill the screen in a battle that feels depicted in a grand text.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine puts players as a Space Marine, but most importantly, it gives players the look and feel of feeling like a Space Marine. In action games, it's important to give the player power. Not just the feeling of power but the sensation of power as well. Power can be difficult to balance to not make a game feel like a giant $60 cakewalk. This is where Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine excels. Players don't feel invincible but feel as powerful as a space marine should.

Enemy waves fall by the dozens. Bones shatter like glass, and bodies are ripped to shreds. The cries of war are all around as enemies take their last breath, shouting in pain. The sound of chainswords and bolters thunder through the walls and the ground. This is a war of the 41st millennium, and it is at its finest. It is a visual splendor to see the myth and lore of Warhammer 40,000 come to breathtaking life. The team at Relic Entertainment took the lessons learned with Company of Heroes and created a genuine futuristic war experience.

Playing as Captain Titus of the Ultram Marines feels as it should: A cybernetically enhanced warrior in buzz light-year armor obliterating anyone who opposes him. Captain Titus can put himself as the bonafide legendary slayers of gaming alongside Doomguy, Duke Nukem, and so on. Controlling him is tailored to a perfect tee as switching between melee combat and ranged combat is quick and seamless, save for a few moments of jank as larger enemies aggressively charge Titus.

It's a euphoria that most games strive far, but few emulate. It is the feeling of being an intergalactic badass that is almost invulnerable. For those familiar with Warhammer 40000 lore, playing as a Space Marine borders on pandemonium. After many years of playing tabletop and board games comes a video game that brings the carnage of the dark future to life in a stunning and riveting way. Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine was neither the first Warhammer 40,000 video game nor the first action-based one. However, it was the one that got it right.

As for the story and features, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine held its own. The story proves to be a solid entryway for those unfamiliar with Warhammer 40,000. The story of Captain Titus was one of brotherhood and camaraderie in the face of cosmic calamity and the darkness of the universe. It was cosmic and action-packed, with just enough narrative to care for the characters and their plight against the Ork assault. Multiplay consisted of a Horde-based mode where players constantly fought against the enemies of The Warp. This is accompanied 8v8 multiplayer deathmatch where teams of marines or Chaos troops fight each other for glory.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine holds a special place in my heart. The game wowed and amazed me during that first year at Stockton University. I even remember my roommates watching me finish the final battle as the enemies of Chaos revealed themselves. It's one of those moments you don't forget, having this experience not just for yourself but to share with others. Perhaps now, they are deep in the trenches of the 41st millennium, fighting the enemies of Mankind Warhammer 40,000 Battlesector or Spacehulk Tactics.

With Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine II looming on the horizon, there is much to anticipate. The story of Captain Titus continues, especially after a cliffhanger ending that has left gamers guessing for the past 13 years. As he embarks on a new mission, Captain Titus faces the deadly adversary in Warhammer 40,000: The Tyranids. These alien xenos are not unlike the xenomorphs of the Aliens universe and stop at nothing to spread their poison across the Imperium. What Captain Titus uncovers in this new mission will be anything but normal. There is another mystery from The Warp. What that is, we will not know until 2024.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine was a gem for its time and is still an incredible action game, even today. The game can be played on PS3 or Xbox 360, but for those fortunate to have a good gaming PC or a Steamdekc, the game is available and compatible with the Deck. It's certainly a great way to familiarize oneself with the Warhammer 40,000 world before stepping into the sequel and the vast portfolio of other games. If you made it this far and are itching to check out Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, it's a great throwback to a wild time in games and a wonderful action game.

For The Emperor.

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