Space Marine always stands out as an amazing example of capturing the feel of a universe through adaptation.
It’s an exercise in showing how understanding a property can lead to a great game.
In the Grim Darkness of the 41st Millennium, you are a Space Marine.
Centuries old, you are an 8 foot tall demigod, created for war, knowing no fear.
You are clad in thick power armour, weighting nearly a tonne, while allowing you to move through the battlefield with ease. As weapons, you carry a Chainsword and Boltgun.
The former is a four foot long Chainsaw with diamond tipped teeth, capable of carving through the armour and hide of the toughest enemies. The latter is a gun that fires miniature rockets which tear cratered chunks out of anything it hits.
As a game character, this could be considered somewhat of a power fantasy. It’s testament to the skill of Relic that not only do they capture the feel of inhabiting this universe, but that the setting elevates what would otherwise be a rather bland third person shooter.
Somehow, Relic have managed to capture all of this in the game.
Firstly, the third person camera angle is essential. Without seeing the mass of the character, there’s a loss of weight. This then gets reinforced by the use of the camera while moving. Every step taken by the player shudders the camera slightly. The impression is given of booming, earth shaking strides as the player moves.
Secondly, originally launching in an era where Gears of War defined the third person shooter, Space Marine laughs at the idea of hiding behind cover to regenerate health. Instead, players must constantly launch themselves into the thick of battle. Taking cues from character action games, stylish close quarters finishing moves allow the player to regain health.
Thirdly, the design for the world. The strongest part of the Warhammer 40k universe has always been just that, the Universe. Gothic and practically inventing the term Grimdark, this is a universe of constant war, awful religious zealotry and terrible foes. All are realised in quite granular detail here as the player moves around car sized munition shells and cathedrals bigger than apartment blocks.
The story may not be that innovative and the game now sits without the hope of a sequel since the death of THQ. Regardless, Space Marine is a fantastic Warhammer 40k game, made so by embracing that setting.