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Warhammer 40K Space Marine: Gears of War killer in the making?

Because 39,999 Space Marines aren't enough...

Here's a troubling thought: there's yet to be a decent action game wrought from Games Workshop's dark future.

Their tabletop battle game Warhammer 40,000 is wrapped up in a deliciously dark 'n' gothic science fiction backdrop, where a beleaguered humanity which barely understands the technology it uses to survive, is assailed on all sides by extraterrestrial threats.

Sounds great, right? And yet all we've got to show for it is the largely forgotten PS2 shooter Fire Warrior. And that's largely forgotten for a reason.

Enter Relic. They've obviously taken note because, after successfully delivering some cracking 40K strategy games in the form of the Dawn of War series, they've turned their collective hand to rectifying the lack of a satisfying far-future shooter based on the GW property.

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Space Marine is the answer, in which you play as one of the Imperium of Man's few and favoured sons: the elite, hard-as-nails, genetically engineered Space Marines.

There aren't many of these guys around - most of humanity's fighting is done by the numberless ranks of the regular-Joe Imperial Guard - which is what makes Space Marine potentially exciting.

Clad in Power Armour, toting explosive shell firing Boltguns and wielding enemy-ripping Chainswords and Power Fists, they're both rare and frighteningly powerful.

HAMMER TIME
We say potentially exciting because from what we've seen so far - and bear in mind that the game is still very early one - Space Marine currently plays like a frills-free version of Gears of War, and one without much in the way of subtlety.

It's a third-person affair that sports both ranged combat and brutal melée, but there's no snap-to cover mechanic or many concessions to the conventions of modern gaming.

This is no bad thing, of course, as Space Marine is likely to make up for its basic nature in other ways - namely atmosphere and the IP behind it.

Fans of Warhammer 40,000 will no doubt thrill to the setup; the ravening Orks have invaded an Imperial Forge World and there's hints that other races will be involved too, including the Tyranids, a bio-engineered swarm of gribbly, scythe-armed critters that operate through a single consciousness known as the 'hive mind'.

All well and good, but we're hoping for more meat than is currently present.

The demo we saw did have variety - it started off with the player blasting enemies from the door of a dropship before crash-landing and taking the fight to the green-skinned hordes on foot.

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The balance between blasting is well-implemented, with a camera that switches seamlessly from close-quarters combat to over-the-shoulder shooting. And yet it's clear that there's work to be done.

Given Relic's pedigree when it comes to tranlsating Games Workshop's wargame into the digital domain, though, we're confident they'll get it done.

Order Xbox World 360 here and have it delivered straight to your door.

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