‘Warhammer’ very pretty but fairly repetitive

As a rule, shooter games don’t tell you in advance how many villains you need to slay to reach the end. That would be intimidating and slightly disturbing: "Are you ready to extinguish 4,500 fake people?"

But an early narrative in "Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine" informs you there are "a million Orks" who want to murder you and your kind.

A million is a lot. Actually, you have to kill only several thousand of these ugly green guys in "Space Marine." Thank goodness for small favors.

The plot is based on tabletop, fantasy games called "Warhammer." There’s an Earth-like planet somewhere. It’s full of Orks. They look like green Shrek ogres to me. They’re murdering your soldier brethren brutally.

So you, a super fantastic space marine, get shipped to this planet to kill Orks with a vengeance.

Your epic name is Titus (conjuring the Roman Empire and Shakespeare naturally). You must eradicate nasty villain bosses, deal with a Judas of sorts, and engage in a few spectacular cinematic one-on-ones with nasty meanies.

Let’s get down to brass tacks: This is a 2½-star game, worth renting by serious gamers, maybe. It looks great, with a touch of "Lord of the Rings" and a smidgen of "God of War."

Storylines are cool at times. The shooting is slightly subpar. But the hand-to-hand combat and melee fights are good and gruesome.

It’s a third-person shooter. Camera angles follow you into battle, as hordes of armed Shreks, I mean Orks, sprint toward you to bash your head in or to shoot you.

You kill them with below-average guns but also with some awesome melee weapons. There is, you know, a giant war hammer. I love the chain sword. It’s a buzzing chain saw, lengthy as a leg. Just one or two swings of it mows down handfuls of Orks at a time.

The most consistently poor thing about "Space Marine" is: Shootouts and melee fights seem fairly repetitive after a short amount of time.

But the worst thing about this bloody game is, if your health gets really low, you must stun an Ork, then execute him in a gnarly way, which magically restores your health.

Executing Orks takes too much time, and it seems redundant after just one hour. Plus, while you’re executing someone to revamp your health, other villains can simultaneously punch you and shoot you. So that’s dumb.

As for the online multiplayer, it’s not bad. The jetpack is rad! But there are too many spots on battlefields where other gamers can hide behind boxes and snipe at you, or kill you when you try to spawn onto a map. That’s tiresome.

This really is a pretty game. The opening outer-space cinema sequence is one of the loveliest starts I’ve seen in a game in a long time.

And the voice acting comes in delicate shades of British accents, because nothing says "pip-pip, cheerio, you’re dead" more properly than an English tongue.

("Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine" by THQ retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for PC — Plays decent, but slightly below-average. Looks great. Moderately challenging. Rated "T" for violence and blood. Two and one-half stars out of four.)

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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