A Space Marine Is You
"Doom introduced the grizzled space marine to the gaming world 15 years ago, dreamed into existence by someone at id Software, probably just minutes after watching Aliens. The grizzled space marine character so captivated the imagination of first-person shooter fans that they decided to have him star in every single FPS game since."
A form of Cliché Storm for video games.
The prerequisites for this are:
- The game is a First or Third-Person Shooter.
- The game is Science Fiction themed.
- The protagonist is a member of the military.
If your game has the above, your plot will have a certain number of these cliches
- Your character will be called a "Space Marine".
- The Player will never speak.
- The opening action sequence will either be of you and The Squad landing in a hot zone, or being onboard a ship that is attacked in orbit.
- Which will be mostly unconnected with the rest of the game.
- You will have a radio, and you will hear annoying chatter.
- Dialogue ripped straight from Aliens or Predator, such as:
- "I don't think we're alone here"
- "What is that thing?!"
- "Stay Frosty."
- "Game Over Man! Game Over!"
- Most of the player's enemies will consist of either rival enemy soldiers, boogeymen from space or any combination of the two.
- Steam from leaky pipes will appear; whether they are plot-relevant is another matter. May be explosive or hazardous for reasons besides heat.
- All (or a large portion) of The Squad except the Player will die at some point; usually fairly early on.
- Some kind of shocking revelation or twist towards the middle. Usually either:
- A third force enters the fray.
- You join the other faction.
- You are transformed in some way, usually by partial (just the useful parts that make you superhuman) infection with The Virus.
- You discover that you aren't what you thought you were, usually in a way directly related to the antagonist.
- You uncover a conspiracy that has roots going all the way to the top. Often used as a motivation for joining the other faction.
- The endgame consists of the player going into the core of the enemy base to kill the Load-Bearing Boss.
- After the boss fight there will usually be some kind of timed escape run to get away from a time bomb or self destruct sequence activated by killing the Load-Bearing Boss.
- The character is bald and/or sports a 5 o'clock shadow.
- Your character wears Powered Armor.
- He can't shoot the locks off doors.
- Your primary weapon will be some form of assault rifle. You will probably have a nearly useless pistol in case the rifle runs out of ammunition. Over the course of the game, you will have access to a heavier machine gun, a shotgun, a grenade launcher, a rocket launcher, and a sniper rifle. You will probably also have access to some sort of advanced energy weapon (with a high chance of being BFG), and a powered melee weapon, such as a Chainsaw Good or "vibro" sword.
Much of the above comes from the tendency to
rip-off take inspiration from Aliens and Doom (which, in turn, are heavily inspired by Starship Troopers) along with sheer They Fight Crime-level parallel evolution. Just remember that this isn't necessarily bad or good, though, and that the cliches can be excused if the various rules are applied, especially Sci-Fi Awesomeness, and just Plain Old Fun. However, when worse comes to worst, there is also one of the ultimate rules: It's just a game.
- Advent Rising starts with the generic military elite Gideon's entire homeplanet destroyed by Scary Dogmatic Aliens, after which he proceeds to gain lots of Stock Super Powers, kick much ass, and save the day. The twist in this case is that for the finale, you get to fight the person whom you chose not to save at the beginning of the game. To his defense, Gideon often speaks and he is not bald.
- Metroid Prime 2 features a squad of Space Marines landing on the planet Aether who are quickly slaughtered by the local indigenous extradimensional bug monsters. Reading the dead troopers' logs reveal that they conformed as closely to the stereotype as they possibly could. Did we mention that Aliens was a huge influence on the Metroid series?
- The Doom series, the Trope Maker. You play as a silent Space Marine who was deployed with his squad to a space base over Mars which was attacked in orbit. Everyone else in said squad dies before the game even starts, which (according to the manual) you hear over your radio. And your enemies are demons who appeared out of nowhere in a space base. That's seven of the tropes right there. It also established the chainsaw, high-energy weapon, shotgun, and rocket launcher as standard Space Marine armaments. The similarities to Aliens are to be expected, because the game was originally supposed to be based on Aliens until id Software gave up on the idea because of 20th Century Fox's strict licensing demands, and the game was re-imagined as a mix between Aliens and Evil Dead.
- Most sci-fi shooters from the late 2000s are space marine themed. At E3 2010, many reviewers lamented how almost the entire lineup for Xbox 360, Play Station 3, and PC consisted of space marine FPS's.
- The Halo series. While the Chief speaks (occasionally) during cutscenes, is technically a Naval NCO (Master Chief Petty Officer, to be precise), and has short hair (according to the novels), the games hit most of other aspects of this trope, with the most notable exceptions being the general lack of a Final Boss and the fact that most players prefer to discard their assault rifle and use the pistols and semiautomatic rifles as their primary weapons instead (despite what the cutscenes and advertising would have you believe).
- You play as 5 different characters in Halo 3: ODST, but they're relatively well-characterized (Bungie certainly wasn't going to waste the voice talents of Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, and Nolan North, after all), with only the Rookie remaining a blank slate, mostly due to the fact that he never takes off his helmet and has zero lines of dialogue. Also, unlike most examples of the genre, the entire squad survives.
- Halo: Reach plays it mostly straight, but protagonist Noble Six is a Naval Lieutenant.
- The Arbiter from Halo 2 is a disgraced Elite Supreme Commander, who in the first game and Reach was the guy commanding the very same aliens attempting to kill you.
- The 2005 version of Area51 (with David Duchovny). Although the player is a 'mission specialist' rather than a new grunt the difference is almost purely semantic and the rest of the trope fits like a glove.
- Quake 2 and 4. Both games hit every single bullet point above with a straight face. (bar a loaded boss for Quake 4)
- Haze was an attempt at a Deconstruction of this trope.
- Crysis, sort of. Nomad is an ordinary Earth Marine, but still fills a good number of the cliches. Surprisingly, he has both a voice and an officer rank.
- Crysis 2 plays it even straighter.
- Half-Life's Opposing Force expansion averts it. You're a normal Marine, forced into a unit normally meant for combat in hazardous/anomalous area], but doesn't have any other Modus Operandi - they're just that, normal marines.
- Half-Life itself was a break from the trope. Half-Life 2 re-embraced this trope even tighter by making Gordon into a dimensional mercenary/freedom fighter, albeit not exactly by choice.
- The Half-Life mod "Natural Selection" embraces this trope; one team plays space marines, the other, an invading alien species.
- The Alien vs. Predator Marine campaigns. Well, obviously.
- Time Splitters falls into this category quite neatly also. The protagonist is bald, an elite trooper, lands on a hot zone with a lot more people that either die or for whatever reason don't go on for the rest of the game... yeah, one by one, it fills all the conditions. To be fair, the Time Splitters series is largely a parody of other first person shooters and video games in general, so this makes sense.
- TimeShift substitutes a military organization with a research organization owned by and infiltrated by the military, and In Space with In Steampunk Past, but obeys the remainder of the recipe. Rather oddly for the trope, you end up preventing all of the cutscene and first act deaths. Oh, and the main character might be the female researcher who gets blown up in the opening cutscene.
- Marathon fits the bill fairly well (technically, the player takes the role of a security officer rather then a marine, but he's often called "The Marine" by fans anyway.)
- Gunman Chronicles flirts with this trope, but ultimately manages to have its own style by having all the characters dress like 19th century Civil War soldiers.
- Unreal II the Awakening was like this, which resulted in numerous complaints by fans of the original game who felt the developers had traded in the unique atmosphere of the first Unreal for a generic Space Marine storyline. Granted, Dalton and crew were given great characterisation that was a total aversion of the usual cliches, but the rest of the storyline and game design were pretty much 100% A Space Marine Is You.
- The 2008 reboot of Turok, to such a degree that Zero Punctuation spent the entire review ripping the game for it.
- Also, Armorines another comic-licensed Acclaim FPS using the engine.
- Star Wars Republic Commando is such a straight example that it might even be a purposeful lampshading, given that the player characters are literally clones.
- Deus Ex partially averts this trope, if one interprets UNATCO (the UN agency the protagonist works for) as a military organisation: JC Denton is not a space marine, but does fit many of the other clichés.
- Samus Aran of Metroid fame is the idol of Space Marines in her universe. She is the lone survivor of a planet overrun by Space Pirates, taken in and given her ultra-modular battlesuit by the Chozo, and is a Heroic Mime, leading her to have very little personality of her own. However, Samus isn't really in the military (and is a woman). Metroid Prime 3: Corruption contains most of the clichés in the description. The Federation military to come out into their own, troopers alternating between seriously kicking ass and dying horribly.
- StarCraft (despite being a strategy game) has Raynor (siding with the good aliens) and Kerrigan (forcibly changed into an evil alien) fit the bill close enough. Pretty much all the Terran units follow this trope, right down to the dropship pilots quoting "Aliens" when you click on them.
- The campaign for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II is this trope, to the point where the opening narration explicitly states "You are that Space Marine". Rather impressive for a Real Time Strategy game with RPG elements.
- Of course, it doesn't precisely mean the same thing as this trope. Here, the term 'Space Marine' means 'Jihading Space Nazi Super Soldier'.
- None of the Dawn of War games are this trope at all, as this is a trope which encompasses (in part) a gameplay style. Nor do all the thematic elements fit. In none of these games are you a grunt or new meat, or a Silent Protagonist, etc. Just being an RTS with a Space Marine faction in it doesn't cut it. Additionally, all but two of the games allow you to have the Space Marines as enemies.
- The first few opening bullets described Fracture almost perfectly. No actual space stuff is involved, but its a sci-fi game nonetheless.
- The entire point of Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is becoming the Deconstructor Fleet for such games, the main character being a parody of shooter protagonists.
- Gears of War and Gears of War 2: you are veteran marine Marcus Fenix, a guy with little personality and no emotions. He wears trademark bulky armor, isn't afraid of anything, and most of his lines consist of less than five words. Those words are usually swears.. Parodied in Awesome Series.
- Mass Effect shares many of these elements, despite actually being a lot more of a Role-Playing Game. And Commander Shepard has a face and can talk, and most of the squad survives.
- Though male Shepard does have a five-o'-clock shadow in the default face.
- The Silencer from the Crusader series of games is a textbook example, right down to the zero personality. However, in the intro for the original Crusader: No Remorse, we see the two other members of The Silencer's original squad - right before they're gunned down by their Bad Boss - and they've definitely got personality, arguing loudly about the morality of their recent refusal to gun down unarmed civilians on orders. The Silencer, however, didn't participate in the argument, remaining voiceless even then, so his bland personality might well be a character trait.
- Dead Space plays all elements of the trope but the key one - your character is not military personel himself, just a simple civilian engineer who was assigned to a squad of proper space marines.
- Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine puts it right there in the title.
- The game zig-zags just how straight it plays the trope. The player character is not a zero-initiative macho grunt soldier but a soft-spoken, Father to His Men, Authority Equals Asskicking Captain, all of your squadmates survive the initial landing, and the gameplay works hard to avoid Real Is Brown and Take Cover. On the other hand, the story itself has been deemed cliche even by the Warhammer 40,000 fanbase, revolving around a MacGuffin, a token "shocking revelation" about the protagonist, and a demonic invasion that was given away in the trailer.