"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:
If your game has the above, your plot will have a certain number of these cliches
- The game is a First or Third-Person Shooter.
- The game is Science Fiction themed.
- The protagonist is a member of the military.
- Your character will be called a "Space Marine".
- As a corollary to the above, either your character will be a generic low-level grunt (frequently the New Meat) or a generic ultra-elite soldier. Either way, The Player Character is almost never an officer. (If he is an officer, he likely won't issue orders or otherwise act like an officer.)
- The Player will never speak. Alternatively, they will speak exclusively in manly man quips and military jargon.
- 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 rival enemy soldiers, boogeymen from space and/or Horde of Alien Locusts.
- 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:
- 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 or "vibro" sword.
Much of the above comes from the tendency to
take inspiration from Aliens
(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 Superpowers, 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.
- The Colony is an Ur Example. You are a Silent Protagonist Space Marshal responding to a distress call from a remote outpost. On approaching the planet your ship is damaged and you crash land. You don your Powered Armor and make your way to the entrance of the underground base, which you find has been overrun by aliens who appeared out of nowhere; you must penetrate to the depths of the base and out again to escape the planet alive.
- 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.
- That didn't stop experienced modders from doing Aliens-themed mods - Aliens T.C.* was the most famous one (and rather impressive in its own right).
- 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, PS3, 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).
- In Halo 4, much more emphasis is been put on the Chief's personality, with him speaking even during gameplay.
- 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.
- Halo 2 also steers a little away from the trope with the Arbiter, a disgraced Elite Supreme Commander who in the first game and Reach was the guy commanding the very same aliens attempting to kill you.
- Bungie's previous game Marathon also fits the bill fairly well (technically, the player takes the role of a security officer rather than a marine, but he's often called "The Marine" by fans anyway.) The protagonist is a faceless soldier with a bunch of guns who fights off aliens from a spaceship at the command of a group of AIs. He is also almost certainly the missing 10th supersoldier on board. However the trope is played with: you are a cyborg machine who will fulfill orders given by the terminals, no matter who gives the orders or what they entail.
- This trope is cited by name in the Game Mod Phoenix, in which it's the name of the first real level.
- The 2005 version of Area 51 (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 II 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, thwarted by Executive Meddling among others.
- 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, for thematic purposes.
- Crysis 3 on the other hand doesn't fit a large chunk of these characteristics. Prophet is no longer in the U.S. military, he has a lot of dialogue, undergoes Character Development throughout the game, spends only about half the game listening to a Voice with an Internet Connection before deciding he can get more things done if he acts on his own, and his primary weapon is a compound bow despite being the only person in the world who can use Ceph weaponry. Oh, and he's not wearing Powered Armor, he is the Powered Armor!
- 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.
- TimeSplitters 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 TimeSplitters series is largely a parody of other first person shooters and video games in general, so this makes sense.
- Time Shift 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.
- 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.
- It does however avert many other criteria. The player character "Boss" is very talkative (voiced by none other than Temuera Morrison) even when he ends up on his own, he is addressed as "sir" and giving The Squad commands is what the game is all about.
- Deus Ex partially averts this trope, if one interprets UNATCO (the UN agency the protagonist works for) as a military organization: JC Denton is not a space marine, but does fit many of the other clichés.
- Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior. The best way to sum it up is: "Fire Warrior" is just how the Tau say "Space Marine". Make that tiny adjustment, and the trope fits like a glove from A to Z.
- Amusingly, the game actually titled Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, where you play as an actual Space Marine, doesn't fit the trope. The Player Character is much to talkative.
- Substitute "megacorporation" for "space station" and you pretty much have the first F.E.A.R. game, down to The Reveal: You're Alma's son. Well, one of them.
- 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.
- The manga reveals that Samus actually served in a Galactic Marines special forces unit at one time.
- 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.
Shoot 'em Up
- Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey.
- Mass Effect is a Double Subversion: First, it shares many of these elements, despite actually being a lot more of a Role-Playing Game. And Commander Shepard has a customizable face (though the standard male one is the Action Genre Hero Guy face) and can talk, and most of the squad survives. Also, they're technically a naval officer rather than a marine noncom, but that doesn't mean as much in this setting given that there's so much overlap between the Systems Alliance Navy and Marine Corps. The subversion shows up when they're reassigned from the formal military to be James Bond IN SPACE! and the game changes directions - and then by the sequels bring it right back to A Space Marine Is You.
- As for the part about officer PCs never giving orders, this is comprehensively averted, ranging from the option of handing out "focus fire" and "use power on target" orders to your teammates, to - in the climax of the second game - assigning teammates specialist roles such as "infiltrate via ventilation shaft" or "lead a secondary fireteam".
- 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.
- 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 personnel himself, just a simple civilian engineer who was assigned to a squad of proper space marines.
- Ironically, a group of Space Marines do show up late in the game, but are almost immediately all utterly pwnt by the Necromorphs, possibly due to their "Rambo-ing out" mentality. Or because the plot says so.
- Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine puts it right there in the title. Though 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 (tagline: "Cover is for the weak."). 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.