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VIDEO GAME REVIEWS: The alien invaders must die!

A Space Marine crashes down on some Orks in ‘Warhammer 40K: Space Marine.’
A Space Marine crashes down on some Orks in ‘Warhammer 40K: Space Marine.’ THQ

At some point, is the world not worth saving anymore?

The question springs to mind when playing “Gears of War 3” and “Resistance 3,” two games whose worlds are so ravaged by the wars of previous installments that they hardly seem livable anymore.

“Gears of War 3” begins on the carrier CNV Sovereign, where Marcus Fenix, his comrade Dom Santiago and the rest of the series’ regulars have taken refuge after the sinking of the last human stronghold at the end of the previous game, which flooded the tunnels where the vicious Locust Horde lived.

The Coalition of Governments for which Marcus once fought is no more, and organized resistance to the remaining Locust is patchy. But Horde and humans alike have a new enemy in the Lambent, a mutated offshoot of the Locust that’s so thoroughly steeped in the volatile substance called Imulsion that its grotesque creatures explode when killed.

The Sovereign comes under attack by the Lambent, just as Marcus discovers his scientist-soldier father is still alive and held by the Locust. Fenix the elder claims to have a way to defeat the Locust and the Lambent, and so begins a mission to find him.

The game doesn’t stray from the formula laid down by the previous two. The game emphasizes firing from cover and cautious movement between obstacles to maximize defense. There are melee attacks for taking on enemies that get too close, but running out into the open during a firefight is a sure way to die fast.

There are many established Locust and Lambent enemies to fight, as well as a variety of new ones, from mutated Lambent Drudges armed with flailing tentacles to a massive sea beast that chows down on the Sovereign.

Marcus and his crew can wield a large arsenal of human and Locust weapons, from the classic chainsaw-equipped Lancer and the grenade-launching Boomshot to new weapons like the Digger Launcher, which fires burrowing creatures fitted with explosives, and the heavily armored Silverback mech suit.

The game’s new features include cooperative play through the campaign for four players (the previous games only allowed two), as well as new competitive multiplayer modes, an updated version of the Horde mode, in which players purchase defenses to fight off waves of Locust enemies, and a new game type called Beast that has players controlling Locust forces in attacks against human enemies.

Humanity’s position is even more tenuous in “Resistance 3.” The hive-minded alien Chimera have stopped converting humans into their own species as they did in past games, and have progressed to simply exterminating the survivors —only about 10 percent of the population remains in this alternate-history 1957.

Massive terraforming machines gouge huge rifts in the Earth, and a wormhole over New York will freeze the entire planet in a matter of months, leaving the surface more hospitable for the hot-running Chimera, who otherwise can only survive if implanted with large heat sinks.

In the midst of all this, Joe Capelli, a survivor of the last game, just wants to have what peace he can with his wife and young son. A Chimera force arriving near their underground home and the arrival of a scientist claiming a way to shut down the wormhole force him back into action.

The star of the game is its weaponry, which ranges from the Bullseye rifle, which can mark an enemy and then fire shots at it over and around obstacles; to the Augur, a sniper rifle that can bore through barriers. Even seemingly mundane weapons, like the .44 magnum revolver and shotgun, have perks like remote-activated exploding bullets or concussion grenades.

New guns include the Mutator, a biological weapon that causes explosive growths to sprout on any Chimera hit with it; the Atomizer, an electrical weapon that acts kind of like a shotgun; and several more.

All weapons have a secondary function, such as an energy shield or a deployable turret, and there are several kinds of grenades. The guns also increase in power with use, gaining two additional abilities each — the revolver’s shots will start to set things on fire and the Bullseye will tag multiple foes at once, for example.

Rather than the 60-player matches of “Resistance 2,” the competitive multiplayer modes of this one allow just 16, and its cooperative mode is a two-player run through the solo campaign rather than the last game’s separate eight-player adventure. Players choose to play as either humans or Chimera, each side having its own abilities and perks, more of which can be unlocked with extensive play.

The world on which “Warhammer 40K: Space Marine” takes place is also ruined, but “Warhammer” worlds are always ruined.

The bleak, perpetually war-torn “40K” universe has been ably represented by the “Dawn of War” strategy games for several years now, but this marks the first time players have been able to step directly into the armored boots of a Space Marine.

These genetically conditioned warriors of the Imperium of Man are worth an army on their own, and the game is designed around conveying that feeling. Your marine’s armored boots thump, his massive guns boom, and his chainsaw sword roars and shreds through green-skinned, monstrous Orks and twisted, traitorous Chaos Space Marines and their demonic minions.

This is the kind of game where the only way to regain health is to wade into the thick of battle, stun a foe with a mighty blow and then execute it at close range — ludicrous violence is the stock in trade of the “Warhammer 40K” line, and this game is no exception.

The game’s competitive online mode has you choose from Imperium or Chaos Space Marines in three varieties, each with different weapons and abilities, with further customization options unlocked through play.

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