Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Hands-On Preview

Space Marine

THQ and Relic Entertainment recently invited GamerNode to have our first in-depth look at the newest videogame adaptation of the popular Warhammer 40,000 tabletop war game. Unlike previous Relic efforts, however, which focused more on the strategy environment from which they were derived, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine seeks to make an impact on the more mainstream action market. From what I’ve had the chance to experience, it looks like it may do just that when it arrives late this summer.

Space Marine, at first glance, looks like a Gears-of-War-style third-person shooter. Characters are bulky and weighty and the camera is positioned fairly close to the protagonist’s back, the player can only carry a few weapons at a time and must decide when and for what they would like to swap them out, and there are lots of ugly baddies to kill in violent fashion. Upon further inspection, however, Space Marine reveals itself to be more than just a Gears clone; it is, instead, a self-assured product that dictates its own style of dynamic and enjoyable play.

Before getting into combat, which is the standout element in Space Marine, it would appear that Relic aims to provide the same feeling as a blockbuster action movie, developing characters and using cinematic direction to engross players. I was given a small taste of this, but unfortunately, story segments were somewhat limited in the demo I played. Very cursorily, the basic premise of Warhammer is that in the year 40,000, humans are in danger of being eliminated from existence by multiple alien races, which are based primarily on high fantasy conventions, and it is up to the medically and genetically enhanced Space Marines to go to war and stop this from happening. The player assumes the role of Captain Titus, and will be fighting two of these threatening races: the Orks and Chaos.

Space Marine

Fighting is most certainly central to the Space Marine experience. The game uses a blend of ranged and melee combat, but unlike titles such as Devil May Cry or Gears of War, which emphasize one side or the other, Space Marine doesn’t feel like either type of combat is a primary focus or outshines the other. With the variety of offensive options available, it looks like players will have more freedom to adopt the tactics they feel most comfortable with.

In Space Marine, face buttons control melee attacks, making a quick, strong, and fury attack available to the player. Each of these takes longer to execute than the last, but is also more damaging to enemies. Using one button, special "executions" allow the player to quickly eliminate weakened foes from the battlefield via bloody, pre-set animations. There is a noticeable time-management element here that makes play feel varied and engaging. This idea carries over to ranged combat, manifesting in guns like the plasma rife, which the player must deliberately take time in the midst of an assault to vent and avoid overheating.

The fact that the game builds around the Space Marine characters will undoubtedly flavor the its mechanics with a very distinct, aggressive combat style. It is very much about charging into battle with a powerful character and violently slaying many foes quickly. There is an emphasis on being offensive and dominating the opposition from the heart of the battlefield, but that doesn’t mean a player can’t choose to hang back and pick off some orks or chaos demons from a distance, if he or she desires. The aforementioned fury attacks, which are activated only after filling a meter at the bottom of the screen, can be used at range, too, slowing the action and letting the player bust some proverbial shots with deadly accuracy. Roughly 15 weapons will be included for ranged combat.

Space Marine

The game’s lack of a cover system doesn’t actively encourage the use of cover in battle, but it looks like there will always be enough available in the environment to use on the fly, should the need to avoid fire or regenerate health arise. The levels are dark and capture the epic feel of the Warhammer fiction, using very large-scale architecture, along with a variety of underground and industrial motifs, dilapidated buildings, and evidence of destruction, i.e. rubble, chunks of buildings, and other gritty, bullet-defeating objects. It is exactly the setting in which one might expect Space Marines to be fighting futuristic orks and demons, if such a place exists.

At its core, Space Marine is about combat, and from what THQ and Relic have shown us, the game does enough to be worth keeping an eye on. Relic is carving a new path both from an internal standpoint as well as in terms of the new and dynamic hybrid combat model. Simply put, I had fun playing Space Marine, and am looking forward to getting my hands on the full spectrum of its in-your-face action later this year.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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