Warhammer 40K: Space Marine Hands-On Preview [X’11]

You’ve probably read our reviews of Warhammer 40K: Kill Team – the downloadable twin-stick shooter based in the popular fantasy universe. What you may not know is that title was a marketing device used to stir up interest in a much larger outing: Warhammer 40K: Space Marine.

Unlike Kill Team, Space Marine is a retail disc which is set to hit stores on September 6, bringing with it some arcade, third-person action. Explosive action, that is. Though, perhaps the word action is an understatement considering how chaotic this game can get.

Before I picked up the controller at THQ‘s demo booth, I had it in my mind that Space Marine would be a much more methodical shooter than it is. Instead, it feels very similar to Kill Team, except for the fact that there aren’t any twin-stick elements to be found. You see; the lead character and his group of fellow marines are not the type to take out their foes from far range or by taking cover and firing intermittently.

Their preference lies in rushing in with swords and guns ready to swing or fire, enjoying chaotic action more than anything cover-based. Melee attacks are a necessity in order to heal yourself, as a stun attack and finishing move combine to replenish lost life. To say that it’s something players will have to do a lot of would be to under-appreciate its need.

During my time playing, I spent quite a bit of time hacking away at Orks. There were a couple of levels on display, which showed off some different mechanics. One of the more interesting of those would have to be the jetpack, which allows players to fly up in the air to take out snipers on ledges. It’s also very helpful in getting to hard to reach areas or progressing over locked doorways. Additionally, one of the game’s major and most effective combat moves involves flying up into the air, targeting a pack of enemies on the ground and slamming on-top of them in a powerful fashion. Those who’ve always wanted to try Ork stew need apply.

In technical terms, the demo ran quite well considering how many individual enemies were on the screen at once – all vying for their chance to take a swipe or shot at me. It was impressive to see just how much action its Canadian development team at Relic Entertainment were able to put into each of the game’s shown set pieces. Hacking, slashing, shooting and slamming on-top of enemies was quite enjoyable and relatively visceral. Those Orks think they’re incredibly powerful, but they don’t know what’s in store for them.

Only the single player portion of the game was available for demoing at the event. What was there happened to be pretty fun, though it didn’t exactly blow me away. The core experience is chaotic and action-packed, with a lot of tense moments occurring as the player’s health quickly diminishes. However, I also found that it was a bit repetitive at times.

In a way, the arcade and over-the-top combat mechanics were charming though it’s not going to be for everyone due to the inherent repetition that comes with this type of video game structure. Certainly give the demo a shot to see if it’s for you, though.

Warhammer 40K: Space Marine seems like it’ll be an enjoyable romp in the fictional universe, with a single player lasting around 8-10 hours.

Those Orks will learn one day.