E3 2011: Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine (Hands On)

by: Chuck -
More On: E3 2011 Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
Game:Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
Developer: THQ/Relic
Release Window/Date:  September 2011

What's polished: Visceral and fast paced combat, very Warhammey, nice mix of melee and ranged combat

What needs polish:  YABS (Yet Another Brown Shooter), some concerns if the hack and slash hold up over a full length campaign

Visceral, if you had to describe Warhammer:40,000 Space Marine in one word that word would be visceral.  Blood and marrow flew as I had Captain Titus wade through throngs of orks swinging his power sword.  I had thinned the mob out a bit with my bolter before engaging them in close combat but there were still enough to re-paint large portions of the area crimson.

While my Warhammer experience is limited to Relics RTS games but I have to imagine that fans of the series will dig what Relic has done with the game.  It feels raw and brutal which is exactly what I imagined a Space Marine game would feel like. 

Space Marine gameplay is a mix of ranged and melee and you seamlessly transition between the two.  The two triggers are used to aim and fire ranged weapons like you would expect but once enemies get close you can use the X and B buttons to unleash quick strikes or a heavy attack.  It’s important to note that unlike most third person action games melee is a core gameplay mechanic and not something you do only because the enemies get to close.  Space Marines are meant to get their boots dirty so you’re expected to wade into the middle of the battle and not hide behind cover while enemies charge you.    I did learn that there are times when you have to retreat and let your shields recharge but if you’re looking for a pop and shoot cover game this isn’t it.

The level I played had Captain Titus trying to save a weapons factory from being overrun by Orks who were hellbent on stealing a secret weapon that was under development there.    The level was heavy on the brown portion of the color palette but I’m hoping that’s more just the fact it was a dust planet and not indicative of a color choice across the rest of the game.   The level was fairly short as I mowed through several types of orks before reaching the end of the level where I dropped a large cannon onto a group of orks that had taken over some machine gun towers.   There’s a nice mix of enemies but I’m wondering how Relic is going to mix the combat up over a long campaign.  New weapons and upgrades are nice but I’m hoping there’s some more types of combat mixed in that I didn’t see on the show floor.  Details on the multiplayer modes are also being held until closer to launch but we did learn that there would be some competitive team based multiplayer in the game.

I left the demo wanting to see more and play more.  From a distance the game does look like a bit of a Gears of War clone but when you get close to the game you realize that it’s a fairly unique game and it’s most definitely a Warhammer game.