X'11 - Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Hands-On Preview
By James Farrington (08.30.11)
During X’11 Canada in Toronto I had a chance to play a hands-on demo of “Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine.” “Space Marine” is a third person shooter that takes place in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. In “Space Marine” the player controls, of course, a Space Marine as he attempts to rid the galaxy of Xenos (aliens), demons, and Chaos (Warhammer 40,000’s version of evil). The game does a good job of capturing the mythos of the Space Marines and the overall world seems in-line with the 40,000 universe. “Space Marine” is certainly made for fans of Warhammer but even if you do not know what a servo-skull is the game is a loud and fun shooter.
The Role of a Space Marine
The first thing to remember when playing “Space Marine” is that Space Marines are designed for destruction. Marines wear hulking power armor, wield chainswords (swords that are basically long chainsaws with a hilt) and use huge bolt guns. Space Marine’s are designed to take out huge numbers of foes and “Space Marine” the game regularly has large amounts of enemies charging the player at any given time. The feeling of being rushed from all sides by enemies is fun and the mass of blood left in the player’s wake is fitting for a game focused on Warhammer’s most fearsome warriors.
Bullets, Grenades, and Blood
“Space Marine” features the use of large and loud guns, grenades, and massive melee weapons. The guns I got to use were standard bolt guns and bolt pistols, each of which is a large caliber weapon that can completely devastate one’s enemies. The shooting controls felt responsive, tight, and well developed. However the melee combat certainly has more depth than the shooting. There is a simple combo system in the melee combat allowing the player to smash back and stun large groups of enemies. I was also able to charge to into groups of enemies by running at them and pressing the melee attack button creating a dash forward that smashed multiple enemies back. There is also a basic attack combo that creates a devastating melee attack at the end that can cut through multiple opponents. Yet the most interesting aspect of melee is health regeneration.
To regain health the player does not run and hide in cover or scrounge for health packs. In “Space Marine” killing enemies gives the player health. When an enemy is stunned a “B” button icon hovers over the stunned enemies head. When the player hits B near a stunned enemy an insta-kill move is performed and the player regains a bit of health. This sounds rather simple but it is surprising how involved the combat became when staying alive means staying in the fight and actually seeking out enemies even when the player is close to death. Furthermore, as the player kills enemies he/she builds up fury and once the fury meter is maxed the player can press down both control sticks to activate an over powered mode that gives the space marine a damage and health boost. Space Marines also come equipped with a shield that can recharge when out of combat, but I found the shield not terribly useful when I had only a sliver of health. Learning how and when to stun an enemy for a kill and when to use fury is a key element and an important tactical decision in “Space Marine’s” gameplay. Managing ammo, health, combo’s, and fury help give the combat some needed depth beyond simply button mashing the attack button.
Levels of Difficulty
The first level I played mainly showcased the combat and huge enemy numbers the player can expect to face. I was pleased to see such a large number of forces charging my character as I did my best to manage health, ammo, grenades, and fury. There are a variety of enemy types in “Space Marine” that range from swarms of small easy to kill enemies, to larger ranged enemies, to huge mini bosses, and even magic wielding foes. The demo I played did a good job of slowly introducing each enemy type only to have every enemy type swarm me at the end in one hectic battle that required I use every tactic at my disposal.
I also had a chance to play some jump pack gameplay during my hands-on demo. The jump pack is essentially a jet pack and completely changes how the space marine maneuvers around the environment. The jump pack allows the space marine to dash in any direction as well as launch himself into the air. Once the space marine is launched into the air a reticule appears on the ground and pressing the melee attack button sends the space marine into a deadly dive that smashes him into the ground obliterating and stunning any nearby enemies. I also got to use a huge hammer as opposed to the standard chainsword. However, I did not notice any major gameplay differences between the hammer and chainsword other than new animations.
While jumping and hammering around the level I eventually cam across an Ork Shaman, which was the most unique enemy I encountered. The shaman could teleport around the environment so finding him to take him out was particularly tricky. The shaman also had unique magic based attacks making him a difficult and fun character to fight. Each of the levels I played were rather difficult and required careful management of health. Also the different enemy types required the use of different tactics resulting in a surprisingly engaging experience.
I am concerned that my hands-on demo of “Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine” showed me all that “Space Marine” has to offer. Also the level design is somewhat pedestrian as each level I played was comprised of mainly large open areas in order to facilitate the large amounts of enemies. The game will feature 8 vs. 8 multiplayer action as well as co-op gameplay. I was offered little information on how the co-op is implemented in the game and I did not get a chance to play multiplayer so I cannot comment on how interesting or fun either game mode is to play. Still, “Space Marine’s” singleplayer gameplay is well developed and if the game can keep up the level of intensity I experienced in my hands-on demo then “Space Marine” should be one explosive ride. As a fan of the Warhammer 40,000 universe I am very excited to see all that ‘Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine” has to offer.