Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (Hands-On Preview)

When the developers first announced there wouldn’t be a cover system for this third-person-shooter it raised a few eyebrows. Now that I’ve seen the suicidal nature of a swarming orc hoard eager to test the might of a Space Marine’s weaponry, it seems it was a great decision.

So forget about turn-based choices, real time strategy and dice rolling, this is the full-on action title we’ve been waiting for. Strategy fans have enjoyed the Dawn of War games, but action fans always intrigued by the rich sci-fi lineage of the series can now look forward to the first decent Warhammer game since Fire Warrior.

The weapons in this game allow you to charge headfirst into combat with all guns blazing without the pansy-ass fear of wandering where the nearest low wall is to hide behind. The sheer numbers of enemies coming at you mean that your position would soon be overrun anyway.

Up to four weapons can be carried at a time with fast swapping being assigned to the d-pad. The numbers of enemies are sometimes so vast that it’s great to able to swap between reliable guns instead of waiting for a reload.

The arsenal will be familiar to fans of the Warhammer 40K tabletop series, everyone else may be initially confused by how similar-sounding the names are. The Bolt Pistol is your standard sidearm with infinite ammo; it’s more than capable of putting down a small group of orcs. The Bolter is akin to a fully automatic assault rifle, the Stormbolter is a bigger version that strays closer to LMG territory. The Stalker Bolter is a scoped sniper rifle. The Plasma Gun fires slow blue lasers and feel ineffective compared to the bullet-based weapons, but the remotely detonated grenades are great for backing away and watching explosions of green meat. We expect there will be a few more weapons to come in the final game too.

Melee weapons start with the infamous chain sword, but later on, a Power Axe can replace it. The melee combat looks to be an integral part of the game as it’s immensely effective at slicing through close-by enemies that manage to slip through your massacre-inducing spray of bullets. While shooters like Gears of War induce panic that the awful button prompt won’t work to melee, the fast paced swinging of your weapon makes close-encounters something to relish rather than fear or see as a failure of your shooting skills.

A metre with an Omega logo fills up with the blood spill, eventually allowing you to unleash a special attack. So far, we’ve seen a shoulder charge and a very useful stomp with an area-of-effect attack that clears a crowd around you, sending them all up into the air.

The weight and power of the Space Marine is well represented in combat and when sprinting as you stomp across the battlefield. The camera zooms in a little, but not to the effect that it gives the impression of a chasing colonic cam like a certain bromance series tends too. Thankfully, he is agile enough to perform dodge rolls and easily switch between melee and ranged combat with the brilliant fluidity you’d expect from an eight-foot tall killing machine.

Most orcs tend to attack in large groups and are easily dispatched with the only challenge coming from armoured or brute variants. Chaos Marines, like yourself, are seriously tough and have a unique speed-dodge roll that has meant the end of many a loyal Marine. Everything may want to kill you, but that doesn’t mean they all have to get on with each other as we saw a group of orcs in the middle of a massive scrap with bloodletters. Wander into the midst of it and you will become a mutual target though.

Games Workshop has one of the richest supplies of characters and species around, so we expect to see a great mix of enemies. There was little on display regarding the story, but again the long history of the 40K universe along with dozens of novels and codex’s will hopefully mean there’ll be something epic for the table.

The two missions available to play were similar fights through battled and crumbling buildings, cleaning up enemies along the way. One of them culminated in dropping a giant arm-like laser weapon on a distant battlefield, creating a huge explosion. If this was an arm from a Titan, we’re keeping our fingers crossed to go up against one of those sky-high bi-pedal battle mechs and hopefully pilot one of our own.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is released on PS3, 360 and PC on September 9th and after finally getting my hands on it I think it could be the pure action title the series has been waiting for.

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