A few days ago I posted up a preview of THQ’s upcoming Warhammer 40K: Space Marine, which puts you in the power armor clad boots of one Captain Titus of the Ultramarines as he purges the Ork (and Chaos) forces that are invading an Imperial Forge World. Needless to say, I was excited for the game, and have spent the past few days waiting for the demo to release by playing way too much Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War on the PC and reading up on the tabletop game which I’m just away to venture into for the first time. But now the demo is out, so, after numerous playthroughs, am I still excited? Hell yes.
The demo offers two levels to play, and the first opens by providing an epic view of the industrial maze that will entomb you in its metal body as you gun and slash your way through the Ork hordes. The first thing to be noticed, then, is this is a fine-looking game; the Marines in particular look superbly detailed in their blue and gold armour (The colors of the Ultramarines) and while the actual industrial art-style isn’t anything special to look at, the technical aspects of the game aren’t lacking. Enemies and environments have a nice level of detail to them as well.
The next thing I noted as I set off down the ramp was the heavy feeling that THQ have gone for to replicate that feeling of being an 8ft tall, armor clad killing machine. Titus has a distinctly weighty feel to his movements, much like Marcus Fenix from Gears of War, and this is best displayed when you click the left stick and start sprinting; every time your foot hits the floor you’re greeted a meaty thud and a violent camera jerk. The result; you feel badass.
A quick cycle through the weapons presented some nice choices to play with; a pistol with infinite ammo, a Bolter, a Stalker sniper rifle, and Vengeance Grenade Launcher which fires out sticky grenades that can be manually detonated. For obvious reasons the Bolter was my choice for much of the mission, as it’s essentially an assault rifle, and boy did it feel good; opening fire resulted in a lovely, brutal sounding bang and plenty of Orks getting mowed down in my fury. LIke the Bolter, the other weapons proved to be equally awesome to play with, each sounding nice and meaty and giving satisfying results, and that’s what I really want from some futuristic weapons; bugger the sci-fi squeals, give me bangs!
After playing around with the guns I decided it was about time that I actually got out of the first area. A brief cutscene later and I’m storming over a bridge and round a corner to where I run into my first encounter with the Orks. As I stand gazing at them, considering how best to dispatch them and end their miserable existence, one turns to look at me, opens its mouth and bellows that famous Orky cry; :”WAAAAAAAAAGGGGHHHHHHHH!”. I could have marveled at how damn cool that sounded, or by how good the Orks looked (not in that way, you sick person), but instead I decided to fire a Vengeance Grenade down his throat and detonate it, thereby taking out several of his mates as well. After that I stormed in to give the games melee system a good testing.
I hit the sprint and whacked ‘Y’ as I neared the enemy horde to activate my shoulder charge which helpfully cleared some space so I could whip out my chainsword with a tap of ‘X’ and go to town on the those green buggers.The change from ranged weapons to melee is a smooth transition, so no need to worry about trying to quickly cycle through weapons before death descends. The system is simple enough; ‘A’ dodges, ‘X’ is your basic strike, ‘Y’ is to stun enemies (providing you’ve done enough damage as well) and ‘B’ is to execute stunned enemies. It’s not a complex system , but it’s a vastly satisfying one that’s augmented by a “fury” bar that builds as you kill and that allows you to go utterly nuts, killing everything in your path with just a hit or two. The real key to the melee system is the fact that execution kills grant you health boosts, thereby making your hated enemy a sort of walking medi-pack. While it may not be the deepest melee system know to mankind, it’s a brutal one with every attack resulting is sprays of blood and gory delight.
And, to my great delight, I discovered a lovely Power Axe hiding next to the lift as the Imperial Gaurds ascend to meet you. This bad-boy packs a serious wallop with a longer combo chain to help you cut off some limbs. If you thought the Chainsword was awesome, you ain’t seen anything until you grab a Power Axe.
Most importantly, neither the melee or ranged aspects of the combat system felt they overshadowed each other, instead they were both important and useful for taking down the enemy, though the health system certainly encourages you to charge in their and get slicing.
The Orks, despite being a bit dumb, proved to be fairly challenging opponents. I don’t mind admitting that they got the better of me a couple of times on Normal. They rely on numbers to take you down, and for the most part focus on simply charging in and hitting you over the head with whatever object they happen to be holding, meaning the standard tactic I employed was to hold my ground while peppering the charging horde with Bolter fire and then wading in with the Chainsword. But don’t be fooled, as there are some Orks that run around with guns and like to play a long-range game with you. Thrown into the mix are some larger Orks (standing around your own height) who take a fair beating to put down. Take my advice; if you play on Hard – May the Emporer help you – you want to avoid pissing this big boys off as much as you can, because they’re already angry enough without your help.
As much as I enjoyed pounding on Orks, I was disappointed that demo doesn’t give a taste of what it will be like to go up against the Chaos forces that will be present in the game, as I think these guys will provide a much wider variety of tactics and a more entertaining fight, not that I’m suggesting bashing Ork head skulls isn’t fun. It is.
Other than almost continuous fights, the first part of the demo doesn’t provide much more, though it does contain some teasing hints toward Inquisition involvement in the game which has left me pretty excited about finding out why everyone seems to be interested in this planet.
So, on to the second part of the demo, then.
The second part of the demo is much shorter than the first, but makes up for it by strapping a jump pack to your pack and sending you hurtling through the air like some sort of deranged bowling ball that thinks it can fly. After grinning like an idiot for a while because jump packs are just awesome, I hesitantly hit ‘A’ and sent Titus into the air. A little reticule then appears that shows exactly where I’m going to be landing. With a few minor trajectory adjustments I aim myself at a group of Orks causing havoc for my fellow Ultramarines down on the ground floor. Once I get lined up to my satisfaction I hit the ‘X’ button which results in Titus plummeting out of the sky like an avenging angel and hammering into the ground, sending Orks flying in all directions at the force of the impact. It’s here that I’ll borrow one of the those famous words that get flung around the internet so much; OMFGWTFTWAFTWBBQSAUCE.
Like the controls on the ground, the jump pack feels pretty hefty while piloting it around, so it actually takes a bit of skill to get your diving attacks lined up correctly. This is good news as I was worried it would be far too easy, thereby making it an utter pain to deal with in the multiplayer side of the game. It’s still going to be pretty powerful, but at least you will stand a chance.
Again, the final section wasn’t the greatest choice for showing off Space Marine’s graphical aspects as it took place in a fairly boring section of the world, but Relic are promising some radically different environments to drool at in the full game when it releases next month.
The final thing that I’ll touch upon was the surprisingly good voice acting of Captain Titus and his two companions. It’s predictably over-the-top, but it’s believably over-the-top and suits the battle hardened and badass Space Marines perfectly. In fact, all the audio aspects of Space Marine were quite impressive, with guns offering meaty bangs, explosions sounding nice and awesome and Orks crying battle cries as they charged to their doom at my hands.
To sum it all up, Warhammer 40K: Space Marine feels epic and it feels fun. Sure, it hasn’t put to rest my fears that the game will be a continuous stream of enemies for 12-hours of play, which could easily turn the game from an epic kill-fest to a trudge through the endless hordes, but I have faith that boss battles, different enemies types and unlockables will keep it all fun and interesting.
As I quietly turned off my Xbox, my mind replaying the scenes of slaughter that Space Marine presented to me in brutal detail, one thought dominated my mind; I want this game, and I want it now.
Warhammer 40K: Space Marine will be available to purchase on September 9th in the UK.