Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine – E3 Preview

June 20, 2011 Written by Tyler Minarik

Warhammer 40,000 fiction spans an incredible number of board games, table top games, video games, novels, and even movies. As if that’s not enough, now it’s going to step into new territory with a third person shooter known as Space Marine.

Traditionally, Warhammer 40,000 games are strategic, be it real time or turn based, but every once in a while, it steps out of those scenarios, like when 2001’s Fire Warrior released, bring the first Warhammer 40k FPS to the masses. Now, Space Marine is nearly ready to be the franchise’s first third person shooter, pitting players in the boots of a space marine named Captain Titus. Titus has been charged with the duty of leading a group of Ultramarines against an ork invasion, and faces massive odds in front of him.

Except for the lack of a cover system, Space Marine feels very much like Gears of War. You can feel the weight of your character as he clunks around in the 8 foot tall space marine suit, which luckily provides plenty of armor to take a pounding as swarms of orks close in around him. There’s no platforming gameplay of any kind, but instead a heavy focus on melee combat makes for a run and gun shooting gallery until you close distance and brutally smash through ork bodies with Titus’ Chainsword. Other melee weapons can be picked up as well, like a massive power axe we found, which allowed for new melee combos and kills.

Guns in the game are consistent with weapons found else where in the Warhammer 40k universe, like a bolt pistol, bolter, and plasma guns. While most need to be reloaded in a normal manner, some weapons would simply overheat, and need the ‘reload’ button to be tapped to vent off excess heat. While it’s certainly useful to have such a weapon on hand in case of running low on ammo, inevitably the orks will take advantage of your temporary vulnerability and overwhelm Titus en masse. In these situations, Titus’ special abilities, called the fury system may save the day. A special meter in the bottom left of the screen fills up as enemies are killed and, when filled, the fury attack can be released for a devastating melee move which damages, kills, and knocks back any survivors to give Titus breathing room. Supposedly, other abilities will be available to utilize with the fury system, such as slowing down time to improve aiming, but in our demo only this knock back skill was available.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine plays well, and the visceral melee attacks and fury system are especially gruesome and cool looking, but otherwise it’s a fairly standard third person shooter. Without much else to set itself apart from the stiff TPS competition, it may get lost in the shuffle when it releases this September, but that doesn’t mean it should be. Fans of the Warhammer 40,000 universe will find that this stays true to the lore, and expands it further with a unique story line of its own and a new way to explore the popular fictional setting. In the two levels we got to play at E3, we saw a solid TPS on the way, which hopefully will get its chance to shine despite releasing so closely to other shooters like Resistance 3, RAGE, and Gears of War 3.