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Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Hands-On Preview

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Hands-On Preview

Platform: Xbox 360
Category: 3rd Person: Action

Recently while at a THQ preview event in San Francisco, I had a chance to check out Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine for the Xbox 360. It was a pre-alpha build, which unfortunately featured plenty of bugs, but it was very much playable and gave all of us in attendance a good feel for what Relic Entertainment had in store for us. Relic is best known for their Real Time Strategy games, so when they announced they were making a 3rd Person action shooter based on the Warhammer series, many including myself were skeptical. Well after about 3-hours playtime with the pre-alpha build I must say I am impressed. This being said, the game has some startling similarities to Gears of War and this pre-alpha build featured far too many bugs in order to make an accurate assessment of how good this game will be. I will however give you some of my impressions yet before I do so I will give you some background in terms of the games storyline.

In Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, you take on the role Captain Titus, a Space Marine and a leader of heroes. Captain Titus is a 7-foot tall and 1000 pound Space Marine who is a super human warrior. He has been genetically modified and encased in heavy armour. Captain Titus is humanity's last hope for survival in a dark future that knows only war. A million-strong alien army has just invaded a vital Forge World, putting humanity’s war effort at critical risk. Losing this planet will push mankind to the brink of annihilation, but a darker and far more evil threat is lurking large in the shadows of this world. Using a combination of deadly weapons, you along with your company of Space Marines and Imperial Guard encounter endless rushes of alien forces. The story also revolves around a mysterious power source and, as you guess it, the bad guys are trying of obtain a key to power the source. You, along with you band of Space Marines are attempting to foil that plan. That is the story in a nutshell and Warhhammer fans will be relieved to see the Orks play a major role in the game. While the story was not told much throughout the demo, clearly it will play a significant role in the games appeal.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine features a stellar cast of voice talent which strongly suggests the game will be solid in the story and plotline department. The voice talent features a cast of international film and television actors portraying the main characters in the game. Captain Titus is played by Mark String whose credits include Green Lantern, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, and Kick Ass. Other voice talent includes Richard Hawley, Noah Huntley, Christine Roberts and Danny Webb. So as you can see a talented cast indeed. This will likely only add a level of authenticity to the game.

After a brief presentation, we had a chance to play through about 3-hours of the games single player mode. While the story was not told throughout the demo, which admittedly was a disappointment, I never felt like I had to be familiar with the previous Warhammer RTS games in order to understand what was going on. In many ways, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is stand alone game looking to target not only fans of the series but also shooter fans looking for some good old fashion gruesome visceral killings.

When I first gave the demo a spin, there is no question, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine has a distinct Gears of War feel to it. Oversized steroid induced characters, nasty looking enemies, dark cavernous environments, and a style of combat much like Gears of War will inevitably draw comparisons and criticism. Nevertheless, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine does promise to bring a number of features and gameplay styles which separates itself from Epic’s blockbuster game. For starters, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine does not feature a cover system, and the combat system offers up a little more than chainsaws and guns. There are more examples than that but those are just a couple that come to mind.

As I played the demo that takes you across 4 random parts of the single player experience, I was most impressed with Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine’s combat system. While there is an emphasis on the melee combat, I found more often than not I was using the available weaponry. Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine features a plethora of weapons. There are your basic weapons like the “Bolter” which is the Space Marine standard assault rifle and the “Storm Bolter” which has a high rate of fire perfect for heavy assaults. There is also a “Plasma Gun” which accelerates a pulse of superheated ionized gas towards a target and melts through enemy armour. The “Lascannon” is an anti-tank weapon with the highest degree of armour penetration and the “Meltagun” fires an area-of-effect cone of superheated concussive force. All in all, each weapon offers up something a little different than the next and each weapon has its strengths in certain situations. Using the “Adeptus Mechanicus Vengence Launcher” can clear out a horde of Orks with one shot as it fires five simultaneous explosives that stick to any surface.

While I inevitably gravitated towards the games assault weaponry, you are encouraged to use melee attacks whenever possible. There are regular melee hits with the “X” button and heavy hits with the “Y” button. It is pretty simple. Your hero comes equipped with a standard melee weapon called the “Chainsword”. It is fast and responsive, and yes it will remind you of the Gears of War chainsaw. The results are equally bloody and disturbingly satisfying. So it is with sober satisfaction that I proclaim the “Chainsword” a resounding success. There are two other melee weapons available but unfortunately I never had a chance to play with them. Those being the “Power Axe” which uses focused energy fields surrounding a double-headed blade to cut enemies; and the “Thunder Hammer” builds up an immense energy charge released upon impact with the target and decimates everything in its path.

Overall, the combat style in Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is seamless as it encourages you to go into the heart of the battle. At any time, you can encounter 15 enemies converging on your at once. It can make for some chaotic moments but can also be highly enjoyable as dismantling the enemy is as rewarding as it was in EA’s Dead Space game. As you battle the enemies you do not do so alone but it feels like it at times. In Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine you do go into battle with fellow Space Marines, unfortunately the 7-foot tall and 1000 lbs Marines hardly did any damage when in battle. Make no bones about it, I did the majority of the killing in the demo I played as my fellow Marines were just not all that effective. The enemies however seemed intelligent enough and offered up quite a challenge at times. One particular enemy called the “Bloodletter Demon” caused for some extremely frustrating moments as this enemy moved with warp-like speed and their vicious swords did some serious damage.

One of the unique aspects of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is a featured called “Fury”. As you dispatch enemies in Space Marine, you earn “Fury” which is represented by a gauge on the side of the screen. Once full, you can pull off some devastating attacks. “Ranged Fury” and “Melee Fury” are just two forms of high powered combat. With a full gauge you can use your “Fury Marksmen” to enter a heightened form of awareness where time seems to slow down, allowing you to pick off multiple ranged enemies relatively quickly. Alternatively, you can also opt to utilize the “Fury Strike” for some up close and personal attacks that obliterate anything close enough to get in your way.

Just like Gears of War, in Space Marine you can pull off some gory execution moves with the simple press of a button. Every weapon and enemy type has different executions for gamers to experience. Every execution also awards you with a small amount of health and energy. The only downside, you are vulnerable to attack while performing your execution moves.

The levels themselves are very dark yet very compelling. Whether it be a desert canyon-like setting or dark under ruins, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine features some incredibly detailed environments which are surprisingly tall as they are wide. Granted, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is not a sandbox style game, but is more of a linear experience. This is not a bad thing as the game does offer up a degree of exploration as you search for ammo and other collectible items.

Overall, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is showing lots of promise at this stage in the game. If the game can overcome of the negative Gears of War comparisons and deliver a truly unique and engaging 3rd person action shooter experience, then there is no question Vancouver based Relic have another hit on their hands.


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