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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

Developer: Relic Entertainment
Pubisher: THQ

On July 14 we got an opportunity to head down and participate in the multiplayer unveiling for THQ’s upcoming Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (referred to Space Marine in this preview). Prior to the actual unveiling, we were introduced to Paul Lyons from Games Workshop in the U.K. He was there to give us a brief introduction, and during his speech he noted to all of us in attendance that the world of Warhammer is 25 years old this year. That somewhat took me by surprise given that I had no clue it was that old.

We were then treated to a brief video from Alan Merrett, who took us newbies to the series through a bit if a quick introduction to what Warhammer 40,000 was all about. For those not familiar with the franchise, to which I am have to admit I am one, humanity has fallen into a state where they are continually at war. The world of Warhammer 40,000 is combination of gritty and fantastic concepts. They are fighting for a universe that has fallen into darkness and medieval stewardship. Space Marines are the ultimate protectors of humanity who are committed to the defense of humankind and the emperor. There are only 1,000,000 that exist and in the world of Warhammer that is not a large number as they have to battle in a galaxy of billions or people/aliens.

In a nutshell, there are different groups of enemies that the Space Marines continue to battle, and in particular two come to mind. The Order of Chaos are Space Marines and Imperial Guards that have gone bad. They have fallen prey to a hunger that regular Space Marines continue to resist and they have become corrupted by the Chao Gods. Orks come from a previous age. They are everywhere amongst the stars that man has explored. They conquer and destroy entire worlds for no reason beyond a desire to fight and demolish. These races play a big role in the world of the Warhammer franchise.

Alan Merrett stated that he is excited for Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine given that it captures the grim reality of the universe of Warhammer 40,000 so well. And with that it was time for the unveiling of the multiplayer modes for Space Marine.

Relic Reps James and Otto took to the stage to let us know what the multiplayer features of Space Marine were all about. The game supports up to eight players aside, which I think is great. I have always been a fan of minimum 16-player support, and this game fits that bill. There are two types of game modes that were unveiled, and they are called Annihilation and Seize Ground.

Annihilation is your basic team deathmatch type mode. You score points by killing your enemy, it is that simple. The first team to a pre-set number of kills before the time limit is up wins the match. Should time run out then the team with the most kills wins. Seize ground is a more objective based mode. Here each team fights for control of a series (multiple) of objectives, and the longer you hold an objective, the more points your team accumulates. Of course the more objectives that you hold at a time the quicker your score goes up. The first team to reach the score limit wins.

Like most successful shooters, there are multiple classes for one to choose from. In Space Marine there are a total of three classes of Space Marines and its Order of Chaos equivalent to choose from. There are the Tactical Space Marine/Chaos Space Marine, Assault Marine/Raptor, and Devastator/Havoc.

The Tactical Space Marine/Chaos Space Marine is the most balanced class for a good combination of ranged combat and close combat. You can use a series of ballistic and non-ballistic guns as well a combat knife for in-close battle. The Assault Marine/Chaos Raptor is the close combat expert. They have a jump pack that allows them to move about each level through the air quite quickly and also allows them to perform a move called a “ground pound” when they land. Given their close combat expertise, the Assault Marine/Chaos Raptor class has more blade based and hammer weapons to rely on. They also carry a side arm for a bit of gunplay when desired. Finally, the Devastator/Chaos Havoc class is the expert in long-range combat and is the only class that can handle the weapons with the most power. Each weapon they use packs one heck of a punch and can be ballistic or non-ballistic based (e.g. Heavy Bolter, Las Cannon, Plasma Cannon). Some of the weapons also can also be mounted to the ground for an increased rapid fire. They are the slowest moving of the classes as well and can only kick when meleeing.

So, we have the modes, and we have the classes, but so you probably want to know if there is more. Well there is. Space Marine adds customizability of your character, including appearance, loadouts, and perks. When our friendly Relic representatives were talking about the game, they indicated that there are around 1.8 billion customization combinations in total. This includes what your characters individual pieces of your armor look like (colour or design), what kind of weapon you equip in your loadout, to what kind of perks you equip (2 per ‘class’ or character). You have to enter the Customizer option to do this, but once you get in you’ll find that it is quite intuitive and pretty easy to use.

As with any game of this nature, you have to earn your stripes so to speak to open up new items for customization. There are a total of 41 levels to work through, and as you make your way up the ranks you’ll find some pretty neat items opening up.

So after learning all about what the game has to offer, we were given a chance to see what all the talk was about. We started off with some Annihilation. Our characters were set at level 5, so we had a few weapons to use. The first game we played was a melee fest. Everyone seemed to be using the Assault Marine class that afforded the chance to fly around, do a ground pound, and then melee away. This was very evident when I turned the corner on one specific level and saw about 4 or 5 people hacking away at each other. It was far from fun. That being said, a match or two later and we were in a level that did not afford so much meleeing, and given that different tactics were needed, it meant more people started to us a different class of marine, and here the game became more enjoyable. As I started to settle in, and learn the in’s-and-out’s of my character classes I did start to appreciate it more.

After about five rounds of Annihilation, we switched things up and went and played some Seize Ground matches. Now this is where things got interesting, at least for me. The first thing that the team from Relic did was open up our characters at level 41. This allowed for FULL customizability with all weapons and perks opened up. After customizing a few different classes, we started to play. Seize Ground was by far the most enjoyable in terms of my overall experience. I was able to find weapons that I was successful with, and I was able to play as a part of a team given we held down capture points and defended them well, and it just played better for me. There could be some pretty intense and chaotic moments at specific points, but nonetheless, it could be fun. As with any “control” type mode, controlling specific points is what could win or lose a game. By only focusing on two or three specific ones (depending on how many on the level) you can be quite successful.

Overall there is a slow and somewhat methodical feel to the game. While you do have the option to run, it is not a speedy run. I really thought this was to the game’s benefit as it makes one feel that they are truly in control of a Space Marine who is wearing one hell of a large suit of armor. The game definitely does not have a twitch feel to it, which again is a good thing given the source material. In some ways maybe this is not only due to the fact that it communicates the size of your character so well, but also it reflects that the Warhammer games are ones to think out and strategize your moves.

If I had one complaint, and again, this is my opinion, it was that the at times when going up against another player in a melee scenario, it felt like the winner was determined by a “roll of the dice” so to speak. Maybe it was just that I did not get a good grip on it, or that my timing just sucked. Regardless, it was frustrating at times to say the least.

Overall I am somewhat hopeful that all the hard work that has been put into this game does not go overlooked. There is no doubt that many people will compare this game to Epic’s upcoming Gears of War 3, but that would not be fair as the games are different, and each have their own strengths and weakness. There is no doubt that fans of 3rd person shooters will want to keep an eye on this game, and Warhammer fans will definitely want to keep their attention on Space Marine.


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