Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Preview (PS3)

Considering THQ have been the champions of the 40K license for nearly 9 years now, a current generation shooter/action title was inevitable. Although the universe lends itself extremely well to variants of the strategy genre (given its nature as a table-top war game) the over the top violence perpetuated within it would also make for a very atmospheric shooter. If anything, we're surprised that THQ's upcoming 40K third-person action game, Space Marine, took this long to come to fruition.

Melee combat is nice an visceral. Very 40K
Saying that, the first game THQ ever made with the 40K license was actually a first-person shooter called Fire Warrior back in 2001, on the PS2 and PC. In that game, you played as a member of the then newly introduced Tau race, and was probably more of a marketing campaign than a real stab at a 40K FPS. Suffice to say, the game performed averagely, with the general consensus being that the PS2 version is better. Perhaps it was that near-failure that prevented another game being made, or perhaps THQ have just been content in letting the Dawn of War franchise spearhead the license. Whatever the reason, they're now ready to try again it seems, and at this year's GamesCom Strategy Informer was treated to an early glimpse of this new game.

Strangely enough, Space Marine is also being developed by Relic. Now, nothing against those guys as they've really done the IP a good service so far, but they're not exactly known for doing action/shooter titles. The closet thing they have is The Outfit, which was a third-person action/tactics game released in 2006 that did ok, but it was nothing special. Watching the demonstrator go through the early build, you can't help but glimpse some of that inexperience with the genre. It must be stressed that this IS an early look, so there's always room for improvement.

Still, if there's one thing Relic do know, it's the IP, which in these cases is half the battle. Relic's aim with this game, they say, is to deliver the experience of what it's like being an actual space marine. You sometimes here critics be-moan the fact that there are too many overly muscled super-soldier heroes around at the moment, but Games Workshop invented that concept. These guys are the original space marines, and Relic hope to capture some of that with Space Marine. Whether or not that's a good thing though remains to be seen.

Being a third person action game, you immediately think of Gears of War. Unlike Gears though, Space Marine doesn't employ any snap-to cover system or anything like that. Being a space marine means you ARE the cover, but it also seems to mean you're incapable of getting anywhere quickly, with you massive hulking armour weighing you down and reducing you to a slow shuffle. As such, the basic premise of the game seems to be move, shoot, move, shoot some more, with the odd set piece thrown in and you can sometimes side step behind an object to break the line of fire if things are really heating up. Now, being a fan of the universe I can easily see this as being a good homage to what a space marine is, but it doesn't really make for good gameplay. There's a lot we haven't seen, but so far combat is looking a little bit stiff, and could possibly get boring quickly.

The first set peice we saw involved you fending off raiders
There's glimmers of hope though - players can seamlessly switch between ranged and mêlée weapons, and the mêlée combat mode at least looks like it could be more fun. Mêlée attacks and take-downs seem very meaty and natural, and will help break up the walk-shoot-walk dynamic. Further to this, there's several action set-pieces strewn across every level, each with their own unique set-up. We only saw a couple during the demo, but they seemed ok.

This game is also slated has having some RPG elements, which basically means weapon progression. As you go through the game, you pick up new weapons, which you can further improve or expand upon. Much like the set-pieces, you can also find 'exotic' weapons which are some of the more powerful guns available in the 40K arsenal, and are only usable during the sequence they were found in. It all seems very basic at the moment, and again that could because of Relic's inexperience with the genre.

Credit where credit's due though, the game looks absolutely gorgeous. The rendering engine brings the world to life spectacularly, and the cut scenes aren't too shabby either. As we mentioned above, Relic know this IP inside and out now, and there's an attention to detail in the way the world is portrayed that you wouldn't get with anyone else, except maybe Games Workshop themselves. The atmosphere is there, definitely, even if 'Captain Titus' (the person you play as) is a bit cheesy sometimes.

The only other bits of information we were told at this point was that the single-player will probably comprise of 8 - 10 hours' worth of content, that they do want to pay special attention to the PC build and not just do a port, and that there will be a multiplayer mode and it will be competitive.
See what I mean? At the very least, this is going to be one good looking game

It's still early days with Space Marine, so ultimately we have to adopt a 'wait and see' attitude, at least until we get our hands on some playable code. Whilst the weapon progression system should prove interesting, and the set pieces seem well staged, ultimately we fear that combat could get stale really quickly. Relic's in-experience with the genre may show through all to clearly, so we hope their considerable experience with the IP helps compensate. Space Marine is slated for a 2011 release for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

Most Anticipated Feature: Getting your hands on the exotic weapons and letting loose will probably be fun. Gratuitous and unnecessary carnage will never grow old.

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By Hamsterman (SI Newbie) on Aug 28, 2011
Looks a little bloody.
By lobster123 (SI Newbie) on Aug 29, 2011
A little?
By paints (SI Newbie) on Aug 31, 2011
Looks cool.