Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine Hands-On Preview

The "archetypal" Space Marines go all Gears of Warhammer in Relic's take on a 40K action shooter.

The universe of Warhammer 40,000 wasn't the first to give us the Space Marine, but its particular brand of off-world warrior, the bulkily armoured 40K ubertrooper, is a hefty touchstone for the trope. Though the proliferation of the Space Marine in games has made the term itself all but generic, Games Workshop, the publisher of the original tabletop wargame, has the trademark on it. James McDermott, marketing manager at Relic Entertainment, also traces latter-day Space Marines such as Marcus Fenix and Master Chief back to their 40K roots. "They all have a lot of the same tones and emotional appeal that I think stems originally from Warhammer 40,000. [40K] Space Marines are the original archetypes."

As maker of the Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War strategy games, Relic has plenty of experience with the gameworld, if not with third-person action shooters such as this one. But the studio is raring to bring the archetypal interstellar infantry to an up-close, not top-down, adventure. "Violent, visible death," is the phrase McDermott repeats in the presentation ahead of our hands-on: Relic's mantra for a burly, bloody, melee-heavy romp around in the world of 40K.

The game is set on a Forge World, a factory planet given over to war machine production. Our hulking hero, Captain Titus of the Ultramarines Chapter, is brought in to purge the planet when it is invaded by Orks--green-skinned, brutish hordes queuing up to meet Titus' chainsword (chainsaw sword), bolter (assault rifle), and grenades. The bolter pistol, plasma gun (with a single and charged shot), and grenade launcher also appeared in the demo; the latter launched five remotely detonated sticky grenades that could be triggered individually or en masse.

Space Marine is emphatically not a shooter with the odd edged-weapon execution. The combat system is a melee-shooter hybrid that is intended to balance gunplay with hack-and-slash action from the centre of a pack of baddies and allow quick switching between the two. We're also told melee isn't intended as a defensive last resort, as is sometimes the case, and it is powerful enough--and ammo seems scarce enough--to keep it from being so.

Titus swings his chainsword with a light or heavy attack, conjuring gore and severed limbs wherever it makes a kill. The light attack is fast and targets a single foe; the smallest enemies can be swatted into a bloody cloud with one such hit. The heavy attack is slow but strong, tearing through a number of targets. Though the chainsword is the only melee weapon we spent time with, the power axe and thunder hammer apparently featured later in the game. Kills fill up Titus' fury meter, which, when full, lets him perform a fury strike--a sweeping area-of-affect melee maneuver enacted in cinematic slow motion. Or he can perform ranged fury, which slows down time for more easily picking off targets when shooting.

Titus feels as weighty as he should, being a several-hundred-pound supersoldier; we're told having him "firmly planted in the world" was a focus for the feel of the controls. His momentum is tangible when he picks up speed--there's a convincing ramming sprint attack--and for the most part, the sense of weight is achieved without making him feel sluggish. That said, slower melee attacks leave Titus mightily cleaving thin air for perhaps a moment too long when they don't make contact. There's no cover system for you or your enemies, though there is a dodge move, and those enemies without ranged weapons close in fast. But even without a cover system, Gears of War comparisons are unavoidable and apt, which Relic acknowledges. McDermott says they take the "Gears of Warhammer" label "as a real compliment."

Our demo, which was composed of four segments from an eight-to-10-hour game, led us through a mix of environments on Forge World. We took in a factory complex, a destroyed city, and a desert canyon, where we met the game's second enemy faction, the forces of Chaos. This faction has been stage-managing the Ork invasion for its own ends. Described as the Sith to the Space Marine's Jedi Order, the Chaos forces include corrupted humans and demonic warriors. We encountered a psyker--a psychic, shamanic type, who summons red-skinned, teleporting bloodletter demons.

When you absolutely, positively got to kill every Ork in the room--accept no substitutes.

The factory levels were the most impressive in design, with a part sci-fi, part gothic, part industrial style. Attention to detail in the environment was most apparent here, with skulls adorning the walls and switches of the towering, cathedral-like factory chambers. But Titus' blue-and-gold power armour was the real design showpiece, painstakingly detailed and pleasingly larger than life.

The code we played for our preview was pre-alpha, with a smattering of obvious bugs that will be no doubt remedied. Time will tell whether other niggles will change before launch. Those aside, Space Marine might be an action adventure to do justice to the archetypal Space Marine. Keep an eye on the site for more on the game--and its so-far unseen multiplayer--ahead of the game's summer release.

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Discussion

125 comments
Sutton
Sutton

niggles? haaaaaaa

cireking213
cireking213

@charlieboomboom Gene Stealers FTW!. The controls for Space Hulk drove me nuts, but I was so addicted to that game. There is a cool game at its heart somewhere. I would love a modern version of it. "Ezekiel, search this area for an archive record." "Gideon, close this door." "Objective met!" "I cannot see an archive record."

Steakface
Steakface

It's Warhammer for kids! I'll stick to games not tailored to slack-jawed morons, thank you. Complete garbage.

vinylrecord14
vinylrecord14

Warhammer.40k.does.not.have.the.archetypal.space.marine..That.honor.goes.to.the.movie.Aliens.and.other.works.of.fiction.. If.you.dont.beleive.me.Warhammer.40k.hit.the.scene.in.1987.and.Aliens.was.released.in.1986. Because.of.his.comments.on.Warhammer.holding.the.spot.for.creating.space.marines.I.will.not.play.this.game..

kazumashadow
kazumashadow

Looks pretty good, the graphics are beautiful, specially in cutscenes and the gameplay looks awesomely bloody, hope they dont throw in a generic story and maybe if they include a multiplayer co-op mode. i dont see a competitive multiplayer working out in this game but who knows! looking forward

kazumashadow
kazumashadow

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Mortac83654
Mortac83654

I'm hoping that the entire game isn't just played on foot with guns, some vehicles and librarian skills would make this a must-have game for me.

ThePimpChimp
ThePimpChimp

Please have tyranids in this game. I hope they don't just make it all orks with sprinkle of other races because what makes warhammer 40k so good is the variety of all the unique races

LMcO2
LMcO2

turn based shooter....... you may move 6inches per turn :) and have to roll to see if you hit or not I honestly would prefer a librarian(not the everyday librarian people who have played 40k should get this maybe)

ChaosUndivided
ChaosUndivided

Can't wait, love the Warhammer 40k universe. Should make Firewarrior 2. The first wasn't the best game i admit, but it had potential.

345tom
345tom

Dear GameSpot, I have complained before about this and I see you have not remedied the situation. Please give someone with a large knowledge of the source material the job reviewing games based on more than the creaters imagination. A world is already set up for these games. Dont say that it is like the newer of the franchises. Most people who will be interested in this game will know alot about Warhammer already. Most people can read and will think 'Oh, it plays a bit like GoW.' I mean seriously, I assume if a game absed on a film comes out, you watch the film, why not just find a little more out about this world?

CEmarine88
CEmarine88

CEmarine88 Posted May 12, 2011 9:12 pm GMT Clan Recruitment:::::: This clan i will create will specialize in playing Space Marine. All you will have to do is contact me on gamespot or on xbox live (my gamertag is CJE545). If I except you in, you will be part of the ExOTiC clan. You will have to change your gamertag to ExOTiC ____. I hope this clan will become great and be almost as famous as the OpTiC clan. Thank you

DungeonLeader
DungeonLeader

Yeah smooth combat inbetween guns and swords ggahhh

lipehique
lipehique

plays like gow... but thats not a bad thing at all! and the sword-combat addition seems intense... ME WANT

moldock
moldock

Since people have complained about my last post let me be more specific. Space marines are very good at what they do but 5 marines would not be able to stop a full waaagh on their own. I want to fight in a more canon battle with the whole company. I liked how CoD will jump you between people and expanded the story. I will admit that GoW combat is much better than CoD. I would like to see a blending of the two.

robtion
robtion

On the other hand I look for a good atmosphere, story, and single player campaign in my shooters and rarely play multiplayer. This looks good, hope it is.

simon1812
simon1812

it isnt really hard to find a good shooter out there, but the only thing that will keep me playing that game for like ever ,is a solid multiplayer gameplay. do hope a demo version is released.

jangjoo
jangjoo

Lets hunting the Ork....

oflow
oflow

Stop letting GoW fan bois write your reviews.

Balrog_Beserker
Balrog_Beserker

Space Marine looks OK from the video, but I think it's going to be a "download the demo first" experience when it finally comes out.

fluffmajster
fluffmajster

this game must suck epically if im not gona buy it...Deth to the false Emperor!

beanofengland
beanofengland

I really like the look of this one, but the bugs must have been bad to have been mentioned in a preview, normally Gamespot just mentions the positive before the actual review...

danyjr
danyjr

I don't want to sound like one of those a**holes but the game itself looks like will be one of those games that will be fun but only for 20 minutes. I know I'm judging it way too early, but that's the feeling I get from watching the footages and listening to the interview. Hope it delivers though. Especially I hope the story is much more interesting and engaging than Dawn of War series.

Asheileon
Asheileon

@alchemist889 As a lifetime Blood Angels player I beg to differ.

Majero88
Majero88

This game is going to be immense!!

albone57
albone57

Blessed is the mind to weak for doubt!

ArachisPT
ArachisPT

I'm pretty sure that Relic is going to deliver on this one...

rveegee
rveegee

I cannot wait to play this game with Skrillex pumping out on loud in the background.

bropie
bropie

Well if it's supposed to contain "Violent, Visable Death" then lets hope it is let in to Australia.

Marked_by_chaos
Marked_by_chaos

@alchemist889 I disagree... I agree on the Ork part... But Space Marines are very melee focused also. Of course if you are talking about a tactical squad or devastator squad then obviously ranged but they mostly bring death from melee. It's their preferred choice. Just look at most of the chapter masters and primarchs, they all pretty much have melee weapons.

Marked_by_chaos
Marked_by_chaos

@FMD129 You can customize the armor. It's a definite that you will in multiplayer anyway! So much glory to the god Emperor when this arrives into my disk tray.

alchemist889
alchemist889

If they wanted melee to be so important they really should have had you play as a Chaos Space Marine or an Ork. Imperium Space Marines would be better suited for a WH40K FPS since they're more about the shooting, though capable in melee.

FMD129
FMD129

@chakkerz Totaly agree man, there have been so many garbage games that people just figured "Hey its so rediculously diverse that we can take advantage of it" and just spew out crap they call a 40k game. Like for example, the upcoming 40k MMO. At first I was like "ZOMG" but now... I was seeing single space marines with a mosh posh of other units all in one little team... the typical MMO "Squad" which in terms of 40k lore wouldnt fit even remotely, I dont care if its cannon or not but thats absolute BS. Idk Hope its good, well find out. Relic is usualy very good when it comes to 40k, in terms of First person/Third person (Shooting in general) We have no idea so thats yet to be seen, but I think everybody can agree when i say it looks like its shaping up very well. My gripe atm is that they dont seem super-human enough... Yes balance is key but SpaceMarines tip that balance... Eh im done ranting... For now.

FMD129
FMD129

@AlexMK4 Idk, Im pretty sure there wont be an option to change the actual chapters persay, (possibly as a bonus, unlockable after beating everything, Multiplayer MAYBE?) because all of the dialouge is most likely geared towards them so it would be odd having a Space Wolf walking in and getting a breifing about Ultramarines lol Now, the ability to customize the actual armor would be glorious considering that in the actual board game, your allowed custom units (love building sick Tau that looks awesome lol) so heres to hoping theyll put that in there, would only enhance an otherwise fantastic looking game.

Psycho_Hands
Psycho_Hands

Just curious what graphic engine are they using?

chakkerz
chakkerz

I certainly hope it is a different beast to GoW. More towards the over the top, massive combos of Ninja Gaiden / Bayonetta / Darksiders / Devil May Cry. But darn this is such an easy series to mess up. So many bad 40K interpretations. Good thing Relic are doing it, so far they've delivered.

devrindare
devrindare

Now after playing Real time Strategy, Warhammer 40,000 is giving a chance to play the game in the 3rd person mode. Great

benbonney
benbonney

I dont think the guy in the interview realises gamers are taking the piss when comparing it to gears........ I for one hope it is a unique experience that doesnt mess up as bad as fire warrior

AlexMK4
AlexMK4

@FMD129 I have also noticed this. Could be him just ranking up as the story progresses. Or in the better case it is Relic showing genius by adding custom options. I know it wont happen but if they let us choose our SM chapter it would be a big difference, to me anyway. Im sick and tired of Ultras hogging the glory that should go to those who have been left unnoticed.

RaZoR_RaiN
RaZoR_RaiN

Looks like it's going to be a good year for Warhammer fans. They seem like a hard group to satisfy though...

Zerot
Zerot

why make a warhammer 40k game with out viechles... this game is going to be pointless.

Exia2004
Exia2004

a lone wolf? they usualy hunt in pack(the space marines)

FMD129
FMD129

And on a side note, this is possibly customizable? Ive noticed a few times hes either got no helmt, no hair, some hair, nice looking pauldrons, crappy looking pauldrons, etc.

FMD129
FMD129

I hope he isnt comparing this to Starcraft when he mentions "Not the first spacemarine" cause Blizzard blatently copied Games Workshop at the time :l Dont get me wrong im an AVID fan of both series, lore and world, they are some of the best Sci Fis on earth, no doubt about that, but they still did it :l

linkman42807
linkman42807

@moldock I think Battlefield would be a better game to copy if you wanted vehicles, not CoD. However, if they were to add vehicles, that wouldn't mean that the game would automatically be amazing. What they're trying to do with Space Marine, is show you what it would be like to BE an infantryman in the space marines.

CEmarine88
CEmarine88

Im starting to have doubts about this game. I have been wateing for like over a year. But it just not be how I thought. :I