|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Release: Q3 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
We recently got a chance to go hands-on with Warhammer: 40,000: Space Marine, the third-person shooter based around the Warhammer 40K table-top universe. However, before we could put thumbs to joystick, we were treated to a presentation by Raphael van Lierop, the game's director. In this presentation, we were introduced to Warhammer lore and basically given a "101"-style course about the development of the game and the universe in which it is set. However, what struck me most about the presentation was how directly similarities to the Gears of War series were addressed. Being a complete newbie to the Warhammer franchise, I didn't really understand why this comparison was even being made. However, with a "this is not Gears" mindset, I sat down and started playing.
And then it happened. I had my first "Hey! This is like Gears!" moment. Was it because of the non-suggestion from the presentation before? Perhaps. But either way, it can't be denied that comparisons between these two games will be inevitable, so let's get the similarities out of the way straight away: both games feature a larger-than-life hulk of a hero. Both games feature a strong melee weapon that is part-chainsaw. The games even have a similar setting to them. However, once you get past these overt likenesses, Space Marine emerges as its own game with unique mechanics and its own style.
We were able to play through four different scenarios in the game, showcasing the game's weapons and play style. I wish I could tell you something about the story, but unfortunately the four scenarios we played through were all from different parts of the game, and were purposely strung together out of order to keep us in the dark about the game's plot. However, what they did reveal was a lot about what you'll be fighting, and how.
In the beginning of the game, your main enemy will be legions of Orks of varying sizes that are equipped with plenty of firepower. One of the biggest themes of Space Marine is incessant action, and the game encourages you to run headlong into firefights. There's no cover system, and most environments don't allow for backtracking, so your best bet it to forge ahead, keep your fingers steady on the fire button, and use a special ability that allows you to slow down time and get precise hits on the enemy.
Space Marine also has a killer melee system you can use which features a chainsaw saber that can clear enemies extremely quickly. Knowing when to switch between guns and melee weapons will be vital to your success, and though you won't see any of the hardcore strategy you might have come to expect from other Warhammer games, you will have to enter firefights with a plan if you want to succeed.
Though most of the battles we encountered were with Orks, we did get an extremely brief glance at the game's "Big Bad": the Forces of Chaos. These enemies are wholly unique, fast-moving, and most importantly, hard to kill. It's worth noting that their design is also quite creepy as well. We literally know nothing about these enemies, other than they are quite the force in-game, and will provide the biggest challenge yet for our heroes.
But no matter what enemy we were facing, gameplay in Space Marine felt extremely seamless. We were able to try a handful of weapons, and while some of them felt very familiar, they were all easy to use and helped us get from checkpoint to checkpoint. What we saw of the gameplay was very linear so we didn't get to explore too much, and firefights flowed in to one another, making for an action-packed experience.
From what we've seen, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is coming along nicely. Though it certainly follows plenty of genre conventions when it comes to third-person shooters, the game ups the ante in terms of action, and the lack of a cover system is certainly an interesting choice that raises the stakes when you are fighting wave after wave of enemies. Though we don't have a firm release date for Space Marine, it is projected to arrive in stores sometime later this year.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Senior Contributing Writer