Space Marine. Aside from the super nerdy that are familiar with the tabletop wargame Warhammer 40,000, some might be familiar with the other video games that Warhammer has produced such as Dawn of War and the fantasy Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Well, this is the first product from this universe that is focused on the shooter demographic. It’s not a first-person shooter (ala Halo, Call of Duty) but rather an over-the-shoulder 3rd person shooter (similiar in style to Gears of War). That is the only Gears of War reference I’m going to make. It’s easy to look at the big bulky armor of the main hero and automatically jump to that reference. But this game plays very different from the Gears of War franchise.
Yesterday, the demo for Space Marine was released onto the PlayStation Network and I immediately downloaded and got into it. And it blew me away.
As a fan of the source material, I viewed this demo with a cynical eye. In the source, Space Marines are essentially one-man armies. They are genetically created to fight off evil. This shouldn’t feel like Call of Duty, where you’re just… a guy. With a gun. They managed to impress me with how much of a badass you are in this game. Your character feels heavy. Their footsteps echo. When you roll, the sound of metal on metal is perfect. And when you swing your ax through an onslaught of enemies, it feels like you’re unstoppable.
The demo gives you a few weapons to play with. The ranged weapons do their job but it’s the melee weapons that will steal the show. Most of the demo, you play with what’s called a chainsword. It’s a sword with a blade that spins like a chainsaw. Yes. Really. And during one of the final battles in the demo, you upgrade to a Power Ax. Which is just as devastating.
In addition to these weapons, you’re given grenades which pack a major punch. And in select missions, you’ll have access to a jumppack so you can shoot up into the air and drop down onto enemies. The demo only offered a few moments to really play with this but it’s a cool and unique feature that no other shooters have really mastered. Especially in multiplayer, these jetpacks could be a change to how battles are fought.
The enemies. A great hero needs great enemies. When your hero is capable of hacking limbs off easily with a chainsword, you need an enemy that is both formidable and also incredibly numerous. The natural choice in the world of Warhammer is the Ork. It’s a futuristic version of Tolkien’s classic. They’re bright green and have an obsession with scrapping together whatever they can find to create weapons.
So, in the demo, you’re facing an Ork onslaught. There are dozens of them on-screen at a time. It can look quite intimidating. But you mow through them like nobody’s business. All you see is green (and then red). It’s incredibly satisfying but extremely true to the source material. The AI was pretty impressive, as Orks attempted to hide behind cover. There is no cover system in Space Marine, since your armor is pretty much all the cover you need. So, they hide. And you just march up to them and take them out. Incredibly satisfying. In the later events of the game, you’ll face different enemies and I hope they require you to use different tactics. Facing the Orks is pretty straight-forward so maybe a different strategy will be needed for the later enemies.
In terms of gameplay, it’s easy to pick up. There’s combos for each melee weapon so it should keep things entertaining as the game progresses. Instead of health potions or medical packs or whatever, you need to pull off execution moves to recharge health. This encourages you to stay in the heat of battle instead of hiding in some corner and scrolling through inventory. In general, the game flows really well and truly makes you feel like a one-man army (but you have squad mates that are pretty awesome as well). It was fun for the brief 30 minutes or so of the demo, so I just hope they can make the game last for a decent 8-10 hours. Hopefully.
The game comes out September 6th and you can check out more here! I’ll post a full review as soon as GameFly ships it my way. 🙂