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E3 2011: Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine First Impressions

Feature; Jun. 13, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Robert F. Ludwick
Subtypes: Opinion, Preview
Warhammer meets melee and ranged combat
Los Angeles, CA, USA

THQ has many Warhammer 40,000 video games in development. One they are keen to get introduced to a broader audience is Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. I got some game time with this title on an Xbox 360 at E3 2011.

Warhammer 40000: Space Marine

For a quick look at what Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, I give you THQ's official description:

In Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine you are Captain Titus, a Space Marine of the Ultramarines chapter and a seasoned veteran of countless battles. 

A millions-strong Ork horde has invaded an Imperial Forge World, one of the planet-sized factories where the war machines for humanity’s never ending battle for survival are created. Losing this planet is not an option, but a darker and far more evil threat is lurking large in the shadows of this world.

With an Imperial liberation fleet en-route, the Ultramarines are sent in to hold key locations until reinforcements arrive. Captain Titus and a squad of Ultramarine veterans use bolter and chainsword to take the fight to the enemies of mankind.

Now that you have an idea what the game is actually about ... It plays pretty well, I thought. It basically takes your standard third-person shooter and applies enhanced melee abilities. So rather than continually using ranged combat with a punch or gun butt strike added in, you can actually melee with multiple foes in close range in order to progress. The melee controls work pretty well, giving you enough variety and power that you won't resort solely to ranged gunfire to progress. Additionally, you'll actually have to use that ranged gunfire to defeat some enemies who are firing at you from a distance. The game balances the need between the two pretty well, I thought, although the demo I was in tended toward the melee side of things.

While the game play of Space Marine is pretty good, the visuals could use a reboot, and the game hasn't even released yet. The cut scenes in the game use the game engine (which all games should), but unfortunately that graphics engine just isn't very powerful. The textures are flat, and the models are pretty blocky. The environments look decent all around, but they certainly don't blow you away.

I'm not entirely sure that the visuals are going to detract from the game's enjoyability, however. The combination of melee and ranged combat is pretty effective and gives a decent variety of approaches to battle. There were a couple of things going on in the demo, such as storming a junkyard and dropping a crane to halt the Orks' progress.

Strangely, activating environmental controls and other context-sensitive items was done with the B button, which is a stark departure from the norm of A, especially because B is typically melee or cancel.

I'm not sure how much this game will appeal to video gamers who aren't already fans of the Warhammer universe. I admittedly know just about nothing about Warhammer, and as a result, I'm not sure that I enjoyed the demo as much as I could have. I have a feeling that more hardcore Warhammer fans will really enjoy being able to step into the game as a Space Marine and fight the combat they get to enjoy so much in the tabletop games. Unfortunately, I can't see how non-fans would want to part with their money for a game that doesn't offer something really special above other shooters, aside from the enhanced melee. If it were Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine vying for a non-fan's money against something like Gears of War 3 or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, I'm afraid it seems like a losing proposition.

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