E3 2011: Warhammer 40K: Space Marine preview – don’t call it Gears of Warhammer

Take a stroll through the grim darkness of the far future.

Plenty of haters lately have railed against Warhammer 40K: Space Marine, saying that it just looks like a mash-up of Gears of War and Dynasty Warriors set within the 40K universe. To this we%26rsquo;d like to say: What on Earth is the matter with you that you can%26rsquo;t appreciate a game that%26rsquo;s a mash-up of Gears of War and Dynasty Warriors set within the 40K universe?

That%26rsquo;s a pretty apt comparison, too. Space Marine takes the big guns and giant, armored sci-fi soldiers aspect of Gears, complete with formidable bullet-sponge enemies (mostly orks and Chaos troops), but adds in brutal up-close melee options that seem more suited to a Dynasty Warriors game. These come courtesy of your chainsword, a long sword with an embedded chain saw, which should specifically point existed in Warhammer%26rsquo;s universe before Gears of War existed at all. So before you accuse it of copying from Gears%26rsquo; locust-carving lancer, shut up.

And that%26rsquo;s largely the whole of it, from what we%26rsquo;ve played so far. Bad guys stream in, you fire away with your gun and if they%26rsquo;re still standing by the time they get to you, you gut %26lsquo;em with the chainsword and blood flies everywhere. Still, there%26rsquo;s something to this simple, adrenalized strategy that%26rsquo;s appealing, and Space Marine is nothing if not capable. It gives the player a forum for sawing off orc heads, chewing through bodies with a heavy bolter and melta-bombing chaos marines. The game%26rsquo;s control scheme is a little weird and takes some getting used to, but the space marine himself is just a joy to control. He lumbers from place to place like a mobile tank, which is exactly what a space marine should feel like.

Our only concern is perhaps that the game may be missing the tone of the Space Marines a bit. The marketing trailers show them talking altruistically about saving a world like traditional American badass heroes would. That%26rsquo;s not really what the Space Marines were about. The world itself would have been merely a tactical point of interest in the war. They would have fought to their dying breath, but not for altruism. Rather, for the glory of the Imperium of Man. It%26rsquo;s a small quibble, but fans really want them to nail the feel of the series. But when the bullets start flying and the chainswords start revving, most players won%26rsquo;t care about that kind of stuff. They%26rsquo;ll be too busy focusing on the satisfying combat, which produces sprays of blood non-stop.

Even if it%26rsquo;s not the be-all-end-all of unique and innovative game design, Space Marine still simply seems like an absolute blast. It doesn%26rsquo;t look to be super polished so far, and it won%26rsquo;t be in the running for Game of the Year when December rolls around. But dammit, we%26rsquo;ll get to chainsaw some orcs and Chaos marines, and frankly, that%26rsquo;s more than enough for us. We%26rsquo;re looking forward to the final version of this action shooter when it releases in September.

Jun 14, 2011

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