Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine hands-on preview

Captain Titus and the Space Marines under his command have it rough. They've been raised from birth to defend the human race against the oncoming, never-ending swarm of bloodthirsty and warlike Orks. To make matters worse, they're also being attacked by the devious and powerful followers of the Chaos Gods, who warp in from alternate dimensions to join the fight. Luckily for them, they've been genetically altered to deal with just about any threat that comes their way. Standing at more than seven feet tall and weighing in at about 1,000 pounds, they're capable of destroying most everything that comes their way. And that's why they're the focus of Relic Entertainment's newest foray into the Warhammer universe.


As soon as you take control of Captain Titus, the sheer power of the Space Marine becomes apparent. They're heavy, strong, and well-versed in all kinds of combat. They can switch from long-range gunfights to melee swordfights at any moment, and the speed and fluidity of gameplay matches that. Taking out a couple snipers from afar in the midst of going hand-to-hand with rushing Ork grunts is as easy to pull off as it is enjoyable. It also helps that Titus wields a sword with a chainsaw attached to it – that's pretty cool.

With the emphasis on brutal and violent combat, don't expect to be able to sit back and pick off enemies from a distance though. There's no cover system here. Hell, there aren't even a whole lot of places to run. Enemies come in relentless waves, and Titus has to deal with them the best he can. Do enough bloodletting, and you'll fill up your Fury bar, letting you either unleash a powerful melee attack that takes down small crowds of enemies in one swipe, or lets you slow down time to fire away with your ranged weapon of choice. Got a brutish Ork and his minions coming after you? No problem, the Fury attack will take care of those folks. How about a half-dozen snipers taking potshots at you from behind cover? Easy solution: slow down time and pick them off with your own sniper rifle. It's all an effort to exemplify the Space Marine's main way of deterring more fighting, which just happens to be by causing lots of "visible, violent death." Excellent!

The Warhammer universe definitely has a distinctive visual style, and Relic certainly isn't skimping on that. Framing all the blood and gore is a world heavily influenced by heavy, gothic architecture and large-scale industrial areas. In one area, after making his way through the sewers of an industrial area into the command center of a shipping port, Titus takes a moment to look out over a planet that seems to be entirely covered by this one port. The sheer size of one of the gigantic shipping cranes dwarfs even the  super-sized soldiers. There's a reason why Warhammer's style is well-respected; it's dark and gorgeous. Titus isn't the type to let a serene moment stand though, so he pulls a switch to drop a shipping container on an unsuspecting group of Orks.

The Marines won't be stuck in industrial zones forever though. Later in the preview, Titus and his crew somehow find their way into an ambush situation in the middle of a desert canyon. After picking off the stragglers of a fight between Orks and Chaos, a Psyker shows up, blocking their path through the canyon. This particular agent of Chaos is able to not only summon force fields, but also open up portals to let other minions through to join the fray. It's a struggle to fend off the oncoming hordes while also trying to pick off the Psyker, but certainly showed off Titus's varying styles of combat.

It's rare that we see the Warhammer 40,000 universe from the frontlines, but when we do, it's an exciting time. Getting to explore a fully fleshed-out version of what we've only really seen from the top down promises to be a wonderful experience. Especially if we get to chop Orks in half with a chainsaw sword.

Apr 20, 2011

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  • RedHarlow - April 21, 2011 10:36 p.m.

    @Pantas - Warhammer 40k is based around Man. They are the main "character" of the universe and everything stems out of the Horus Heresy. They believe Man should be alone in the world and all other alien life should be destroyed, so it wouldn't do well to make games based on the plight of aliens.
  • ObliqueZombie - April 21, 2011 2:15 a.m.

    It's true, a cover system would undermine what the Space Marines stand for, and what they do. I thought it'd have a cover system, but I'm pleasantly surprised that there isn't one! I've been waiting for this game for well over two years, I couldn't be more excited it's coming out so soon! Which is to say, it's timid release date of August. I hope they do have more playable races, or maybe even separate campaigns. OR, for the fun of it, unlockable skins. Can't wait to see what this game delivers!
  • angelusdlion - April 21, 2011 1:14 a.m.

    @masssaber>> I agree, even the chapter from the original DoW would be preferable to the smurfs. But if it's even half as cool as it looks like it's going to be I'll forgive them for it.
  • ChickenFillet5140 - April 20, 2011 9:33 p.m.

    And people complain about modern game characters being gruff space marines? This game takes that to a whole new level. Looks great none the less.
  • tacoman38 - April 20, 2011 9:15 p.m.

    here's to a large weapon variety. power fists swords and axes, lightning claws, storm shields, along with the chainsword, and meltas, bolters, missiles, flamers, plasma weapons and, well, you get my drift.
  • CombatWombat101 - April 20, 2011 8:28 p.m.

    Who gives a shit about whether or not there is a cover system? You're playing as a god damned Space Marine. If I weighed a thousand pounds, stood seven feet tall, wore badass power armor and was armed to the teeth with enough weaponry to kill God himself, I don't think I'd worry much about cover. Sissies.
  • p0wnd - April 20, 2011 6:21 p.m.

    Looks like this will be my new Gears 1.
  • Gotxxrock - April 20, 2011 5:16 p.m.

    I understand the plight of HumorTumor and Pantas, Gamesworkshop and even their subsidiaries Black Library and Forgeworld focus too much on the imperial perspective and space marine perspective, and very rarely on that of the alien's. At least they threw us a very thing bone in the form of the Retribution campaign (spoke with Black Library earlier this week, turns out their working on a Dark Eldar trilogy, very excited) Still, I'm bonkers over this game. I'm sure it will bode better for both fans and Relic then their last console romping, The Outfit (cringe). Also, as for the lack of cover, I'm all for it. Marines have Power Armor! Its hard to break that shit!
  • ChrisCultista - April 20, 2011 4:11 p.m.

    Cant wait for the Nid reveal. We know they're in the game. With that background Carnifex in the trailer. And cover never lasts long against Nids.
  • BurntToShreds - April 20, 2011 2:50 p.m.

    Honestly, when the enemy army is wielding the power of Chaos Gods and sheer collective zeal (The Orks have the WAAAAAAAAGH), do you think any cover is going to last long? I remember an early article about the game describing it as a "ballet of death". Screw cover systems, I want a no-holds-barred slaughter-fest full of CHOP and DAKKA.
  • jakery22 - April 20, 2011 2:01 p.m.

    I agree. I'd like a game where you play as the Tau, maybe even a game where you play as the Tyranids, Orks, Eldar, Necrons. Any, Space Marines are overused in games. And fire warrior wasn't that bad, I quite enjoyed playing it.
  • HumorTumor - April 20, 2011 1:39 p.m.

    @Pantas agreed. Maybe something with the Eldar or possibly the Imperials. But, I would also want something akin to Space Hulk. A more survival horror styled game, in first person. The Tyranid are criminally underused in this game. It always seems to boil down to fighting Chaos.
  • centrip - April 20, 2011 12:04 p.m.

    It's 'chainsword', just sayin'.
  • Pantas - April 20, 2011 11:46 a.m.

    To be honest, I'd like to see a WH40K game starring some other race. Sure, we got Fire Warrior, but that was just mediocre.
  • jackthemenace - April 20, 2011 10:27 a.m.

    I have to agree with Skaface, the lack of any kind of cover system's putting me off. If the combat really is as fluid and awesome as you say it is, and the violence really is that brutal, then maybe I could live without, but otherwise it'd just be too run-and-gun for me :/
  • DF344 - April 20, 2011 8:44 a.m.

    I want! Give it to me now!
  • MassSaber - April 20, 2011 7:07 a.m.

    Damm I wish I could play as the Space Wolves rather than the Ultra Marines those guys are basically the vanilla Space Marine Chapter pumped up for the game tho

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