Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
Relic Entertainment's original take on the Warhammer 40,000 universe aims to seamlessly blend third-person shooting and melee combat into an adventure that packs all the action and bravado of a summer blockbuster. But can it deliver? We went hands-on with the game and killed more than our share of Orks to answer the question.
Players step into the boots of Captain Titus, the lead space marine tasked with saving the human race from hostile aliens. In our demo, this involves protecting a war machine facility from invading Orks. Relic's game director Raphael Van Lierop demonstrated the titular space marine's suite of moves, which includes a rush move that takes down enemies in a slow motion eruption of blood, a fury attack that knocks back ambushing enemies, and over-the-top execution moves that shift to a cinematic camera angle. While all of these moves look great, they also serve a strategic purpose: Fury attacks can save you when you're overwhelmed by melee enemies, while execution moves will replenish your health. Titus has some additional tricks up his sleeve when brandishing projectile weapons as well, including a slow motion aiming mechanic, and secondary fire options for most guns.
Van Lierop's demonstration certainly made switching between guns and melee attacks seem smooth, but it wasn't until I took over the controller that I saw how seamless the transition really is. Without missing a beat, I was able to slice down an axe-wielding Ork, pull up my gun and pop off some medium range headshots, then dodge incoming attacks while throwing a grenade at my feet. Despite wearing an absurdly large metal suit, Titus is surprisingly agile, and I didn't have any aiming problems regardless of what attack type I was performing.
Thanks to Titus' superhuman powers and varied arsenal (Van Lierop says the final game will feature around 15 weapons, plus exotic set piece weapons), combat reminded me a bit of Bulletstorm, in that I didn't just want to kill my Ork attackers, but try out creative ways to dispatch them. It wasn't until I ran into a larger Ork class, which lets out a terrifying battle cry as it attacks, that I had to focus on survival. In Space Marine, however, surviving doesn't mean running away and waiting to heal: Relic is focusing on making the player feel like a complete bad*ss (what else would you expect when playing as a space marine?), so mechanics like healing via execution moves encourages you to push harder when you're in danger, not slink away. Expect the single player campaign to be 12-15 hours of nonstop action.
As someone who plays a lot of action games, I had become all but convinced that shooting and melee combat don't mix well in third-person games. Space marine has me rethinking that stance, and although I don't know much about the Warhammer 40K universe (despite the game's over-the-top action, Van Lierop says the team is working to create a compelling, multifaceted story), I'm eager to learn more thanks to Relic's fresh take on the franchise.