Platforms – 360 | PS3 | PC (reviewed)
Developed by Relic | Published by THQ
The Warhammer 40K universe is a rich mixing pot of sci-fi, fantasy, common literary devices (as well as creating a few of them) but, from the very on-set, looks like a teenage boy’s fantasy of what a world of Bad Ass would be like. This is no more epitomised in the primary face of the universe, the titular Space Marines; engineered clones in hulking power armour that live and die by the sword. Whilst Starship Troopers gave birth to the idea of a space marine, Warhammer’s are the Space Marines. Okay, preamble done. This game will definitely be Rated M for Manly and given the quality holds up from the demo O for Oh So Good.
Developer Relic are by no means new to the universe being the creators of the well-loved and fairly faithful Dawn of War strategy series on the PC. To see them change to a Third Person Shooter/hacky-slashy-fun-times would generally be a cause for concern, but hell, they haven’t just nailed it, they’ve hammered in other nails with a nail gun half a mile away. Yeah. Something like that.
The demo is split into two sequences from two (presumably) completely unrelated levels, apart from the fact that you beat on Orks for the entire time. And hey, I’m totally cool with that! The promise of the game was to switch from ranged combat to melee with no hesitation, much like the original table top games. Done perfectly, no question. You can have up to four weapons equipped most of the time, with the bolt pistol being your secondary weapon that has infinite, albeit reloadable, ammo.
Being the over-confident fool, I charged in the hardest difficulty and then got slaughtered. So, after reloading and being a bit more conservative with my stupidity, I sat back, pulled out the bolter rifle/machine gun and laid waste to Orks left, right and centre. Seeing heads explode with well-placed headshots, blood spurting out and limbs going all over the place was satisfying on its own to make this no-cover TPS fine with no more combat depth bar the floods of Orks running at you.
But then some got close and I was instantly slashing away at them with my chainsword. Mechanically, it’s fairly simple. One press will do a light attack, double will do slightly more and with certain combinations, you can do area sweeps (and area stuns!) with relative ease. Being the Orks, they engaged mostly in melee so it became satisfying to shoot down the herd before engaging them on their own terms…and then proceeding to slaughter them anyhow. The degree of satisfaction from slaughtering dozens of them never lets up. There are occasionally harder and more varied enemies, but for the purpose of the demo, all you had was common Orks.
Weapon wise you’re given the choice of the bolt pistol and rifle, a sniper rifle (“Boom! Headshot.” epitomised) and a grenade launcher that I couldn’t actually figure out until late on. You also have access to grenades as well as your melee weapon. Near the end of the first part of the demo, you gain access to a different melee weapon which changes your animations up and probably does a fair bit more damage, but ostensibly played similarly. In the second part of the demo, you get access to a jet pack that removes the latter two mentioned weapons, but then gives you the ability to fly up and then crash down onto enemies making them fly or out-right explode.
Your character, Captain Titus of the Ultra Marines chapter of the Space Marines has health and a shield. The shield will recharge over time, but the health will not. Health can only actually be regained by killing enemies with execution moves that put you into a brutally visceral and thus utterly amazing animation that on completion rewards your health which is varied depending on the size of the enemy. During this time though, you can still be damaged, so you need to decide when is the right time to do it. After enough kills, you charge up a ‘Fury’ that once engaged, allows you to enter bullet time and do more damage with your weapons, as well as seemingly regaining health on all melee attacks, making it great to use when low on health AND when up against a horde.
Whilst the game world lacks colour, although that’s potentially justified considering you’re on a factory planet (nothing is done on small scale in the 40K universe). That being said, the bold blues and golds of the marines, the splatter of red and the red armour on the green Orks keeps the game from descending into the Brown is HD setting most games seem to have. The sounds also add to it, such as guns changing sound depending on how full your magazine is which is a surprisingly brilliant and intuitive method of helping you play without stopping to check the interface. Makes me wonder why it’s not done anywhere else. Everything adds to the value of visceral…ness. It’s great.
I played through the demo, both with the keyboard and mouse and with the controller. Both are fine. Obviously, the KB+M is better at the shooting, whilst the controller is better at melee and has the added vibration feedback which just makes it even more satisfying killing. They’re both not unplayable at the others though, but I can easily see myself playing the single player using the controller, but KB+M for multi and potentially the co-op which comes out a month after release. I should add though that whilst the controls for the controller were fine, I did tweak the axis sensitivity slightly as it felt too sluggish.
There’s more ground I’ve left untouched, but this is a demo impressions and I’ve already hit 1K. The game is out in two weeks and after this has become a Day 1 purchase. I cannot wait. FOR THE EMPEROR AND THAT SORT OF THING!
Boring Stuff: Demo was tested out at 1080p and highest graphical settings, with a consistent 60fps making that killing feeling silky-smooth.
Update 2012 (September) – Having had now a year to play this game, the single player proved to be very fun, although ended a bit abruptly and perhaps got a bit repetitive. The multiplayer, on the other hand, is severely under-rated. It’s pretty well balanced, with a variety of fun game modes. More importantly, the co-op “Horde” mode is almost pitch-perfect and is the source of most of my game-time with it now. Nothing to focus on, but always good to dip back into.