This year's Gamescom was also the opportunity for us to see THQ's Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine for the very first time. To read our first impressions and see a new trailer as well as a few images, just follow me inside.
Warhammer 40,000, a franchise that should remind RPG players and PC gamers some excellent memories. Relic Entertainment, known for their work on famous games such as Homeworld, Dawn of War or Companies of Heroes, is currently working on a title that will allow you to see Games Workshop's franchise from a very different angle than before. The time of RTS is over for now, let's welcome some good old third person shooter filled with the hormones of angry marines. The game will feature a co-op mode and a full multiplayer component.
Gears of War is clearly the first thing that pops into your mind when first seeing Space Marine in action. That being said, let's bear in mind that Epic's heroes probably took some inspiration from the Warhammer design in the first place. So let us return to Cesar what belongs to him right? Now using efficient gameplay mechanics may be a good start but living up to such a model will not be an easy task considering how great a game Gears of War is. No doubt though that the team behind the game will stop at nothing to achieve such goals.
In the first gameplay sequence we saw, the main protagonist, going by the name Captain Titus, was on board of a Valkyrie gunship behind a defense turret. Your standard rail shooting passage where you have to kill as many enemies as you can, the enemies here being green orks mounted on rockets and battleships that looked like a mix between a pirate ship and a medieval tank. At some point, one of the Stormboys managed to land on top of the gunship, but it did not take long to Titus to take him down and accidentally have him fall through one of the reactors. Obviously, that's something the Valyrie did not quite enjoy very much and soon it started lose altitude until the final crash leaving a wreck out of it. Obliged to continue on foot, Captain Titus stood in front of impressive man-made structures in perfect keeping with the architectural design of the franchise. The fight can begin.
In the second part sequence, Titus and his men found themselves inside an enemy base somewhere underground. The main game mechanics were then shown, with the classic over the shoulder view when shooting, but the surprising thing was the absence of a cover system. One can suppose it was a way for Relic Entertainment to part from their model but they also told us it was just not something they thought could fit with the marine style of play. According to them, Space Marines are not the kind of guys who like to take it slow and go from cover to cover to stay safe. They are soldiers who are not afraid to go for it and that get the job done as quick as they can. For that reason, they included a whole melee system so you can get close to your enemies and kick their asses. Funnily enough, the Marines are equipped with a weapon that is very reminiscent of Marcus' and Dom's chainsaw, and their stomp-your-ugly-face-to-death finish move is also quite familiar. Still, it makes the action more paced and dynamic, which is a good thing eventually when you are not against violence.
The game is indeed a very violent and gory title, where the bright red blood of the bright green orks will splatter regularly as they are cut into pieces and blown up in every corner of the room. It is by the way a nice change to such so many colors in a TPS as it is not that common these days. It actually gives Space Marine a less generic visual touch. Our heroes' arsenal can be upgraded by using the experience gained throughout the adventure: rate of fire, ammo capacity, and other cool enhancements of course. Considering it is impossible to carry more than two weapons at a time, one might think it is an odd choice of design. But thanks to the magic of video games, dropping an upgraded weapon for another one does not mean you will lose everything. Indeed,, should you come across the same type of firearm later in the game, it will still be equipped with all your upgrades.
Potentially interesting, we hope that Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine will manage to offer more than the stereotyped sequences we have come to expect in today's third person shooters. The last extract we saw unfortunately did not reassure us on that point as the player was progressing on a moving train, much like in the last chapter of the first Gears of War. We will hold our breath until we see more of the game, hoping that this was just a tongue and cheek reference at Epic Games and that Space Marine will have its share of unique situations. With such a detailed background as the Warhammer franchise, the contrary would be surprising.