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

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’d like to say: What on Earth is the matter with you that you can’t appreciate a game that’s a mash-up of Gears of War and Dynasty Warriors set within the 40K universe?

That’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’s universe before Gears of War existed at all. So before you accuse it of copying from Gears’ locust-carving lancer, shut up.

And that’s largely the whole of it, from what we’ve played so far. Bad guys stream in, you fire away with your gun and if they’re still standing by the time they get to you, you gut ‘em with the chainsword and blood flies everywhere. Still, there’s something to this simple, adrenalized strategy that’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’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’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’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’t care about that kind of stuff. They’ll be too busy focusing on the satisfying combat, which produces sprays of blood non-stop.

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

Jun 14, 2011

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