Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Preview: Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine

THQ is set to launch the latest in the Warhammer series, with the forthcoming title 40,000: Space Marine soon slated for the coming months. Gamers will get to see the hugely anticipated return of the original chainsaw-wielding supersoldier and the world he now inhabits...

Warhammer 40,000 is set in a very grim dark future setting in the 41st Millennia. Basically mankind is surrounded by this immense alien horde that’s bent on its utter destruction.

Space Marine has such an interesting and compelling setting. “Everything is immense, everything is larger than life. There’s a sort of beauty in the world, but there’s also so much darkness and death and destruction. And those contrasts create such an interesting sort of canvas for us to paint on,” says Game Director, Raphael van Lierop.

This game has all of the elements of a really traditional fantasy, like Orcs and that kind of stuff, but it’s set far in the future where they all have guns.

In this game, developed by Relic Entertainment for THQ, you’re sent down to an industrialised world on a small lonely planet, with a sole purpose of designing and manufacturing weapons of war. The Orcs are there to get their hands on the Warlord Class Titans, which are gargantuan beasts of metal bristling with weapons that can level whole cities. If the Orcs manage to get their hands on these weapons they could ravage countless worlds. And they would be a true threat to the Imperium, if it were not for the Space Marines.

The Space Marines started out as human beings but they go through a rigorous process of training and physical transformation that really elevates them into almost demi-gods. Their bodies are actually implanted with new organs, and both their strength and resistance is substantially increased.

In the latest episode, the Space Marine is as huge and powerful as ever but he is no longer limited to one form of combat over another. Today, he is a master of all combat and you join him in this tight game of combat, melee combat and ranged combat with a thrill ride of experiences built on top of it.

This is really not a game about hiding behind cover, cowering and taking a couple of pot shots at the enemy. This is about striding into the middle of the battle, being surrounded by Orcs at all times and just killing them.

In this game you will have very little down time. “Enemies are always all around you, and you will have to make snap decisions between ‘I need to cut through this guy here, there’s another guy coming from over there and I need to shoot him.’ It’s a blood fest,” says Raphael.

The whole basis for achieving this combat system is the animation engine. It is the ability to transition between two different animations and make them blend seamlessly.

Raphael explains: “In animation we are accountable to every movement that the Space Marine does, that the player does, that the enemies do.

“Everything has to connect and be choreographed in a way that is fluid and connected. Our camera system is very versatile in its ability to switch from ranged combat to melee combat and back again in a very short amount of time.

“That combination of the really up close and personal melee combat that we have in our game combined with the devastating ranged weapons we have creates this very unique combat experience that you have never played before.”

For instance, in Space Marine the quickest way to regenerate your health is to stay in the fight, pulling over-the-top execution moves. This will restore your health much quicker than avoiding the battle. Fury is the epitome of a ‘visible, violent death’. The more violent you are, the more Fury you get.

Fury allows the player to control the battle using ranged or close combat moves. Ranged Fury slows down time, allowing the player to pick-off enemies and to perform those ever so satisfying headshots. Then, when you are in the thick of the fight and you are overwhelmed on all sides, Close Combat Fury allows you to clear the area and to take out many enemies at once. If you use Close Combat Fury effectively you’ll destroy those smaller enemies while stunning the larger
ones, giving you enough time to deliver that final brutal blow.

The weapons in the 40,000 IP as a whole are pretty much in order of magnitude, greater than anything we have had before, or even conceived. The player starts with basic weaponry, a ranged weapon and a melee weapon, but as the game progresses the player unlocks new abilities, new upgrades and new weapons.

In this Space Marine we have the Las Cannon, which is a huge energy laser which burns giant holes through armour. We have the Plasma Gun which you can charge up, and it fires these sort of little mini-nuke plasma bombs, and we have got the Heavy Bolter, which is basically like a giant gatling gun – it is so powerful that when you hit enemies they will just disappear into mists
of blood!

Space Marines like to get up close and personal, and the weapons are meant to be as lethal as possible, which is why players can discover a Power Axe, and even a Thunder Hammer – which is really over the top in terms of the damage it can do.

The game itself is a pure combat experience when you look at it from a gameplay perspective. The developers say that the core promise of the game is to ‘unleash visible and violent death’. There is a lot of blood, a lot of gore and limbs flying everywhere - so the gore junkie is going to love this title for sure.

Relic Studio GM, Jonathan Dowdeswell, delves a little deeper into the story behind Warhammer: 40,000. He says: “Captain Titus is the protagonist in this story. He’s the main character. He has the ability to take the rules and sort of interpret them in his own way. And some of the other characters in the story have different viewpoints on how that should be interpreted.”

The main threat in Space Marine are the Orcs. They are a brutal, animalistic, barbaric race of beings. Although they are just one of the many races found in the fiction, the developers felt that the Orcs best complemented the Space Marines. Space Marines are very serious, very controlled, whereas the Orcs are sort of messy, vicious, violent, and so it adds a nice contrast. Additionally, there are other shadowy forces that are sort of lurking in the background.

And Titus and the player will have to confront those if they are able to save the Forge World. James McDermott, Studio Marketing, adds: “We have some which are like shamans. They have magical powers. We also have the Gretchin, who are these little, tiny minions, and we have the Nob, who matches the Space Marine in size and bulk. In fact he’s even bigger!” Raphael concludes: “It’s not just a simple story about an Orc invasion of the Forge World. There’s much more depth going on. There’s lots of twists and turns in this story. There’s betrayals. The action is amazingly intense. Really, anybody who likes Science Fiction, or likes any kind of blockbuster entertainment, is going to love Space Marine.”

  • Michael Gordon is editor of Charged Middle East magazine, a leading Dubai-based gadgets and games title that provides news, reviews and features on the latest home and consumer electronics. For more about the magazine, visit its Facebook page after the jump. Check out this article and many more in the August issue.