Warhammer 40K: Space Marine preview: Into the fray

Imagine yourself as seven-foot-tall monstrosity of a human being (it helps if you already are one), locked inside an even larger but metallic walking monstrosity. Next, imagine you're sprinting toward a large group of Orks -- you put your shoulders down and plow through the group, turning the smaller beasts into a bloody puree and scattering the larger beasts in every direction, all in spectacular slow-motion.

Now you've got an idea of what my time with Warhammer 40K: Space Marine was like.
%Gallery-121626% The titular Space Marines are mankind's last hope against the alien threat it faces from the Orks and Chaos. The Space Marines are genetically modified, near immortal, brutish killing machines. The Orks, a hulking tribal race, are currently engaged in a war to wipe out humanity, which has brought them to the Forge World. Here, mankind is constructing a gigantic weapon, one that must not fall into the hands of its enemies.

Another force -- a bit more mysterious -- is Chaos, a conglomeration of humans tainted by mysterious darkness. THQ representatives couldn't go into too much detail about this faction and what role they'll play in the game's single-player campaign, but in the one skirmish I engaged in they showed far more cunning and power than the hordes of Orks I had dispatched before.

The greatest strength of the Orks lies in their huge numbers and brutish physique, of course. Playing through three separate missions in the single-player campaign, I dispatched countless Ork troops, from the smallest grunt to even those who stood taller than the protagonist, Captain Titus. Suffice to say, I was surprised because, well, Titus is the biggest dude I've ever seen. (And I've played Gears of War!).


But in practically committing genocide on the Orks -- quid pro quo at this point in the story, where the Forge World had been visibally ravaged and covered in jutting iron remnants and fire -- I discovered something surprising. Though I was an obvious badass, the enemies never felt like they were a poor match for me.

There was a balance in the difficulty, and while many Orks saw fit to run at me, practically throwing themselves down on my upheld Chainsword (a staple in the Warhammer 40K universe and the Space Marines' go-to melee weapon), I never felt like the enemy was trash. I was constantly challenged and died a few times throughout my lengthy play session. It's nice having feeling of being equipped to kill, without having your hand held.

Space Marines also does a good job at seemlessly integrating the ranged and close-quarters combat, though the camera could use some refinement. I would be firing on a group of enemies in the distance, only to be blind-sided by another pack, with no prior threat indication of any kind. If I was better equipped to see my surroundings, I could more tactfully and skillfully initiate this transition between firing and slicing, making me more invested in the combat mechanics. It was certainly serviceable, but if Relic Entertainment could zoom out the camera just a little bit more, the experience would improve.

Warhammer 40K: Space Marine shows a lot of promise, melding a deep sci-fi fantasy world with accessible game mechanics and encasing it in stylish brutality. Producer Raphael Van Lierop promised the title would ultimately deliver a big blockbuster experience this August, full of "visible, violent death."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.