Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Multiplayer Hands-On PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Jul 20, 2011
With Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, the developers at Relic are focused squarely on bringing players nose to bloody nose with the brutal and war torn Warhammer universe like never before while staying true to the dark core that has defined the table top phenomenon for the past 25 years. And nowhere is this more evident than in the game’s competitive multiplayer, which we recently played for the first time at a press event here in Los Angeles.
Space Marine’s multiplayer can be divided into two distinct categories: gameplay and customization. Given Warhammer’s pedigree of giving players endless choice when it comes to personalizing and managing the countless units that comprise the various armies available to players, it’s no wonder that Space Marine features a deep character customization system that lets players tweak, color, and outfit their soldiers--Space Marines and the evil Chaos Space Marines--in 1.8 billion potential ways.
Shoulder protectors, leg guards, arms, chest plates, backpacks, and helmets can all be swapped around and each features a wide variety of textural options (battle scarred, metallic, taut skin, etc.) in addition to numerous color options. For Warhammer buffs would nerd out over painting their own figures, expect to spend a lot of time mixing and matching to find the perfect combination to fit your particular mood. Best of all, think of all the money you’ll save on paint!
- PHOTO GALLERY: Warhammer 40,000 Tabletop Gameplay
While you can create your own armor sets, the game includes a bunch of preset ones you can choose from too. Some of them are unlocked after completing certain chapters in the single-player campaign, and they also include Warband schemes in case you are drawn to a particular army’s style. However you decide to outfit your character, just know that you will not be wanting for options.
Once you’ve pimped your space marine to your liking, it’s time to select your class. The game sports three. The Tactical Space Marine/Chaos Space Marine is your classic Arnold Palmer class, a part ranged, part close combat fighter. Assault Marine/Raptor is a strike and flee expert thanks to his jetpack and wicked Chainsword and various other handheld instruments of carnage. Finally, the Devastator/Havoc class is the tank, a lumbering brute with a bone meltingly powerful arsenal at his disposal, whose melee attack—a thundering foot stomp—tells you everything you need to know about this behemoth.
Each class features unique load out options, in addition to a massive number of weapon and armor challenges, skill bonuses, team XP rewards, and character and weapon perks. The challenges range from kill a certain number of enemies with a particular gun to getting killed 50 times, and there are a ton for each weapon. There are also appears to be one for just about every kind of action you could imagine, so everything you do while playing will have a clear impact on your character’s progression as you work your way to the magic 41 level cap.
And if that wasn’t enough, you also get to choose two perks for your character as well, one class based and one weapon based. Each class has its own set of perks, ranging from having your jetpack explode after you die if you’re an Assault Marine to a health regeneration boost if you’re Tactical. The secondary perk pertains to your weapons, so you can add faster reloads or the ability to carry an extra weapon for instance. Again, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to personalizing your marines, so each player can expect to have exactly the type of soldier to fit their playstyle.
Once we had settled on our characters and designed the space marine of our dreams, we jumped into the game’s first multiplayer mode, Annihilation, aka Team Deathmatch. The game handles just as well as it did when we tested out in our Space Marine pre-E3 single-player preview last month, and it didn’t even take a full match before we were strafing, scoping, sawing, and jetting around the maps with ease. One of the quirkiest control issues for me though was picking up ammo.
While the game tells you to tap B to pick up ammo, you actually have to hold it for a few seconds before it registers. I hate it when games force me to approve picking up more ammo, as though I wouldn’t want all the ammo I could get (“No, that’s okay. I don’t need more bullets. I’ll just throw the gun at the other players. No worries.”), so to have this added annoyance was frustrating. Our features editor Kevin Kelly said he liked the tactical factor the ammo grabbing added, and while I can see his point, I’d much rather the game just play out the picking up animation whenever I came across ammo.
The handful of maps we played offered a nice variety of themes and layouts. From an outdoor industrial complex to an indoor stone temple, each map brought something unique to the fray, which in turn influenced how each class could maneuver through the spaces. For instance, while jetpacks work great in open arenas, they are somewhat hamstrung indoors. Or if there’s a large no man’s land, the lumbering Devastator will need to make sure he stays on the periphery so as not to get hung out to dry.
As for each class, I stuck almost exclusively to the Tactical marines, because they’re ranged weapons, particularly the scoped stalker pattern bolter, are devastating and great for holding back incoming forces, which is especially useful in the game’s second multiplayer mode, Seize Ground. In this mode, each team tries to hold objective markers to accumulate the most points.
The Assault Marine offers high mobility thanks to its jetpack, and it has brutally strong melee weapons, the power axe and massive thunder hammer for instance, but this class requires a great deal of precision in terms of timing your landings. Because they’re all about melee, you have to time your landings perfectly or else the guy you were trying to kill will just backpedal and lay you out. I only played a few rounds with the Devastator, mainly because I’m not a big tank lover, but his highly powerful weaponry definitely make him an attractive option, and the ability to turn him into a human turret (an alt-fire option) is rather nice.
It’s a little surprising Space Marine only features two multiplayer modes, given that the Warhammer franchise is all about player vs. player competition, but what’s here looks to deliver some solid fun for old and new fans alike. We’ll find out how players take to closer, faster, and meaner take on the Warhammer universe when the game ships September 6 on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.