Unveiling Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 – Exclusive Preview from Gamescom 2023

Unveiling Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 - Exclusive Preview from Gamescom 2023
Unveiling Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 - Exclusive Preview from Gamescom 2023

Within the realm of science fiction weaponry, few hold my fascination like the chainsword. A seamless fusion of medieval longsword aesthetics with a blade composed of chainsaw teeth, designed to rend and tear flesh. It encapsulates both the gothic essence and the brutal ferocity emblematic of Warhammer 40,000. This iconic weapon takes center stage as the visceral, savage core of the long-anticipated sequel, Space Marine 2.

Recently, I immersed myself in an hour-long experience with the successor to what many hail as the pinnacle of Warhammer 40k action gaming. My observations suggest that the new developer, Saber Interactive, comprehends the essence that propelled the original 2011 masterpiece, crafted by Relic Entertainment, to greatness. Space Marine 2 stands as a hybrid between a shooter and a melee combat game, occupying a space reminiscent of Gears of War and Doom – a linear third-person campaign rife with harrowing battles against grotesque monstrosities. True to its predecessor, it remains uncompromising in its pursuit of unadulterated, blood-soaked clashes against insurmountable odds.

The mission at my fingertips, aptly named “Invasion,” tasked me with carving a swath through jungle swamps and fortified bunkers during the early onslaught of an alien invasion. The invading Tyranids, resembling the insectoid bugs of Starship Troopers yet envisioned by HR Giger, descend en masse, courtesy of Saber’s impressive World War Z engine capable of rendering hordes of a thousand foes on-screen. Waves of raptor-esque Hormagaunts, accompanied by formidable Warriors, crash against defenses and structures. Their frantic efforts even lead to the creation of towering formations, as they scramble over each other to scale vertical surfaces. While firearms readily cleave through the mass from a distance, the sheer volume makes it impossible to obliterate them all before they breach your line of defense. This is where Space Marine 2 embraces its melee aspect, with the chainsword’s gratifying strikes taking the forefront.

The shooting mechanics exude stability and potency, yet it’s in the midst of these blood-drenched melees that Space Marine 2 truly thrives. Saber has meticulously crafted a melee system that boasts complexity through combos, parries, and evasive maneuvers, while still retaining an accessible nature that allows you to revel in the carnage. The smaller Hormagaunts are essentially defenseless against your onslaught; those leaping towards you can be intercepted mid-air and slammed into the ground for instant elimination. Nonetheless, their sheer numbers facilitate the gradual erosion of your armor. Should they breach your defenses, your precious health bar becomes vulnerable, primarily replenished by scarce medical supplies. Surviving amidst this relentless horde is no straightforward feat for your towering, armor-clad Ultramarine.

This is where Space Marine 2’s execution system steps into the fray. Somewhat reminiscent of Doom’s Glory Kills, a brutal execution maneuver upon an adversary refills a portion of your four-segment armor gauge. The grander and more menacing the adversary, the greater the armor restoration. Consequently, as battles in my demonstration commenced, I zealously sought out the formidable Warriors. Engaging them presents a more formidable challenge, equipped with sword-like limbs that transform the conflict into a true duel. Parrying is pivotal, as is vigilance against unblockable assaults necessitating evasion. Executing a successful counter or stunning combination opens up opportunities for point-blank pistol shots to their visages. As damage accumulates, an execution finishing move becomes viable. These are magnificently gruesome, with the chainsword carving through flesh and bone amidst a spray of blood that transforms your blue-armored Marine into a crimson figure. The satisfaction is twofold – the spectacle itself, alongside the restoration of armor that prolongs your engagement in the fray.

Hence unfurls the rhythm of Space Marine 2. Confronted with a scarcity of medical packs in the demonstration, maintaining armor integrity becomes imperative. As I progressed through the latter segment of my hands-on experience, my health dwindled precariously. Survival now pivoted solely on my capacity to execute foes. This transformed my approach; I’d thin out the horde with gunfire and explosives, reserving enough adversaries for melee engagements and subsequent executions. The latter half of the mission evolved into a gripping struggle for survival, where my Ultramarine’s continued existence hinged upon tearing into the innards of the repulsive Tyranids.

What lies ahead in my anticipation is the system’s progression and diversification in the face of varied enemy types. The showcased demo extracted from the campaign’s second mission only spotlighted two principal Tyranid species alongside explosive venomous insects. However, Games Workshop, the creative force behind the Warhammer 40,000 universe, boasts a roster of over 25 distinct Tyranid creatures for their tabletop game, not to mention further additions in lore. While I cherish the horde dynamics of the Hormagaunts and the tactical duels against the Warriors, this might not suffice to sustain an entire campaign. My aspiration rests upon the narrative introducing fresh challenges via larger and more unconventional Tyranids, including towering Hive Tyrants and airborne Gargoyles (briefly glimpsed in the demo’s skies, yet not yet a direct threat). If each Tyranid type enriches the melee and shooting foundations in distinct ways, Space Marine 2 appears poised to sidestep repetitiveness, offering an exhilarating experience throughout its entirety.

While the ebb and flow between ranged and melee combat retained my immersion during the demonstration, the unwavering dedication to the Warhammer 40k universe elevated my delight. Evidently, Saber wields profound knowledge; the protagonist, Lieutenant Titus, dons Primaris armor faithful to the lore. He battles alongside a regiment of Cadian guardsmen equipped with Lasguns and Basilisk cannons plucked from the tabletop realm. The Tyranids, a hivemind collective, dictate that the demise of senior Warriors stuns their cohorts as synaptic connections sever. Throughout this single mission, I wielded nearly every modern iteration of the Boltgun family – from the standard rifle to the tactical carbine and the turret-resembling Heavy Bolter. Each boasts a distinct firing pattern and optimal range, infusing uniqueness despite sharing explosive ammunition. For more devastating outcomes, I experimented with the Meltagun, obliterating scores of Tyranids with a single trigger pull. It left me eagerly anticipating the spectrum of other eccentric weapons that the full campaign might encompass (a fervent wish for the inclusion of a Neo-Volkite pistol).

Most importantly, each weapon acquisition adheres to the classic essence of shooter weaponry – no convoluted statistics, modifications, or power tiers. You acquire them, pull the trigger, and witness the alien menace splatter. Space Marine 2 undoubtedly introduces a contemporary edge through its melee engagement, yet – at least in this showcased mission – upholds the unembellished spirit reminiscent of late 2000s campaigns.

For over a decade, I’ve yearned for Space Marine 2. For enthusiasts of the 40k universe, it holds immense significance. This sentiment extends to Games Workshop as well; their latest rendition of the tabletop Warhammer 40,000 centers around the warfare between Space Marines and Tyranids. In this context, the game stands at the very heart of this