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Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 hands-on preview – a pure dose of 40k

The God-Emperor will reward our patience
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Having a dumb grin on your face upon entering a grand hall filled with alien and human bodies all piled up in pools of blood is probably not the most normal reaction to have, but I couldn’t help myself while getting to play Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 at gamescom 2023. From the atmosphere to the characters to the music to gameplay, this third-person shooter is just an experience of pure, unadulterated 40k throughout and if you’re a fan of the setting, then – just like me – you’ll sit there with a dumb grin on your face as you bask in the glorious grimdark violence.

Players are once again taking over the role of Titus, a Space Marine of the Ultramarines, leading a squad of the chapter right into the thick of things – and when I say “thick of things,” I mean every word of it. Seeing Saber Interactive’s swarm tech at work in trailers is one thing, but experiencing it up close and personal is quite another. Literal floods and clouds of Tyranids will charge your positions and each and every one of them is a killable entity on its own – they aren’t decorations put into the background to make the scene feel massive. It feels massive alright, because it is.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 keyart with Titus.

Titus is back and you'll be surprised about what he's been up to since the first game.

Remember the scene of carnage I described at the beginning of this article? That was already prepared for players – pools of blood, body parts, you name it. After being done with a battle section against an onslaught of Tyranids, your surroundings are going to look the same – you literally create piles of corpses as you shoot and slash your way through the swarm. There is no despawning of bodies here. You’ll see the fruits of your labor at their fullest. I just took it all in after the adrenaline rush ran through my body and subsided. Grinning.

In the mission I played, Titus and friends came to the rescue of some Cadian units of the Imperial Guard fighting the Tyranids on a damp jungle world. They’d been forced back from their positions, so we’re leading the counterattack to retake the orbital defense batteries. I can’t help but praise the scale of everything – Tyranids storming in, covering the horizon, while the Cadians on your side are quite numerous as well and fire off their lasguns, creating a massive battle all around you. As a Space Marine, you’re a lot tougher than a Guardsman, of course, so you can withstand the xenos’ onslaught in melee combat. No wonder they’re always kneeling before you, when you show up, which is not just lore-friendly but helps enhance the power fantasy. You’re a literal super soldier, you’re being called the Emperor’s Angel. That subservience drives it home.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 jungle battle against Tyranids.

Bolters aren't the most precise ranged weapons, but they hit like a truck.

Melee is one of the focuses of Space Marine 2 – a necessity, when you want to incorporate the Tyranids as an enemy. I started off with an auto bolt rifle to take out targets at range, though it’s not a very accurate weapon, as well as a set-up with a bolt pistol in one hand and a combat knife in the other for the more personal handiwork. You easily slash through waves of lower level aliens and can parry incoming attacks. Perfect parries allow you to combo your attack with the pistol, restoring HP. You have a limited amount of medipacks you can find on the map, so perfecting your parrying will be a useful skill. You can also dodge incoming attacks, which is especially useful against some of the bigger Tyranids, whose attacks can’t be parried – blue or red UI markers will inform you as to what to do. You have quick and heavy attacks at your disposal, the latter of which are used to break through defensive stances. Enemies on low HP can be executed in the most glorious and brutal way, which restores your armor points and helps you sustain yourself through heavy combat. You can also use your special rage ability to give yourself a boost and stay alive in dicey situations.

I thought the game to be appropriately challenging on the standard difficulty, though of course I was going in blind and I’m not much of a shooter player, so that’s highly subjective. That’s to say: I’ve had a ton of fun, even though I died a couple of times. When you go down, your Space Marine friends have the chance to revive you for a while (and you can also help your downed colleagues in the same way), though I found that they sometimes weren’t quite willing to help me out. Checkpoints seemed to be generous as well, so no problems there.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 screenshot of soldiers advancing over mud.

You'll often fight side-by-side with the Guard, with helps add to the game's scale.

Throughout the mission I found additional weapons to use: grenades, heavy bolters, and the classic chainsword, all of which have their uses. Grenades are immensely satisfying to use against incoming hordes, specifically when they try to climb walls and pile up to do that like in a zombie movie. The corpses fly everywhere, it’s glorious. The heavy bolter? Amazing. Imagine an incoming wave of Tyranids, but you pile up a wall of bodies inside your fire arc, so they just have to swarm all the way around you. The chainsword is a heavier option than the combat knife and not as nimble, but it’s easier to break Tyranid defensive stances with it – and the executions look way cooler, which is an important factor, if we’re honest with ourselves.

The music was more on the military-side of the spectrum and I’d have loved to hear more choirs and organs, because those really drive home the 40k feeling for me, but that’s just a matter of personal taste. There’s plenty of 40k spirit in it as it is and obviously I’ve only heard a small sample size. I’m nitpicking here.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 screenshot of a burning fortress with soliders in the foreground.

See those Tyranids flooding down the road? You can kill every single one of them.

Why do we still have to wait for release, then, you might ask? It’s because of the bugs, and I don’t mean the Tyranids. I’ve had Titus float above the ground like he was some sort of Psyker, had very weird sound distortions blurring the music, combat noises, and voices, and a few other, more minor issues in this one mission alone. There is work to be done there for sure. Plus, it can’t be easy to get this beast to run smoothly on as many systems as possible. Optimization, I’m sure, will be a huge challenge for the team. I certainly hope they aren’t missing any prayers to the Omnissiah.

All I can say is this: The God-Emperor will reward our patience with something incredibly fun, if the rest of the game lives up to what I’ve seen so far. I’m having a dumb grin all over my face again just writing this.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2, developed by Saber Interactive and published by Focus Entertainment, is planned to be released in 2023 on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S. For more gamescom 2023 coverage, check out