Sometimes, you just need a game that’s big and dumb and fun. After a slow Gamescom that feels very lacking in the triple-A space, I can’t tell you how much of a relief it was to venture over to Focus Entertainment’s booth and rip and tear my way through the grimdark future. Some of the most lush visuals of the show, paired with unapologetically bloody and over-the-top action, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2 reminds my why I love games – especially bombastic, indulgent, obnoxious ones.
Your behemoth player character will just wander around saying cool shit like “we shall not sacrifice strategy for expediency, brother” before shooting something so much it explodes in a shower of alien blood and guts. He’ll stand there, about four heads taller than a hench marine next to him, slamming magazines of ammo the size of a human arm into a carbine. He’ll mutter something about the “heresy of the alien scum” and then the next linear section of the level will begin.
You rinse-repeat this for about 30 minutes; little story exposition, combat encounter, exploration, and then back to exposition. It’s very simple, it doesn’t require too much thought, and it absolutely rules. By paring back any sense of complexity, Space Marine 2 gets to revel in what it does best – ooh-rah action and some of the nastiest, meatiest combat you’re going to find this side of Doom Eternal. It plays like Gears of War, sans cover: thin the herd with your uber-industrial gun, draw your chainsword, and tear apart anything else left standing in your way.
There are perfect parries and regular parries to help you deflect some attacks, so a modicum of tactical thinking is required to figure out the rhythm of keeping the Tyranid hoard off you. Toss grenades into the massing aliens, perform a rallying cry to power up, finish off a mantis-armed horror with a heavy melee, get some potshots in at the drones. Then do all that same stuff again, but in a different order. It’s not clever, but it’s big, and I dare you to do any of this without a big dumb grin plastered all over your big dumb face.
And then, there are the set-pieces. Standing at the centre of a pair of closing doors, hefting a Heavy Bolter as big as you are, and mowing down the swarm as it attempts to push upon you with sheer force of numbers… it’s a very specific feeling that can’t quite be summed up on the page. The closest I can get is simply saying ‘phwoar’. Trampling over a carpet of the dead in the aftermath, breathing in the mulch and stench of rent flesh, your brother-in-arms remarks “it looks like a slaughter”. It felt like one, too. Good.
Given that a Space Marine is estimated to weigh about 1,000KGs, it makes sense that everything in the game feels crunchy, weighty, powerful. Every single thing you do is just cool as hell. Whipping out your pistol to pop flying spore creatures then jamming your sword up to its hilt in the skull of a big xeno with claws and fangs and guns flailing wildly? Sick. Throwing a grenade into a cluster of swarming drones and watching their various bits splatter onto the swampy ground? Fuck yeah. Shouting “are you with me, brothers?” as you charge into the fray and rip heads from their bodies as the thrill of battle courses through your blood? There’s nothing like it.
Space Marine 2 is unapologetic in what it is. It knows the fantasy; you’re a big angry man with a big nasty gun. Its unrelenting, impenitent pursuit of making that feel as crunchy and wet and explosive and loud as possible is to be admired. Better than the original in every way, and it somehow looks even better in action than it does in screenshots.
It’ll make you rush into the din and glory of battle gripping your controller as if you were gripping a Boltgun and a chainsword, clutching it tight as you wipe the heresy of these alien bastards from every corner of the universe.
It has never felt better to be a Space Marine, and it might just be my Gamescom 2023 ‘Game of the Show’.
“Stay in the loop with the latest in the gaming world! Our games news brings you up-to-date information on upcoming releases, industry trends, gameplay updates, and more. From immersive RPGs to heart-pounding action games, we’ve got your source for all things gaming. Level up your knowledge with our bite-sized updates on the gaming universe.”