The original Space Marine is a cult classic, and widely considered to be one of the best adaptations of the massive Warhammer 40,000 setting. Twelve years later, players will get to step back into the massive shoes of Titus, an Ultramarine in service to the Emperor and the Imperium of Man. We played through an hourlong demo of the sci-fi hack-and-slash game, and so far, Space Marine 2 delivers on both guts and glory.
Space Marine 2 picks up years after the events of the first game, during the Era Indomitus. Titus has been through a stint of unfair punishment after a bad case of assumed heresy, and he’s finally back among the boys in blue. Unfortunately, his new mission isn’t exactly a walk in the park. The voracious Tyranids, an alien race of horrific hungry bugs, are descending on the Imperium. The Imperial Guard are outgunned and outmatched, and so the Space Marines are dispatched to clean things up.
The original Space Marine’s combat was widely loved, and Space Marine 2 doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Titus is a massive, armored Marine who can’t jump, but he is able to pull off surprisingly agile ducks and dodges. Sometimes, I focus on fighting a few bigger bad guys instead of insectile swarms, perfecting the timing of dodges and parries so that I can dodge arcs of acid, dangerous spores, or bone scythes aimed at my skull. All the while, two AI squadmates fight by my side. (Space Marine 2 will also have a three-player co-op option at launch.)
After a string of heavy attacks on little guys or a perfect dodge in the face of a bigger beast, I can tap my mouse to have Titus pull out his bolter and land a heavy shot. If I play my cards right, I build up momentum that I can turn into a Righteous Fury buff, healing Titus and helping him dish out more damage. I can also get chunks of health back by executing stunned or damaged enemies in melee, ripping them apart with a sword or even my bare hands.
Titus is always armed with a bolt pistol and a combat knife, but I was able to find other weapons scattered around the swamps and structures on the world of Kadaku. These weapons feel fantastic in action; bolter weapons have a meaty kick to them, and I adore how they turn Tyranids into clouds of gore. Meltaguns are limited on ammo, but incredibly effective despite this scarcity. It’s deeply satisfying to watch a plume of gold-and-purple fire consume a horde of swarming xenos.
And boy howdy, are there plenty of aliens to kill. There were times in the demo where I would stop and stare at the awe-inspiring horde of Tyranids pouring down the hills or through a chokepoint. The creatures are incredibly deadly; even on lower difficulties, if they manage to surround Titus, he’ll go down quickly. Luckily, his squad mates are much more helpful than in the first game; they’ll even try to help him back up instead of defaulting to an instant game over.
The demo doesn’t show too much of Space Marine 2’s planets, but it does an excellent job of setting up the scope and scale of the Tyranid threat. I feel like I’ve waded through thousands of the aliens, and only come out ahead due to Titus’ sheer power and force of will. Melee can feel like a bit of a slog, but it’s punctuated by some gratuitously gory execution animations.
At one point, I watched Titus pull a floating, psychic zoanthrope out of the air, grip its faceplate in one heavy gauntlet, and rip it off in a shower of blood and tissue. Needless to say, it was so over the top that it had me hooting and hollering.
At the end of most fights, Titus’ armor is absolutely slick with gore. Encounters are intense and visceral, and I’m interested to see whether the game can maintain that momentum, or if it eventually becomes ho-hum to slice a Tyranid in half with a chainsword and then use its own bony limb to pierce its skull in the ultimate game of “Why are you hitting yourself?”
Space Marine 2 will be released sometime in winter 2023 for PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X.