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After several Warhammer 40k let-downs, the “pressure is non-stop” for Space Marine 2’s devs

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The virtual world of Warhammer is in a bit of a weird way right now. With Darktide’s reputation never fully recovering from its rocky launch, Rogue Trader being solid if unspectacular, and Realms of Ruin struggling both commercially and critically, Games Workshop’s recent virtual endeavors – perhaps with the exception of Boltgun – haven’t always lived up to expectations. Warhammer 40k: Space Marine 2, however, is the release – the one every Heretic and Imperial loyalist alike is waiting for. As we draw ever closer to launch, I ask creative director Oliver Hollis-Leick if the team is feeling the pressure, and whether they’re confident enough that Space Marine 2 will escape its beloved predecessor’s shadow.

After all, the original Space Marine is among the best Warhammer 40k games ever made. The perfect blend of hacking, slashing, story, and good old-fashioned fun, it sits by the Emperor’s side alongside Dawn of War and, my personal favorite, Vermintide.

Warhammer 40k: Space Marine 2 certainly has a legacy to live up to, then, compounded by Darktide and Rogue Trader’s buggy launches, and the poor performance of Age of Sigmar – Realms of Ruin. I ask if the franchise’s virtual wobbles have added any pressure to the team, who are no doubt already under the pump given this is, well, Space Marine 2.

“The pressure has been non-stop,” he tells me. “It’s well known that we delayed the release of our game [to ensure it launches well]. We felt that it was critical to polish it and do as much as we can, under our control, to make it ready to rock from the moment people get their hands on it. I think that’s mitigated a lot of the concern, and I was really pleased to see fans react well to that – we were worried that they’d be very angry, but most people said ‘thank you for not releasing a broken game.’”

Senior brand manager for Focus Entertainment, Sylvain Le Roux, also notes that, using Hollis-Leick’s words from a previous video, “there’s no bigger pressure than the pressure we put on ourselves.”

A lot of that stress is no doubt bred from the original Space Marine’s legacy. With over 12,000 reviews on Steam and an average rating of 92%, Sega and Relic’s interstellar adventure is very much the quintessential Warhammer 40k game for a lot of the community.

But this is Space Marine 2, and it’s no longer 2011. I ask Hollis-Leick how the team has innovated on the original game while maintaining the sparkle that made it so great. It’s a question that prompts a smile.

“I have a great story about this,” he tells me. “When we were at Gamescom [2023], I’d been away from the booth and I came back and was told I had a visitor. It turns out one of the original developers from the original game had come to the booth to see if he could have a look. We chatted for a bit, then he played the game, and he was absolutely lethal – he put it on the hardest difficulty, and he shredded the enemy.

“He came off, and he was like ‘you’ve really taken it where we wanted to be able to take it. You’ve done all of the things that we wanted to do, but couldn’t.’ Of course that was great to hear because that was our intention.”

When I ask what the biggest differences are between the two, he tells me that “I feel like our version improves the flow of melee combat through enemies. We have a more swarm-based approach because of the Tyranids, so we’ve had to develop a melee system that is less hack and slash and more [one that] creates a route and cuts a path through all these enemies.

“We also have these great reaction shots where you can be cutting through the enemies, then immediately pull out your sidearm, take out a guy over here, then switch straight back to your Chainsword; it’s this really beautiful flowing system of melee and ranged put together. I feel like our combat system really is a level-up.

“In terms of the scale of the first game, they threw everything they had at trying to make that scale feel epic. I feel like we’ve gone significantly further with that – we’ve got the advantage of new technologies, but the level of detail [is incredible]. Our artists are absolutely obsessed with this license.

“I think we’ve created a more vivid, epic version of the Warhammer universe, and we’ve got a more thrilling, satisfying combat mechanic as well.”

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As announced at Warhammer Skulls 2024, Space Marine 2 is getting a Helldivers 2-style PvE mode, which we quizzed Hollis-Leick about. Additionally, pre-orders are now officially open, meaning you can pick the game up ahead of time, as well as a slew of cosmetic goodies.

As we await the Warhammer 40k: Space Marine 2 release date, we have a rundown of all the best new PC games to play right now.

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