Warhammer 40k Space Marine 2 is looking rather good. Building on the high-octane over-the-shoulder action of the first, this co-op third-person fantasy game will see you facing down huge swarms of Tyranids, with the insectoid xenos arriving in vast swarms courtesy of developer Saber Interactive’s World War Z tech. As Space Marine 2 creative director Oliver Hollis-Leick tells us in an interview at Gamescom 2023 ahead of the Space Marine 2 release date, the likes of Aliens and Starship Troopers were big influences on the team.
We’re in the second level of the game, fighting through a muddy, horrible battlefield reminiscent of World War I – explosions ringing and shouts echoing through the air. Then, they appear. Hundreds of meters away at first, hordes and hordes of tyranids running in packs towards us. In no time, we’re absolutely swarmed.
It’s a moment that’s immediately reminiscent of Starship Troopers, so we ask Hollis-Leick if that was an intentional choice. “We use some of the Starship Troopers scenes for references for how we wanted those swarms to take place,” he remarks, specifically picking out the attack on Whiskey Outpost, where the troopers attempt to defend a base as the hostile bugs pour over the walls.
The tone of Space Marine 2 is much more serious, however. “Whereas Starship Troopers is a bit more comical and cartoonish – and the first [Space Marine] was at times like that too – with this game we’ve got a very realistic approach.” The direction to the voice cast this time, therefore, was less one of jovial bravado, but rather “this should feel like a struggle for your life,” he notes.
Another key influence is the Aliens series. “A lot of these designs from when these creatures were first created were intermixed with H.R. Giger-type thoughts about Xenomorphs and things,” Hollis-Leick explains, “so those seeds were planted back then.”
As for how the swarms are brought to life, Hollis-Leick credits Saber Interactive’s former groundwork. “In World War Z, we developed our own technology, our own engine with the swarm engine, and that allows us to have upwards of 500 actual enemies on screen at the same time,” he remarks. “We had vistas in the distant background, thousands of zombies swarming down a hill, then the mid-ground slightly less propagated, and then 200 guys in the foreground.”
That tech brings the scale the team wanted for Space Marine 2 to life. “We felt that the story of a Space Marine cannot be told without that epic scale,” he continues, “there is a lot of programming wizardry that goes into it, we have to be very efficient with graphics. We’ve got much better machines now than we did ten years ago, so we’ve crunched the numbers in a way that allows us to fit all of that on screen.”
It certainly shows. The resulting effect of seeing the hordes of Tyranids pouring in towards the fields and trenches where you’re trudging and carving your way through lends a sense of epic scale that feels truly worthy of the Warhammer name. We’ll find out when Space Marine 2 arrives later in 2023.
Ahead of launch, have a browse through the best Warhammer 40k games for plenty more ways to suit up and crush the Chaos hordes. Alternatively, we’ve got more of the best co-op games to keep you and your pals busy.
Gamescom 2023 reporting by Will Nelson.