After recently getting my hands on a couple of hours worth of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, I had an opportunity to speak with game director Raphael Van Lierop in more detail about the deliberate decision to not include a cover system, and how that directly influences the rest of combat.
When you're a Space Marine, you're not hiding behind stuff. You're doing the exact opposite. You're putting yourself in the middle of the battle, and that just fits in with the sense of being that confident hero and being super-human, and being almost god-like in your fighting prowess.
That's not to say that that a cover system was never on the table, but Van Lierop notes that it wasn't compatible with other aspects of Space Marine's combat system.
We played around with it, but we knew right away that one key pillar of our combat system was pretty much incompatible with a snap-to-cover system. Actually, two things: Immediate switching between melee and shooting was very difficult to do, and that responsiveness of being able to jump into combat and swap instantly - and have it feel seamless - was not compatible with the idea of being stuck to something.
Van Lierop explained that because seven-foot, one-ton Space Marines are not known for hiding, regenerating health and armor also work quite differently than they do in other games.
We've made some very deliberate decisions in terms of how the different pieces of our combat system fit together, to encourage players to stay in battle. To give you a concrete example, in almost every shooter that you've ever played, when your health is low, your reaction is to run away. Take cover. Get out of the field of fire so you can regenerate.
You can do that, but in Space Marine, the better option is to execute a guy. Pick a guy that's close to you and saw him in half, or stun him and get him exposed so you can do that, and that's going to give you health. So, it's like, "Ok, I'm running low on health. I'm going to do something even more aggressive than what I'm already doing."
Instead of, "Oh, now I gotta hide, and I don't feel very Space Marine-y right now because I'm hiding behind a pillar," you're just like, "Fuck yeah! I'm just gonna get in there and kick some more ass, otherwise I'll die."
Though I've only played a couple of hours worth of an early build of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine so far, I can confirm that the unique melee-shooter hybrid formula Relic is attempting to deliver already feels fresh and intense.
Keep an eye out for my full interview with game director Van Lierop, coming soon.