We check out a demo version of THQ’s recently announced downloadable sci-fi shooter on the E3 show floor.

Announced just last week, Warhammer 40K: Kill Team is a shooter set in Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40K sci-fi universe. In it, you’ll assume the role of a space marine (from one of a number of selectable chapters) tasked with taking down an ork spaceship from the inside, and while you’ll certainly be massively outnumbered, the good news is that you don’t have to go up against the ork horde alone.

Kill Team won’t support online play, but you and a friend will be able to play together locally. There are four different classes of space marine to choose from, each with access to some unique abilities and weapons. These names won’t mean much to you unless you’re a fan Warhammer 40K, but you can play as a librarian, a sternguard, a vanguard, or a tech marine. Each class can choose from four different weapons, including power swords, lightning claws, heavy bolters, rocket launchers, and pistols.

Played mostly from an isometric perspective, Kill Team is a dual-stick shooter at its heart; you move around with the left stick and shoot with the right. There’s a lot more to the game than that, though; you can perform melee attacks with the A button (or X, on the PS3), throw grenades with the right shoulder button, and launch special attacks with the left shoulder button. Special attacks vary considerably depending on which class you’re playing as and which weapon you’re using. As the sternguard veteran armed with a heavy bolter, for example, we were able to significantly increase our rate of fire for a short time, while as the vanguard veteran wielding lightning claws (with a pistol in the other hand), our special saw us rushing into crowds of enemies and knocking them to the ground before performing an area-of-effect attack.

We’re told that around 80 to 90 percent of Kill Team’s gameplay will pit you against orks, and greenskins accounted for 100 percent of the enemies that we faced in the demo. They came in plenty of different shapes and sizes, but ultimately none of them demanded a different approach, so the combat felt a little repetitive. There were a couple of set pieces that required us to hit switches or defend positions from multiple waves of enemies, but while space marines should certainly feel incredibly powerful in the WH40K universe, in Kill Team it’s possible that they might be a little too powerful. (It’s also possible that the demo was tuned to make it easier for E3 attendees.)

Numerous power-ups were scattered liberally throughout the level that we played through. Most made our weapons more powerful or shielded us from damage for a period of time, but health pickups were also in plentiful enough supply that we never felt like we were in any real danger. Hopefully this won’t always be the case. A lack of challenge and some minor camera issues aside (it didn’t always do a great job of keeping both players in the shot), we really enjoyed our time with Warhammer 40K: Kill Team. The lack of online cooperative play is disappointing, but we’re still very much looking forward to bringing you more coverage on the game just as soon as we can get our hands on it again.

By Justin Calvert, Executive Editor