Everything revealed about Warhammer 40k Space Marine 2 combat

Space Marine 2 is a third person action adventure game that, on the surface, looks similar to Gears of War or God of War - but looks are deceiving.

Space Marine 2 combat is frantic and bloody. The upcoming third-person action game, set in the grimdark Warhammer 40k universe, pits the power-armored Space Marine Lieutenant Titus against unending hordes of alien Tyranids. This guide explains just how you go about turning those Tyranids into red goo.

Wargamer is keenly tracking news of the Space Marine 2 release date. This introduction to the combat system goes hand in hand with our guides to Space Marine 2 weapons and Space Marine 2 enemies. We have even more guides in our Space Marine 2 walkthrough.

Space Marine 2 combat - screenshot from the extended gameplay trailer, a blade-limbed Tyranid hormagaunt leaps onto Titus, who catches and eviscerates it with his chainsword.

We played the Space Marine 2 preview build on PC, and we’ve only tested the game using Xbox controls. We’ve included the equivalent PS5 controls in this guide, but it’s possible that the key-bindings will differ between the two games.

Here’s everything we know so far about the Space Marine 2 combat system:

Space Marine 2 ranged combat

Space Marine 2 ranged combat should feel familiar to anyone who has played a third person shooter in recent years. You’re limited to holding one main weapon and one pistol at a time, and can carry up to three grenades.

Action Xbox controls Playstation controls
Fire RT R2
Aim down sights LT L2
Reload X Square
Quick throw grenade B Circle
Aim and throw grenade Hold B Hold Circle
Swap pistol / main weapon D-pad down D-pad down

In our preview, we found that aiming down sights gave some weapons serious recoil. The Bolt rifle has incredible vertical kickback, while the Bolt Carbine and Auto Bolt Rifle shots start to spread, which is represented by an expanding white reticle.

Is there a cover system in Space Marine 2?

There is no cover system in Space Marine 2. Space Marines don’t take cover, they walk straight through it. That’s not an exaggeration – the Astra Militarum have set up foldout metal barricades in some parts of the game, which your marines will walk through without noticing.

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Space Marine 2 melee combat

The alien Tyranid race contains biomorphs suitable for every form of warfare, but their voracious hunger is most often brought to bear in devastating close-quarters combat. Space Marine 2 melee combat lets you meet them hand to hand – or rather, chainsword to talon.

Space Marine 2 uses relatively few buttons for its melee combat system:

Action Xbox controls Playstation controls
Light attack Tap RB Tap R1
Strong attack Hold and release RB Hold and release R1
Parry Tap LB Tap L1
Dodge A Cross
Pistol execution RT (contextual) R2 (contextual)
Melee execution Right stick (contextual) R3 (contextual)
Ultimate ability Y Triangle

Heavy attacks have a longer windup and recover period than light attacks, making you more exposed to powerful enemy attacks, but they do more damage. Heavy attacks against smaller enemies will also stagger them, leaving them open to pistol executions.

Space Marine 2 combat - screenshot from the Gamescom preview trailer, a Tyranid warrior leaping in with a heavy attack, signified with a blue aura

Enemy heavy attacks are indicated with a blue aura around the enemy: these do lots of damage and will stagger you, but if you can parry them you will punish your enemy for using them.

Space Marine 2 parries

You can parry regular enemy attacks, or enemy attacks with blue auras. Timing these perfectly will stagger enemies, or even execute smaller enemies outright.

Some enemy attacks cannot be parried – they’re indicated with a glowing red aura. You can dodge these, and if you time your dodge perfectly you’ll stagger your foe just like a perfect parry.

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Space Marine 2 executions

Executing enemies is a reliable way to recover your health and shields, as well as swiftly putting an end to tenacious foes. We have a separate guide to the different kinds of Space Marine 2 executions.

Sometimes, when you stagger an enemy, a targeting icon will appear on their head, allowing you to perform a pistol execution. This will finish off a small enemy, and seriously wound a larger one.

Space Marine 2 combat - screenshot from the Gamescom preview trailer, a Tyranid warrior glowing red and susceptible to an execution

Totally staggered enemies flash red and lurch around. Once an enemy is in this state, they’re open to a gory melee execution. Provided you press the execution button while the enemy is still staggered, it doesn’t matter if they have recovered by the time you close into melee with them – the execution will still go off, at least in the preview build.

Space Marine 2 ultimate abilities

Chopping aliens into bits charges up your Ultimate gauge. Each of the three playable Space Marines has a slightly different ultimate, but they’re all spectacular.

Lt. Titus turns into a roaring melee blender: he’s harder to stagger, and all his attacks are more damaging. On top of that, every kill he makes regenerates his health.

Space Marine 2 combat - screenshot from the extended gameplay trailer, with visual effects indicating the player has taken damage

Space Marine 2 health and armor

Space Marines may look like the Cog soldiers from Gears of War, but they’re much harder.

Each marine’s genhanced body contains two hearts, a reinforced skeleton, subdermal metal cabling, and much more. He’s clad head to toe in Mk X Tacticus power armor, a mixture of electro-motivated fibre bundles, servo motors, and hardened ceramite plating, all wired directly into his nervous system. He’s a walking tank – but he’s not invulnerable.

In Space Marine 2 you have a red health bar and a number of smaller yellow gauges that represent the integrity of your power armor: harder difficulty modes give you less power armor. When you take damage, it will first damage your power armor, draining it gauge by gauge. Once these are empty, your health will begin to deplete.

How do you heal in Space Marine 2?

There are several ways to heal in Space Marine 2. Healing injectors are a consumable item that grant you an immediate health boost. You can carry up to two at a time, and you can use them by hitting the right arrow on the D-pad.

When you take health damage, you have a short window in which you can recover it by attacking enemies. Killing enemies with execution attacks, or by parrying heavy attacks, regenerates first your armor, and then your health. Lastly, Lt. Titus’ rechargeable Ultimate ability lets him heal with every melee attack.

If Space Marine 2 continues to develop as well as the preview suggests is possible, it’s shaping up to be one of the best Warhammer 40k games on console or PC – in single-player or Space Marine 2 co-op. If you prefer your digital Warhammer a bit more cerebral, we recommend you look at our Rogue Trader alpha impressions, or our Realms of Ruin preview, which offer CRPG  and RTS challenges respectively.