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Warhammer 40,000 video games are, fortunately, becoming more common. Thanks to Games Workshop adopting a more lax approach to their IP, more and more developers are trying to give players more chances to dive into the grim darkness of the 41st millennium. Streum On Studio’s Necromunda: Hired Gun takes players into the ancient hive world of Necromunda, a familiar planet to many fans of the series and puts them in the shoes of a bounty hunter finding their way through the Underhive after a job gone wrong.
On the surface, Necromunda: Hired Gun is a fast-paced, violent shooter set in a horrifically well-made rendition of an Underhive, basically what it would be like if people lived in the catacombs under a gothic cyberpunk Paris. The game is dominated by the ancient forges supporting manufactorums higher up in the Hive, long-forgotten sewers filled with corrosive sludge and gargantuan trains hauling cargo from one point to another.
If very little of the above makes sense and sounds like an eldritch, incomprehensible gibberish, much of this game will. Streum On Studio’s love for the setting is apparent in the detail they put in the game and very little of it is explained. It won’t stop you from understanding the objectives, but you might get bogged down in the sheer scale of the setting.
So, Necromunda: Hired Gun is set in the famously over-the-top and violent Warhammer 40,000 universe. Streumon Studio’s approach to gameplay is to crank up the tempo as high as they can to create a new take on combat in the 40K universe. The game is all about moving fast along walls and sliding past enemies, while using a decently sized arsenal of some classic and not-so-classic 40K weapons and managing augmentics (think Adem Jensen’s augmentations).
Unfortunately, they didn’t stick the landing.
The game plays like an inbred lovechild between Doom Eternal and Titanfall. From the former, Hired Gun takes speed, glory kills and having a massive arsenal of weapons and abilities to manage. From the latter, we have wallrunning, sliding and grapple hooks.
This combination is a match made in heaven. Where Doom is fast, Titanfall is faster and where Titanfall’s combat was engaging, Doom hits a level of difficulty and satisfaction few shooters can match. The Titanfall-esque movement allows for verticality in map design that befits a Hive World while the Doom-style gameplay lets the game have the aggression and brutality that something from the 40K universe deserves.
Gunplay is satisfying with each weapon having the sort of feel you would expect. Autoguns, essentially modern rifles, are perfectly bland, high fire rate, low recoil, low damage weapons. Bolters and Heavy Bolters have the kick that firing 50. Caliber mass-reactive shells should give. Plasma guns spray blue energy across the map, Long Las act as sniper rifles as they do in the lore and even some ancient weapons like Grav Guns make an appearance.
Your augmentics can add a fun layer to the combat.
Acting as abilities on cooldown, they give you a Soldier-76 style aimbot, let you shoot fire from your fingertips and even enter a melee mode. It’s a lot of fun to use and they fit well into the game’s sandbox. The aimbot is perfect for hitting targets while wallrunning, for example. Using these skills are all but essential to survive at the higher levels.
You’re also accompanied by a Cybermastiff, an attack dog. In true 40k fashion, you’ll be filling the pup with all the augmentics it needs to be more useful to you, turning from an organic fleshbag to a hound a tech-priest would love to own.
It’ll give you a helpful wallhack, placing an outline over enemies in a radius around you, even through walls. It will even attack enemies and pin them down for you to shoot or for it to eventually kill.
It’s a shame then, that the game is held back by some glaring issues. The glory kills in this game are far slower than Doom’s slowing down combat by having to watch lengthy animations while waiting for health to restore. Most of the enemies in the game use fast-firing weapons that at least appear to be hitscan, if not near that speed. It makes it difficult to close the distance needed to pull off glory kills.
Hired Gun’s movement doesn’t really hold up either.
Controls feel clunky, with none of the slickness found in both Doom and Titanfall and it’s easy to get snagged on Necromunda’s uneven terrain.
The enemies range from expected to frustrating to fight against. Being the underhive, most of your opponents are humans in their different breeds with the occasional robot and, on at least one occasion, aliens. They just aren’t all that much fun to fight. Larger enemies are infuriating bullet sponges while fodder enemies are either unsatisfying or pop up and gun you down out of the blue.
Progression in Hired Gun is based around randomised loot and upgrades for your weapons and augmentics. Things are quite simple. Items will raise stats that generally improve your survivability or loot drops. Investing in your aumentics is equivalent to a skill tree. Money earned from missions will permanently improve your stats or improve the abilities that help you in combat.
You’ll need to consistently upgrade your augmentics to survive the later levels, which encourages you to do some of the game’s optional missions and pads the runtime. Unlocking all the abilities isn’t too difficult but getting them to their more powerful forms is.
Your weapons enjoy extensive upgrading and customisation. You can change out scopes, barrels, stocks, muzzles, magazines and more. Some options change the way the weapon behaves, like the Grav gun gaining the ability to charge up for a more powerful shot or changing the ammunition on the double-barreled shotgun to slugs. Loot plays a role here, too. Most offer flat stat increases while some add additional elemental effects to the weapons.
For 40k fans, this customisation adds a lot of depth to the universe’s weapons. Books may make mention of different weapons and codexes may outline why one army has unique buffs but there are rarely any visuals for them. Hired Gun lets manages to scratch this itch by rendering the guns in excellent detail.
The plot is quite forgettable. The Bounty Hunter’s motivations for going on the whole adventure are barely explored while most of the plot is either racing ahead at a breakneck pace or going nowhere at all. Plot moments feel disconnected with very little explanation as to why things are happening. Voice acting is stiff and often quite devoid of emotion, making it hard to get invested in the plot.
It’s made worse by the cutscenes. Halo: Combat Evolved, from two decades ago, has better cutscene animation than Necromunda: Hired Gun. Gestures are incredibly stiff and movement is abrupt. It’s a good thing that most characters have a mask of some sort, giving some reprieve from the facial animations.
At its current state, only if you’re a massive 40k fan.
The game’s issues were infuriating and rage-inducing. Dying to some weird glitch is not fun in the slightest and the issues with combat only make it worse. The only thing that makes it better is being able to use 40k’s classic weapons in all their glory in the game’s gorgeous environments. They’re horrifying, but they look really horrifying. Some plot moments like fighting a Genestealer Cult and applying holy oils to appease a gate would delight someone familiar with the setting.
But should you buy it? Not until the bugs are fixed and the game improved. A similar situation occurred with Streumon Studio’s Space Hulk: Deathwing, which was eventually given an Enhanced Edition. I would wait for that.
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