A frenetic FPS set on 40K’s most infamous planet, Necromunda: Hired Gun is an obvious labour of love with a few niggles. The Finger Guns review.
Dear 12 Year Old Sean,
If I have directed this time travelling, Lake House styled letter correctly, It should arrive with you as you sit in the Stoke-on-Trent branch of the Games Workshop. Wipe that paint off your lip (and, please, stop sucking the paint brush – it doesn’t make them any more accurate) and prepare yourself for some news. In 20 years time, there will be a video game called Necromunda: Hired Gun. Yup. That table top game that our mum describes as “an eye wateringly expensive waste of time” will have its own first person shooter vidya game. I know. I know. Now, don’t get too excited – it’s not going to win GOTY or anything. What you will find though is that it’s a thoroughly engrossing recreation of the world of Necomunda. That maze of industrial architecture dripping with molten metal and Imperial propaganda that you imagine in your head when you roll those dice? Yeah. It’s exactly like that. You’ll be running along walls and shooting Genestealers in the face with a bolter. No. Really. I know. It’s all very cool. Now get back to painting. Oh, and that black paint is too thick for washing. Trust me.
34 Year Old Sean
Your Inner Nerd’s Dream Environment
My inner Warhammer fan – the kid who spent every penny he had on plastic models and the adult that watches every E3 hoping to see a sequel to 2011’s Space Marine – loves Necromunda: Hired Gun. As I’ve traversed each level, there has been at least one moment that has made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as a part of my brain fights to make the whole body jump for joy.
Even objectively, without the years of history I share with the table top game, the sci-fi world that has been created in Necromunda: Hired Gun is impressive. An industrial hiveworld with heavy metal cathedrals, giant forges and vast industrial complexes with iconography adorning every crumbling wall makes for an engrossing place to explore. I get the feeling that developers Streum On Studio made a diverse wish list of every location type on Necromunda they’d like to do battle in and made sure to include it in some way. On the back of a train that’s the size of a skyscraper. Inside a gang’s den. In battle-torn Imperial installations. Necromunda: Hired Gun is like a blood soaked tour of the Underhive that will appeal to most Warhammer 40K fans.
This is all tied together via a pretty interesting narrative. As the title suggests, Necromunda: Hired Gun has you play as Bounty Hunter. At the start of the game, you get to choose your avatar from a series of pre-sets. From here, you find the protagonist on a mission with 2 other mercs. It’s apparently going to be an easy job – “in, out, get paid” – but the trio run into a lot more resistance than expected. After a run-in with a mystery figure, the other 2 mercenaries are killed and the protagonist is left for dead. Awaking in Martyr’s End – the hub and shopping centre for the world – the Hired Gun finds themselves strapped to a doctor’s table having had their life saved by an Inquisitor. With some new cybernetic upgrades in place, the Hired Gun sets out on a quest for revenge which takes a few twists and turns along the way.
In The 41st Millennium, There Are Only Gruff Voices
The majority of the narrative in Necromunda: Hired Gun is delivered during conversation – either face to face or over a radio – with a cast of characters that sound just like you’d imagine they’d sound having lived their lives in a constant war. Grizzled, gruff and like they’ve been smoking 40 Marlboro a day since they were teens. The casting is really well pitched, helping bring the story and grim vibe of the world to life.
Before a recent patch, you’d often miss lines of dialogue because they were lost in the mixing. They were too quiet and they’d be drowned out by the music or the fire fighting going on around you. That’s now fixed, thankfully.
What hasn’t been fixed by this patch is the stiff animation. Cut scenes – which can jump between third and first person view, becoming a bit disorientating – can look rough and unpolished. The movement of characters looks robotic. It’s not a deal breaker but if it wasn’t for the excellent voice acting, some of these scenes you have been really disappointing.
Me and My Mastiff
Which brings us to the most divisive element of Necromunda: Hired Gun – the combat. The core of the game play here is very well designed. Using a wide variety of customisable weaponry, you’ll be facing off against a varied cast of gang members, machines and others while you sprint and wall run around. The structure of the game means that most of the bigger fire fights take place in arena like areas that are designed to accommodate most load-outs and play styles. Find yourself packing a bolter or auto-pistol and you can get into mid-to-short range and dash around as you fill Eschers and Orlocks with lead. There’s high platforms for snipers and plenty of closed in corridors for shotgun wielding. Some gang members carry shields which protect their front flank but with your handy grapple hook (also used for traversal), you can rip their protection away before gunning them down. It’s all fast, brutal, demands accuracy and feels very much like the recent wave of modern day indie Boomer shooters, like Ion Fury.
Some of the design elements that made Doom Eternal so impressive are included here too. To encourage aggressive play, the Hired Gun has an ability called autosanguine. This is activated whenever they take damage and gives the player the chance to restore that health if they deal out some damage in return. This pushes the player to stay in combat rather than retreat in order to root out health/shield packs. It works really well, if not as slickly implemented as Bethesda’s AAA shooter.
It’s the surrounding, secondary combat elements that are a little ropey. Unfortunately, one of the most janky elements is one of the most attractive aspects of the game – the cyber Mastiff. A badass mutt that can be called into action by squeezing its squeaky toy, this dog companion can run and maul a target at your command. This’ll give you a second of respite to reload or even kill some of the weaker foes – when the Mastiff is behaving itself that is. The dog pal can get stuck in the environment, will refuse to move if it ends up spawning in a weird location or simply get itself killed (not forever, just until it has had ample time to recharge) by running into fire and then not doing anything. When the Mastiff is working, it’s a cool little addition but because it so frequently fails to have a decent impact, it can’t be relied upon in the heat of battle. Instead, it’s a nice little aside to use when you remember its there.
I need to touch on the AI for the enemies in Necromunda: Hired Gun. The gangs, genestealer cultists and heavy machinery in this game have virtually no tactical intelligence. Their go-to strategy is to swarm directly at the Hired Gun and fire off as many shots as possible until they need to reload. At this point, they seem to run away and try to hide in cover (sometimes crouching down in front of the player) while they reload. When you’re picking off individual gang members, this becomes very obvious and a touch formulaic. For the most part though, fire fights in Hired Gun are against large waves of enemies that are attacking together. Here, when you’re under fire from multiple directions, the lack of tactical nous is lost in the ballet of blood and bullets. For me, it makes for a more satisfying game too. When 3 Orlocks are running along a gantry in a line, their stupidity makes for a very gratifying triple kill as I mow them down with my knife.
This Is My Launcher, This Is My Lasgun, This Is For Fighting, This Is For Fun
Loot and weaponry play an interesting role in Necromunda: Hired Gun. Weaponry, armour and customisation components can be both purchased from the stores in Martyr’s End and found during play. There’s a limited capacity for each type of weapon and item and at the end of each level, anything that you’re not taking back to Martyr’s End is sold. Each items fits into the now tried and tested rarity stages – white is common, blue uncommon, purple rare etc – which represent their core stats but that’s not the end of the story here. Every aspect of a weapon can be tweaked and changed via customisation so that common weapons with some added extras can be just as useful as a stock blue item, for example.
At times, the gear in Necromunda: Hired Gun feels like it’s from a looter shooter like Borderlands. While there’s plenty of vanilla weaponry, you’ll often find named weaponry which has their own feel. It’s easy to fall in love with a few weapons which you use regularly until you find something even more useful. Picking up garbage weaponry you don’t really want pays off in the end though as it can swell your bank account as you sell it at the end of a mission.
That cash can be used to improve the cybernetic implants of both the bounty hunter and the Cyber Mastiff too. Health and shield amounts, the capability of the autosanguine system, movement speed, agility, the length of time a strength booster lasts and a lot more can be upgraded if you have enough cash.
If you’re short on cash and want a quick financial boost, you can also take on some side jobs. Separated into different difficulty levels at the jobs board, these are self-contained activities that ask the Hired Gun to kill or protect something in a sealed off section of the main campaign levels. These only last a few minutes each but will quickly fill your bank account and will make the main campaign – which is made up of 12 levels and lasts for approximately 8 hours – easier and more enjoyable as you upgrade the Hired Gun.
For The Emper — Necromunda: Hired Gun Stopped Working – Report?
It’s a shame then that Necromunda: Hired Gun has a few technical issues which threaten to spoil the experience. There are a few moments in the game when the frame rate starts to chug along. It’s not often but it’s unhelpfully when it occurs when the most action is going on. I’ve read some things online about the game being unplayable – that’s hyperbolic. Sure, it stutters occasionally but it’s far from a game ruining frame rate.
What’s far more frustrating are the crashes. Necromunda: Hired Gun crashed 13 times during my time with the game. It booted me from game entirely. This primarily happened when I was forced to use a stimpack – an auto-respawn item – which then hard crashed the game. Thankfully, the checkpoint system in Hired Gun is pretty generous which means not a lot of progress was lost with each crash. It sure was annoying though.
The PS5 version of Necromunda: Hired Gun doesn’t use any of the platform specific features. There’s no use of the adaptive triggers and a little rumble coming through the DualSense – but it’s far from the haptics found in other FPS’s on PS5.
Necromunda: Hired Gun is a few patches away from being the best Warhammer 40K game for quite some time. Sure, there’s caveats with everything I’ve written above but as a package, it’s pretty compelling. As a first person shooter, it’s more than the sum of its parts. I hope that Streum On Studio are given the opportunity to patch this game to be the best it can be because when it’s working as expected and you’re not worried about it crashing on you, it’s a lot of fun.
The frame rate can slow down, it occasionally crashes and there are aspects of Necromunda: Hired Gun that don’t live up to their potential. For fans of the 41st Millennium’s most infamous planet however, the fast paced FPS combat, detailed game world and strong narrative that Streum On Studio have created, all steeped in Warhammer 40K lore, will be compelling.
Necromunda: Hired Gun is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5 (review platform), Xbox Series X and Series S and PC via Steam.
Developer: Streum On Studio
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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