Warhammer 40,000 is an immensely popular tabletop game. You probably know it, it’s the one where you paint the little figures. It makes sense that video games are a perfect virtual medium for long-time fans and for people looking to dip their toes into the universe. I know absolutely nothing about Warhammer, I assumed it was all goblins and space marines but Necromunda looks like the heavy metal offshoot and I’m all in for that.
Taking place on Necromunda in its massive Hive City, Hired Gun has you play a mercenary tasked with avenging the death of a gang member. This spirals into you being brought into a gang war.
Watch the launch trailer below:
Oh I’m sorry, did you want more of a synopsis? I mean, that’s all the info you really get. The plot opens up explaining the lore and as an outsider, it perked me up a little bit. Then the game throws you into this doomed mission and expects you to care about what happens, which I didn’t. Then the real story begins and I hope you like exposition dumps and can keep track of nonsense gang names and generic plot arcs you have no input in because that’s all you get. Seriously, there are maybe three characters you can talk to and you just stand there statically, as characters spout utter nonsense. I will admit that this may mean something to die-hard fans, but it was just banal to me. No pay off at the end and no reason to be invested, and since you pick a generic character, you don’t even feel like you’re piloting anything resembling a person. A shame, but hey, it’s a shooter so let’s jump to the gameplay.
Necromunda: Hired Gun bills itself as a ‘Shooter of Old’, you know the type, Quake, DOOM etc. Now, I was late to the party for this genre but I appreciate that, when done right, these games can be a ton of fun. Hired Gun certainly starts off decently enough. It keeps up with the fast pace of DOOM 2016 and the core gun-play is totally competent. The arsenal of weapons is pretty much what you expect and they all work well. The decision to go towards loot based pickups as opposed to set weapons you upgrade is a miss though. There is a character upgrade system and while it’s bare-bones, it works. The health system is solid too, kill an enemy and regain health and you have a rechargeable shield. Simple and, once again, it works. Borrowing from Dead to Rights, Hired Gun also gives you a dog companion..sort of. It’s a cool-down item to use. Useless in combat, but the dog pings every enemy on the map. The highlight of the game is the grappling hook, you get it early on in the game and it adds a lot of mobility. So in all these aspects, Hired Gun is fine.
Unfortunately, that’s where the fun stops and Hired Gun makes some bad decisions. Firstly, the enemy charge at you with no regard for their own safety. This isn’t in a good way like Serious Sam, because all basic enemies can be killed with a single melee attack. The game takes the opposite approach with bigger enemies and resorts to turning them into bullet sponges. It makes every encounter feel kind of dull. This brings us to the second major pitfall and that is the feel of the game. Oh, it’s rough. The locomotion has the right feel, to begin with, but try to turn the camera and prepare for stutters. It’s so uneven, it becomes very disorienting. The other issues, such as uninspired systems and bland missions may be disappointing, but they are forgivable. When the game is too unbalanced and feels janky to play (and I use that word very appropriately), it gets hard to overlook.
On an artistic level, the mechanical dystopia look doesn’t always work for me, but on the whole, it’s designed quite well. The sense of scale is very good and the lighting can be pretty awesome at times. The character designs aren’t my tempo, but that’s a personal take. The soundtrack borrows from DOOM and it’s quite good. The voice acting was a miss for me, I get that it’s a budget title, so I can overlook it, but your mileage may vary. Frame-rate held to 60 quite well with a couple of dips, but the frame pacing is horrific. Bugs. Bugs, bugs, bugs. I say it that many times because, wowzers! Almost every time you melee kill an enemy, the game totally falls apart. There are times when my gun was invisible, enemies got stuck, objectives didn’t load or got stuck in a loop and the text translation needs another pass, because the English is really poor. The developers have reached out to say patches are on the way, as it stands the game isn’t quite where it needs to be for my liking.
Overall, I was pretty disappointed. I’m a defender of mid-tier titles and love when a new universe tries to pull me in, but this didn’t do it for me. The story was just babble, Werewolf: The Apocalypse Earthblood, was a mid-tier title that brought me into a new universe and while flawed, managed to do enough to pique my interest, Hired Gun doesn’t make me want to put any more time into its universe. Thankfully the game plays well, or at least it will do if the developers can iron out the issues. If they get it done promptly, this game is perfect for a service like Game Pass and would be well worth your time if you’re looking for something that resembles DOOM. For me, it left me kind of empty. In the words of a disheartened parent, “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed”.
Necromunda: Hired Gun was reviewed using a digital code provided by the publisher
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Developer: Streum On Studio Release Date: 1st June 2021 Reviewed On: Xbox Series X
Also available on: PS4/5, PC