I’ve begun to accept that I’ll likely be reviewing Warhammer games for the rest of my career. Having now reviewed multiple entries to this IP’s catalogue like Mechanicus, I feel confident calling myself the self-appointed Warhammer “expert” of B3. With that said, it seemed only fitting that I got a chance to play the new FPS set in the 40k universe. That being the sometimes fun, but flawed Necromunda: Hired Gun.
A single-player, first-person shooter set in the Warhammer world. I was practically foaming at the mouth upon discovering it. Starting up the game I was eager to get into what looked to be a promising, blood-fueled shooter that would be a fun and frantic experience. Well, it certainly had its fun moments, but I also experienced a pile of issues that, let’s not mince words, ruined its potential, made it feel mediocre, and soured my time playing.
The most disappointing aspect is the game’s story or rather lack of one. Necromunda: Hired Gun takes place takes place in the same world as 2020’s Necromunda: Underhive Wars. This planet-sized factory and manufacturer for the imperium is riddled with crime, pollution, and just nasty people. Playing as a bounty hunter, you take on contacts to hunt and kill some of the biggest and baddest mutants and gang members throughout the deepest, darkest corners of the underhive. Seriously, doesn’t that sound cool? I thought so. So, imagine my disappointment when it turned out to be a paper-thin plot that does nothing of use with its great IP. What it amounts to is a wild goose chase for revenge against a character called The Silver Talon. Yet there is nothing of real substance throughout its 13 story missions to make it even the slightest bit engaging.
The cutscenes and dialogue were either quiet and badly mixed or uninteresting, and it never got much better during my time playing. Eventually, I began to either skip them or just tuned them out because they did little to add to the world. It’s not helped that none of the characters you interact with are memorable or have rather uninspired voice acting. In some instances, it sounded like they were still learning their lines rather than acting them. The worst culprit is the player character, who, to be blunt, just sounded like a dick with a moody attitude more akin to a teenager than a badass bounty hunter. It’s such a wasted opportunity to do something interesting with a rich and diverse license. At least in other Warhammer games lore is explored in some form or has a bit of heart to its characters. Necromunda: Hired Gun has none of that. Frankly, its story is just a letdown, plain and simple.
Taking influence from a certain demon-slaying franchise, Necromunda: Hired Gun opts for a faster and more visceral experience compared to the usual strategy and tactics of most Warhammer games. When it’s working, it does so to great effect. Gunplay has the meaty quality you would expect and also delivers on the viseral quality, especially with weapons like the bolter which quickly became a favourite. Enemies explode into meaty chunks, some weapons and abilities feel impactful and satisfying, and it’s fun. Not to mention you get a doggo to use in combat, which is always a plus. But these moments can be pretty few and far between thanks to a litany of issues. For one there are some weapons and abilities that just lack weight or impact, almost feeling like a peashooter rather than a heavy machine gun. It’s also not helped that the AI is about as sharp as a spoon. Either they stand out in the open almost begging to be shot or they line up in front of you waiting to be butchered by your flashy yet glitchy melee attacks.
Then there is the issue of controls, which lack the polish needed to feel tight and precise. Often it was more like stumbling around on roller skates rather than dancing across the level, with an overall floaty quality that made aiming and gunfights test my patience more than my skills. That said, using the grapple hook was one of the redeeming qualities when it didn’t clip through objects, but then grapple hooks do tend to be fun regardless of the game. It’s a shame that level design didn’t compliment this or the game’s faster pace and emphasis on quick and brutal combat. It just made missions feel rather bland at times, which is even more apparent thanks to the surprising lack of interesting locations or visuals throughout the game. It almost seems like they didn’t want to lean into the setting or lore more to make it interesting/diverse in both function and form, and seems like yet another missed opportunity.
One of the game’s better aspects is its player choice, mostly coming from its customization and the amount it offers you. There are a plethora of weapons to unlock as you progress from simple pistols to beefy plasma guns and they help to give some much-needed variety to the combat. What’s more, you can take four weapons into missions so you’ll have plenty of choices when it comes to how you blow apart your enemies. To take this further, there is a little RPG flair thrown into the mix, with a ton of choices in how you can modify your weapon and abilities. You have several slots to buy and equipment with multiple attachments, helping to suit your loadout to your needs and make your weapons a little more personal. I mean they even have skins and can be renamed, so that’s a nice touch.
Along with weapons you have plenty of implants that give special abilities like auto-aim, EMPs, energy blasts, to name a few, and a host of upgrades to health and a few stats. Your dog also receives the same treatment, with its selection of upgrades that can help improve its tracking and damage output. Though in truth, I nearly ignored the dog’s upgrades entirely, as they frankly do little to help you aside from the dog’s tracking which allows you to see enemies through walls.
But, even then the overall lack of polish and perplexing design choices just diminishes the overall experience. What’s more, there is a long list of issues that just top off everything else. From FPS drops in nearly every gunfight, glitches that forced me to get stuck or fly off a level, and just lack of polish on so many elements of the game. Side missions are a perfect example, which are simply copy-paste areas of existing levels that have little to no unique aspects or objectives aside from different enemies. It felt like the game was fighting with me the whole time I played, almost as if it was actively trying to ruin my fun.
It would be awesome to see a developer go in on making a quality single-player experience in the Warhammer world. With great characters and plot that is deserving of the license. But Necromunda: Hired Gun isn’t that game, and frankly has missed the mark in multiple areas. Maybe with some patches to fix its many issues, it could become an enjoyable shooter, one to cut loose in and just go wild. But even then, I doubt I’ll be stepping into Necromunda in this entry of the series again.