Welcome back friends, to another journey into the world of Warhammer games published by Focus Home Interactive! …weirdly specific, that, but ah well. And once again we’re using a review copy, though this time we’re spending more time with the post-launch content and patches.
Today we’ll be looking at Necromunda: Hired Gun, made by Streum On Studio, the team behind the cerebral and bonkers (in the best ways) E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy and the tactical but flawed Space Hulk: Deathwing (Streum likes their subtitles), the latter of which is also a 40K game. However, Hired Gun takes far more cues from the former game, as we’ll discuss shortly. And a quick word of warning before we go any deeper into the game, a good number of the enemies are dogs and women, so if killing either bothers you I recommend just skipping out.
With that out of the way, let’s dive in!
What Is It?
Necromunda: Hired Gun is a fast-paced First Person Shooter(FPS) with an emphasis on movement, speed, and fighting off arenas full of enemies. Mechanically it draws the most from the recent Doom reboots, falling somewhere between Doom(2016) and Doom Eternal in terms of just how much mobility and staying on your toes is involved in the game. There’s more call to be in the air than there was in Doom(2016), but there’s not nearly as much platforming as there was in Doom Eternal.
Those who’ve played Streum’s debut title, E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy, will likewise be familiar with this gameplay style, though there’s not much in the way of melee options this time, among other tweaks.
The game follows a mission-based structure, where you go out, do a thing, then return to the hub of Martyr’s End, which is a cross between bar, armory, and church. From there you select a new mission, either one related to the main plot or a side one for rewards and favor with one of the factions of Necromunda. This allows for some freedom, as well as an opportunity to grind for money to spend on new weapons, as well as upgrades (which we’ll talk about later).
What’s It About?
This game is set in the universe of Warhammer 40K, the more popular sci-fi reimagining of Warhammer Fantasy. Specifically, we’re exploring the factory world of Necromunda, in the underbelly of one of the massive hive cities, full of scrap and pollution. Truth be told Necromunda is honestly the one part of 40K I really like. I don’t even know how many hours I’ve sunk into the previous Necromunda video game, Necromunda: Underhive Wars but…it’s a lot. That being said, you don’t need to know anything about Warhammer to understand this game. Honestly, knowing a lot about Warhammer doesn’t even add all that much.
As for the plot of the game, it’s a fairly simple, though serviceable, tale of a job gone bad and you going out to get revenge, while being prodded and manipulated by a rich benefactor. There’s more story than Streum’s last 40K game, but less than E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy. Though admittedly there are Shakespeare plays with less going on in their plot than E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy, so that’s not saying a whole lot. The point is that this isn’t a narrative-heavy game, but there is a narrative, and it’s more than just an excuse plot. And you meet some fun characters along the way, which is always nice. Your character has dialogue and personality as well. Lots of both actually, which is more than most FPS games get, so I appreciate it.
This game is gorgeous. Well…okay, let me qualify that. Graphically this game looks a few years out of date. These are good graphics for a game from 2016 or so. But given that this isn’t made by a full Triple A team, I’d say it’s definitely going above and beyond. More to the point, however, is the art design. If there was one thing Space Hulk: Deathwing excelled at it was capturing the sheer scale and weirdness of 40K and humanity within that universe, and that’s carried over to Necromunda: Hired Gun. From massive factory spaces to trains the size of cities, everything here is big, and gloriously designed. Most locations do look somewhat dark, muddy, and ugly, but you’re in the underground of a giant factory, so it makes sense.
That being said, there are some flaws. Animations, particularly on the big enemies, can be really…off looking. Awkward framing in some cutscenes and the number of characters wearing some sort of mask make it pretty clear they’re trying to avoid letting you see people’s lips moving as much as possible. Textures are a coin toss on whether they’ll be really good or…really not. One important NPC’s exposed chest glitched and wavered like flesh-colored static on a TV screen. Still, combat looks good, as do the weapons, and the environment design is just…gorgeous.
As for sound, that’s good too, now that they’ve patched to fix the audio mixing issues the dialogue had. The music was done by the same person who did E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy’s music, Olivier Zuccaro, and…it’s freaking great. There are some clear Doom influences here too, but it’s not a pure metal soundtrack. There’s a good deal of synth in here, but also some Western-sounding tracks. It’s intense, atmospheric, and fits the game perfectly.
The ambient sounds are good, and so are the weapon sounds. The guns all carry a ton of weight to them, especially the bolter, though admittedly the heavy bolter is a bit lighter than I’d like. The voice acting is…entirely serviceable. There’s some good lines and line delivery’s, and the main character has a fun voice, but at the end of the day no performance really stuck out to me. Still, overall this is a really great game when it comes to presentation.
So, as I said above, Necromunda: Hired Gun is a fast-paced, movement-oriented FPS. So, how’re the controls? Well, how you find them at first is going to depend somewhat on what you’ve been playing recently. I got the review code for this game at the tail end of a marathon of RE Engine Resident Evil games, and so the controls were kind of slippery and unpleasant at first. However, I adjusted and grew to enjoy them, and I had similar issues with Doom Eternal, so I’m not going to knock the game for that. If you have struggles with the controls, just keep in mind that this is a game where you’re going to be running and jumping a lot, and you should be able to adjust to them.
There’s a lot of mobility options in this game as well. You can dash from side to side on the ground or in the air, wall run, slide a *long* distance, and unlock a double jump and a grappling hook. This isn’t Titanfall 2 or anything, the grappling hook pulls you in a straight line and you can’t re-aim it while in the air, but it still leaves you with a ton of options for getting around.
Between missions, you can run around the hub to buy weapons, weapon upgrades, customize your character and weapons, and unlock and upgrade bionic skills. These range from better movement, to more health, to things like slowing down time and auto-aim, which, since they can be used at the same time, does result in some over-the-top fun. They don’t come cheap though, so you are going to want to spend time on side missions, grinding out money.
You can also get bionic upgrades for your dog, the cyber mastiff, but your mileage may vary on how useful that is. The dog isn’t a constant companion, but something you summon by pulling out a squeaky toy. It will attack enemies for you, either killing them or holding them down, but it has a cooldown timer and it can’t attack the bigger enemies. It also enables you to see the enemies around you while it’s present which, due to some issues with its AI, was my main use for it in the later stages.
Combat is good, punchy and fast. Cover is useful, but this isn’t a Gears of War game so don’t try to use it too much. Health is gained by attacking, particularly by killing with pre-rendered takedown moves, so you’ll want to be on the offensive as much as possible. Said pre-rendered takedown moves function a lot like the glory kills in the Doom reboot, only you seem to be able to perform them ninety percent of the time on the human and dog enemies regardless of their state. Whenever I started getting low on ammo I’d often rush right into the enemy and just perform a takedown without even shooting them once. Sometimes this wouldn’t work, but I was never really clear on the how and why of this.
There are some problems with the game mechanics, however. There are objective markers that pop up, but there are no maps for the levels and they can occasionally be misleading. Such as the objective marker hovering over an environmental item you need to use, but not really indicating where the controls for said item are. There’s not really a good way for you to get more ammo outside of environmental pickups in the missions either, and given that for the first few missions you’re only going to have a couple of guns that can become a real problem.
There are chests full of weapons hidden throughout every level (and I do mean hidden, I rarely ever managed to find all of them in a mission) but these come with their own issues. Simply put, you can equip weapons when you find them, but you can’t look at their stats, or indeed, any part of your inventory until after the mission. The game seems to be designed from a perspective that games like the Borderlands series require too much inventory management, but it’s frustrating to not be able to tell if a gun I’ve found is better than the one I already have until after the mission. The inventory itself is a bit cryptic and honestly kind of small, but you’re going to be selling most of what you find so it’s not the worst issue. Just keep in mind that your inventory is separate from your loadout, the latter being the stuff you bring on missions. You need to make sure you have everything in your loadout, or you won’t actually bring it.
Still, despite my frustrations this is an honestly good and fun FPS, especially for the price.
Bugs And Issues
If you’ve ever played a Streum game before, then you won’t be surprised to find out that this is…kind of a janky game. It’s not broken, it’s not as bad as Space Hulk: Deathwing was at launch, and nowhere near Cyberpunk 2077 levels, but it’s still there. I had the game crash on me, enemies clipped through the floor and walls more than once, and lag was unfortunately frequent during combat. I never died because of it, but it was still distressingly common.
And on the less serious side of things, there’s just some…weird jank. The Dog’s AI is…not great, from occasionally abandoning a fight to run back to you, to refusing to cross small gaps, to randomly leaping wildly. On top of that he just sort of…appears next to you when summoned. No teleporter effect or anything, which makes for an odd experience and means that sometimes you’re going to misjudge where he’ll appear and put him far below you or in a pit. Similarly, when you use your grappling hook to force enemies to drop their physical shields, said shields just…vanish. It caught me off guard the first time and I thought I’d screwed up because I was expecting an animation, but nope, the shield just vanishes.
Overall these aren’t game-breakers, and are understandable given the small team, but it’s still an issue worth mentioning.
For all the jank, Necromunda: Hired Gun is honestly a very good game. It’s got undeniable flaws, but it’s got fantastic combat and honestly wonderful presentation, so I can’t help but love it. If you’re a fan of Warhammer 40K, or even just movement-driven FPSes in general, I highly recommend this game.
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Images provided by Streum On Studio And Focus Home Interactive
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