Review: Necromunda Hired Gun
By: Roberto Nieves
Publisher: Focus Interactive
Developer: Streum Games
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Steam, Xbox one, Xbox Series X, PC
The Warhammer games have been getting a steady increase in presence on gaming platforms. In the past few years, games such as Space Hulk: Tactics and Warhammer: Vermintide 2 have immersed video game players and table-top enthusiasts into the chaotic and rich universe of Warhammer. This trend continues, with the upcoming release of the squad-based shooter Warhammer 40K: Dark Tide and the 2D run-n-gun action platformer Warhammer 40,000: Shootas, Blood & Teef, both arriving in 2022. Focus Interactive and Streum On Studio have gathered together once more for another chapter in the vast, unending war that is the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Coming from their release of Spacehulk: Deathwing, Streum On Studios and Focus Interactive send players into a relatively unknown life in Warhammer 40,000, and that is the life of a Hired Gun, in the criminal underbelly of the Hive World, Necromunda, a planet sentenced to live its existence as a massive refinery for Imperial weapons. Necromunda: Hired Gun is a game that comes out strong and worthy of the Imperium, though it could have used more refinement to be better.
It is the 41st Millennium. A time of constant war. The enemies of the Imperium constantly wage an unending battle across the galaxy, but every war needs weapons, and every weapon needs a blacksmith to forge the weapons of tomorrow. The Imperium of Man recruits entire planets to dedicate themselves exclusively to support the armies of The Imperium. The worlds of celestial industry and manufacture are known as the Hive Worlds. These planets are converted into gargantuan unending factories necessary for building the steel and weapons necessary for the Imperium to wage war against its enemies. On the Hive World of Necromunda, widely regarded as the most important of these planets, beneath thousands of miles of pipes and railways, an entire underworld exists where the sun and sky are never seen. Gangs fight each other in endless turf wars across concrete canyons and steel mountains. It is a time ripe with business opportunities for mercenaries or Hired Guns as they are commonly called. For one Hired Gun, a mission to hunt a criminal warlord goes terribly wrong, and just when death looks certain, a robotic arm is attached to where the left arm used to be. A conspiracy is forming, and seismic shifts are being made in the criminal underworld. While you barely survived this first encounter, there is a strong power to be had with a robotic arm and a sensation for vengeance.
Necromunda: Hired Gun is a first-person shooter themed to the world of Warhammer 40,000. Unlike most games set within Warhammer 40,000, players are not Marines but mercenaries known as Hired Guns. As a Hired Gun, players do not have the weapons or equipment reserved for the military, but Hired Guns have their own resourcefulness. Hired Guns are constantly securing resources, from weapons to money to augmentations. As is a big theme in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Hired Guns physically augment themselves with cybernetic augmentations, replacing flesh and muscles with synthetics and robotics. Some Hired Guns are also accompanied by mastiffs, dogs that can aid in attacking and distracting enemies. Mastiffs, too, can also be augmented with advanced bionics, turning a friendly dog into a red-eyed and metallic canine of steel and teeth.
At the start, players can choose their Hired Gun, with each character having a different look, dialogue, and abilities. Hired Guns are different in their maneuverability, swiftness, and combat. With the advancements of the augments, players have abilities that are significantly different from Marines and Inquisitors. Thanks to the advances in bionics, players have a variety of combat capabilities that give them an edge in combat. Leg and arm bionics allow for sliding, double jumps, and wall runs. Cerebral implants allow for a targeting computer that essentially turns players into Murphy from Robocop for a short time. Specialized arm augments can discharge plasma rounds to explode enemies. Players slide and wall run in their shooting combat, thanks to legs bionics and hydraulics.
The more augments a player has, the more gameplay options are available to players during combat. To attain augments, players earn money, and to earn money, players embark on missions. After playing the first few story missions, players are introduced to Martyr's End, a large hangout space and neutral zone that serves as a hub for players. Players interact with several merchants, an informant, and their main contact for missions. Additionally, Martyr's End is where players take on additional contracts for extra money. These contracts are not tied directly to the plot but instead the overall world of Necromunda and its various factions. From rescue to elimination to destruction, the contracts can yield more money and loot for players and new weapons to carry. The missions vary in difficulty, depending on what rank is chosen. Rank C is easiest, whereas Rank S is most difficult. Players can do as many of these secondary missions as they see fit, raising as many funds as they need to upgrade their abilities. At the end of each mission, players can retrieve what they have collected, from charms to new weapons. Whatever is not needed is sold.
In addition to augmentations, players have access to a solid set for weapons customization. Players collect charms during their time in Necromunda. These charms and enhancements can be added to their weapons to improve certain stats and abilities, such as damage and reload times. In addition, players can customize weapon skins, scopes, muzzles, and other attributes to any particular weapon. These changes can create more lethal rounds, such as electrical rounds for a heavy bolter. The combination of what can be done with weapons creates a bevy of tactical options suited to the player's playstyle.
In Necromunda: Hired Gun, the gameplay is front and center. Necromunda: Hired Gun is a light, fast, and nimble shooter, encouraging players to fight hard, move quickly and take advantage of being a cutting-edge cyborg. Players use their maneuverability, speed, and aggression to outflank, outgun, and ultimately pulverize their foes. Each weapon players use has a particular look, weight, and feel. Smaller SMGs are perfect for running and gunning, though they lack firepower. Bolters fire volleys of heavy rounds at enemies, making short work of them. Riffles provide a good range of middle and long-range firepower, and shotguns shred enemies at close range. Different variants of weapons can be used, such as laser-based sniper rifles that can charge and vaporize enemies with a well-placed shot. Falling back to the aforementioned RoboCop remark, handheld cannons can be wielded for when you absolutely must destroy what is in front of you.
One of the more odd yet effective choices in the gameplay is the melee system. In Necromunda: Hired Gun, players can initiate a devastating melee attack on most enemies. With the push of a button, players use their deadly augmented limbs to crush, impale, and stab enemies. For more robotic foes, a blast of plasma replaces using a knife and such. Later in Necromunda: Hired Gun, some enemies carry over shields that are impervious to melee attacks until those shields are brought down. On one hand, these melee attacks are brutal but are tied with being essential to surviving the harder points of Necromunda: Hired Gun. A built-in augmentation grants health for each melee kill, making the function essential for surviving larger-scale encounters, especially the higher-difficulty contracts where players earn the best loot and the biggest payouts. However, you'll be seeing the same melee attack animations over and over and over again. This isn't bolstered well, considering the visual jank of Necromunda: Hired Gun, but the melee system is satisfying enough. This shouldn't be counted as a means to bypass challenges in Necromunda: Hired Gun. The enemy is everywhere, lethal and aggressive. Even with that melee function, players will be pulverized if not careful.
On the left arm is a grappling hook for players to use. The grappling hook is effective for ascending ledges and obstacles quickly. As a weapon, it can bring players closer to their enemies right away, as well as rip makeshift metal shields from the hands of enemies. The grapple doesn't do anything special, but it works as intended. Accompanying players to every mission is their mastiff. These dogs start as regular adorable doggos, but like yourself, they to can be augmented with special abilities. A squeak of their favorite chew toy brings them out to lay waste and carnage to unsuspecting enemies. The more the mastiff is augmented, the more dangerous they become, ripping enemies to shreds in the heat of a firefight.
The core most successful part of Necromunda: Hired Gun is the gameplay, and for those looking for a swifter, older-fashioned, but still gratifying FPS experience, with plenty of depth and a multitude of customization options. The gameplay of Necromunda: Hired Gun can be attributed to something swift and nimble, using the walls and heights of Necromunda's underworld to strafe enemies and gain a tactical advantage. Wall-running while emptying a clip down on a helpless foe doesn't get old, and using the multitude of weapons is always a blast. Necromunda: Hired Gun goes out of the way to make players powerful, from the weapons to the augments. Bolts rip through cyborgs, and laser weapons vaporize anyone foolish enough to stand in your way. Using plasma blasts, sees fleshy enemies explode into a bloody pulp. The combination of shooting and using augmented abilities is enthralling and transforms the players from a fleshy foot soldier into a merging of Robocop and Terminator. Necromunda: Hired Gun follows the roots of what a shooter is all about, and that is power. In Necromunda: Hired Gun, power comes being a nearly unstoppable merging of flesh and machine. Necromunda: Hired Gun is a strong shooting experience.
Necromunda: Hired Gun has gameplay that many may run comparisons with Doom and Titanfall 2, but every game is inspired, in some way, shape, or form, by others. Necromunda: Hired Gun shouldn't be labeled as a Poor Man's Doom or discounted Doom Guy. I'd consider such terminology rather insulting as Necromunda: Hired Gun is very much its own game with its own philosophy, from the world and lore to the enemies and weapons. There may be similar mechanics, but within the extraordinarily deep lore and context of Necromunda: Hired Gun, these mechanics are appropriate. Warhammer 40,000 has had an ongoing theme of bionic augmentation and replacing flesh with machine, giving humans an advantage in the ongoing war against humankind's enemies. Wall running, large weapons, and unleashing devastating firepower from your plasma-powered arm are part of that large universe. The comparisons will be observed, but Necromunda: Hired Gun is not trying to compete with anyone.
Another big highlight to Necromunda: Hired Gun is the world depicted. This is an entire world specifically made to manufacture weapons and armor. It's a world where the horizon is coated in manufacturing plants, and temples of steel stretch into the ceiling, as the sky can not be seen. Giant halls stretch for miles, and mammoth trains roar across the grey metallic plains. It's a well-imagined world as if the tabletop simply roared to life. The only setback is that visually, things may start to feel the same from sector to sector. Still, there are distinguishing moments in the levels, from giant tentacle monsters that eclipse the air to the entire battlefront waged across battlefields of metal and trash.
Necromunda: Hired Gun has all the right pieces together to make an incredibly strong shooter and first-person experience, but it is held back from greatness by a lack of polish and technical performance. Necromunda: Hired Gun on the PlayStation 4 is adequate and enjoyable if one is willing to accept some sacrifices in performance, such as pop-ins, load times, and 30 frames per second. On the topic of pop=ins, enemies will spawn in front of the player at times. Playing on a PC PS5 or Xbox Series X would be the best to experience Necromunda: Hired Gun, with smoother textures, higher resolutions, and 60 fps. Still, there is the issue of clipping and animation errors, and of course, the newest addition to human vocabulary, jank. Shooting is okay, but when initiating melee kills, there's a second where the animation has to line up with the input. With the blur of backgrounds and enemies, combat can, at times, appear messy and off. If Necromunda: Hired Gun were given more polish, perhaps some technical issues would be buffered out.
Additionally, the story doesn't necessarily take a back seat but is so all over the place. The story becomes a service between missions and not much else. It needs more character development and perhaps a more central focus as to what exactly is going on and why, as well as to how you and the other NPCs are tied to the overall situation. The most I can remember is the bartender in Martyr's End, who feeds information to the player about what is happening in Necromunda. Strangely, during missions, there are cutscenes using in-game assets. When the player's avatar talks, it doesn't show the character speaking but instead shows an awkward shot of the torso. It's a strange choice that feels off. It's clear that there is a story in place that does make for interesting moments, especially as players encounter new villains and enemies, and it is entertaining, but it would be neat to see a better fleshing out of the story in a future game. As of now, Necromunda: Hired Gun has been patched and is a better game on a technical front, but if given enough time, it could have been that way at the start. Outside of the lengthy single-player, there is only the option to replay the game again with a different character.
Necromunda: Hired Gun is a very solid single-player fps that gives you the sensation of being a badass outlaw cyborg on the edge of space in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. While the story could use some work and the technical performance could have been better optimized, there is no denying the hard work poured into realizing a lesser-known chapter in Warhammer and creating an engaging shooter. It's remarkably fun and will keep Warhammer enthusiasts and shooter fans engaged and enthralled. Grab your good boi, and your plasma gun, because there's money to be made in Necromunda: Hired Gun.
Necromunda Hired Gun was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 thanks to a key generously supplied to Stack Up by Sandbox Strategies.