We haven’t had a good single player 40k first person shooter in such a long time. Depending on your opinion of Fire Warrior, we’ve never had one. Necromunda: Hired Gun changes that spectacularly.
We haven’t had a good single player 40k First person shooter in such a long time. Depending on your opinion of Fire Warrior, we’ve never had one. Necromunda: Hired Gun changes that.
Necromunda is a skirmish style tabletop game where two gangs do battle among the squalor and oppression of the Underhive. It’s the smaller, grimier, more finicky cousin of Warhammer 40k.
Hired Gun is not a game that replicates the experience of the tabletop. No turn based battling, top down views, developing your gang over time, dealing with injuries and experience. Instead, Hired Gun is about capturing the feeling of Necromunda. The brutally messy combat. The squalor and grime of the environments. The scale and scope of just how small and unimportant you are amongst everything in this universe. Instead this is a movement focussed, hyper aggressive first person shooter that is set on Necromunda, and a pretty great one at that.
Hired Gun takes the form of a modern movement focussed shooter. It fits. Nothing is more Necromunda than verticality. The tabletop game famously came with terrain that had several storeys and thus the game itself rewarded this with multiple items and mechanics to take advantage.
Hired Gun understands this and goes to great lengths to make sure this is represented. As soon as you leave the tutorial, you’ve got access to a double jump. Finish the second mission and you’ve got a point to point grappling hook. Enemies will constantly swarm at you from upper levels. Combat arenas consistently reward constant moving to flank and manage enemies that can move nearly as fast as you can, or have the range to make it not matter. It’s heavily skill based. In fact, it’s maybe a little too easy to throw yourself off into the void. This is somewhat improved by the grappling hook to correct your mistakes, but overall things can still be a little chaotic.
Overall though, slight jankiness aside, it feels great to hurl yourself around the underhive. There’s a little bit of desperation to the action. You will 100% be taking damage as you zip around, but that honestly just adds to the manic feel. Much like Doom (2016) – or more appropriately Space Marine (2011) – you get health back by killing people, or shields back by picking up dropped items. This results in combat having a breathless, high octane quality as you spend most of a given fight juggling reloading, movement or trying to keep on top of enemies enough to have your health topped up.
You aren’t winning because you’re outhinking your opponents in Hired Gun necessarily. You’re outpacing them in damage, in health regeneration and sheer aggression.
As for the feel of that combat itself, Streum On’s previous efforts in the 40k universe were broadly positive, but there were issues with the feel and sound of some of the weaponry. In particular, their version of the iconic Bolt weaponry of the 41st millennium left much to be desired. It never really felt like you were using a rocket propelled grenade launcher at full auto.
This is what a (non space marine sized) boltgun does to someone in Hired Gun.
The weapons in Hired Gun are impeccable representations. That moment up there meant I had to pause for a few minutes because I was cackling with glee.
The double barrelled Shotgun turns the screen into jam. The heavy weapons take up half the space on the screen with their mass, then makes mincemeat of any enemies in front of you. There’s a few choices that feel a little off. I don’t know why every weapon is able to be equipped with a long range scope in spite of most arenas rewarding staying close. But for the most part the Devs have done an incredible job of translating the brutal tone of the universe through these tools.
In fact, my only real complaint is that there aren’t enough of them. Some especially ubiquitous weapons like flamers are missing, while close combat is unfortunately tied to either a special ability that ups your speed and gives you a swinging knife or to some canned animations.
Those animations are actually one of the most prevalent evidence of this game’s AA status. 6/10 times you grab an opponent, they’ll hang back about five feet while you stab open air. It’s more entertaining than it is frustrating for the most part. It’s a level of grit that you’ll be experiencing throughout the game. The base UI/UX has a bunch of little features that are frustrating. Getting a critical hit doesn’t have an effect, it literally just creates a floating text effect that reads “Critical Hit”. It’s goofy, and it works, but lacks polish.
Unfortunately, this also applies to the presentation of one of the main features of the game in your mastiff companion. Yes, you can pet them in between missions. Yes, they’re actually useful in missions. In a particularly economic choice, they’ll only appear when you summon them, then launch themselves at the targeted foe like a missile.
It broadly works. Unfortunately the targeting for the dog mechanic is just grabbing a squeaky toy, so it can sometimes go awry with how many enemies can be on screen at once. It’s never something that ruins an encounter, but does contribute to the messy feel of the game.
It’s part of a minor undercurrent of friction generating design decisions. Like the hub area between missions is Martyr’s End. I love Martyr’s end. A bar in the underhive that features all your various stores, upgrade tools and training areas, filled with character and characters that really make the world feel more full and vibrant.
Except the Hub area is also a lot of running back and forth, talking to the bartender till she tells you to talk to Kal Jerico. Then talking to him till he tells you to talk to Jado the Dome Runner. Then running back to the mission board and starting the mission from there.
The first time, it makes the world feel lived in. Then you do it ten more times between missions, and the novelty wears a little thin.
Overall though it’s a small critique, especially in a campaign that lasts around ten hours. The game design is built around the 13 mission campaign, then you can either repeat the story missions themselves to get a higher rank (challenging yourself for more diverse kills, faster times, more treasure chests found, less deaths) or you can play parts of the same maps but with procedurally generated missions. Similarly to everything else in Hired Gun, this is a really economical way to stretch out the game.
In one you might be working for the Corpse Guild, stealing bodies from a gang’s territory to feed their mills. Another may have you destroying technology caches on a train for the Enforcers. A third sees you sneaking around rescuing poor captive Genestealers for a sympathetic Genestealer Cult.
It’s a little trite but lets you earn cash for more upgrades, though they don’t necessarily have the staying power of the full missions. But they also hint at a little more of the world with the many factions getting involved beyond the story elements of the three gangs of Escher (Amazonian Warrior Women), Goliath (Roid Raging Meatheads who use skinny as an insult) and the Orlocks. (They’re an engineer/biker gang I guess?). Each looks like they’ve stepped straight out of the rulebooks for the tabletop game, which is high praise.
That story does unfortunately also have a few rough edges as well. It’s very much a story you are being told rather than participating. Mostly because it involves the literal hero of another story, Kal Jerico as the actual driving force behind the plot.. Especially towards the end of the game, there’s a great deal of the story happening that you have zero sight of until someone explains it to you.
It’s not unfitting, with my Hired Gun being 100% uninterested in the machinations behind the scenes. More than anything else, this was due to being voiced with an unbelievably disinterested Yorkshire accent which somehow helped ground everything that goes on in the game’s wild setting.
Because the selling point of Necromunda: Hired Gun is not just playing by a fast paced action shooter. There’s lots of those that have cropped up since Doom (2016). The reason why you’re here is to play a fast paced single player action shooter set in the 40k Universe. It’s about feeling the embodiment of that setting while you play.
StreumOn have form with this. For all the flaws of Space Hulk: Deathwing, one of the strongest elements was the sense of scale. Even as a Space Marine, you were tiny inside the vast ships of the Space Hulk. But it was limited by the opportunities of that game; no people, no lived in areas, just endless dead ships and hundreds of Tyranids.
Hired Gun takes that sense of scale, that deep unabashed love of the setting and dives right in. It wallows in the Underhive. Every few minutes, you enter a new area with jaw dropping visuals. And while there are similar elements, each of the 13 levels is a different area of the Underhive, in colour, structure and sound. Each level is presented as an entirely different event in itself. That sound isn’t just good music (It’s really good music though), but well implemented music. Even beyond all the bombastic high energy metal and rock. One mission involves sneaking through a sewer populated with a cult, the music is minimal but creeps in gently to a crescendo, which helps sell the wyrdness of the environment you find yourself in.
More importantly though, it’s the tiniest details that are helping make this game work. Necromunda is a close in look at the 41st Millenium. It fleshes out the places where people live and work rather than the grand battlefields or opulent temples. It’s the control room of a train being endless readouts and grimy monitors. It’s wanted posters that hint at a whole world around you, or trying to start a machine by releasing the Holy Oils to get it working (in spite of not understanding what that means.)
Necromunda: Hired Gun has a lot of rough edges to it. That’s okay. So did the tabletop game. But in terms of capturing tone and a setting, while also making an incredibly entertaining and tactile first person shooter, the tiny team at Streum On has done and incredible job.
Necroumnda Hired Gun is developed by Streum On Studios and published by Focus Home Interactive.