Games Xtreme dives into the Underhive that's Necromunda in the latest Warhammer 40K FPS - Hired Gun. Is it a game worth the creds, or should you leave it in the dark?
GrimDark in the Underhive
I’m no stranger to the Warhammer 40K universe, both from a gamer perspective and from someone who’s thrown several thousand or more words at a chapter or two for the tabletop RPG Wrath & Glory. I’m a big Warhammer fan in general, so when I got given this one to review for the Xbox Series X I jumped at the chance – because – Necromunda is one of the more fascinating places in the 40K ‘verse and the concept of a fast-paced brutal combat-driven action shooter tickled my Emperor’s Reliquary.
So, if you want my opinion on this one, after a good few countless hours shooting all sorts of scum and so on in the depths of one of the biggest Hive Cities in the Imperium – here’s the nuts and cogs answer.
It’s good, it has some issues at the moment, which are being ironed out in an upcoming patch – but for an out and out fun shooter with 40K aesthetics and atmosphere – Streum On Studio nailed it at an almost pitch-perfect level.
Necromunda: Hired Fun
What you have here then is a first-person shooter, which takes cues from the previous likes of DOOM 2016 and DOOM Eternal. Fast-paced visceral action is combined with a high level of speed and traversal across varied, gigantic combat arenas stuffed to the gills with a slew of enemies drawn from the Underhive’s vast collection of monstrosities and gangs. Not only do you have a superb arsenal of 40K firearms to play with, but you have a cyber-mastiff and a bunch of augmetics (cyberware for the 40K ‘verse) to switch things up.
Add to this the arenas designed for parkour, short cuts, and epic movement right from the outset and you have a shooter which is unpredictable and fun as hell. You’ll be running and gunning to survive, blasting Escher gang members or Goliaths with autoguns, stubbers, bolters and more as you leap from one wall to another, fire your grapple Scorpion style and land to finish off an opponent in a finisher-move that sees your chosen Bounty Hunter ram their knife into a variety of unpleasant places to deliver the final blow.
Your own life is protected by your Refractor Field, think: shield, and your ability via augmentics to heal via your kills. Enemies drop field charges and each kill you do will usually give you a chance to regenerate your health once the ability kicks in.
Then you have abilities, such as Heightened Senses, which lets you perceive the world in slow motion whilst you are still moving at break-neck speed. The reason I use break-neck, is pretty much that’s what you can do to anyone who gets in your way.
There are stylish finishers, which kick in when you first encounter an enemy and you press X when close to them, or if they’re stunned ala DOOM 2016 and you get the finisher X prompt.
You have a murder-hound, a cyber-mastiff that you can call in and send to chew on your enemies.
Your abilities and hound have cooldown timers, which you can upgrade to shorten the amount of time ol’ doggo is not chewing on your foes.
Who the Grox are you?
You’re a male or female Bounty Hunter (Hired Gun) who operates out of a place called Martyr’s End. You’ll get to pick from a variety of m/f character options at the start and that defines your look and voice for the game. Then, along with your trusty doggo, it’s off to crack some skulls and abuse some Servitors true 40K style.
You operate out of the Underhive town of Martyr’s End, a place where you can rest and catch-up with the main story outside of the big mission engagements. You’ll meet a variety of folk here and many of them can offer you services for your hard-earned Necrounda Credits. There’s a Rogue Doc who will boost your augmetics and cyber-mastiff.
A weapons dealer, she’ll give you a good price for loot you no longer need and sell you some sweet stuff you might want.
An Artificer that’ll let you upgrade and modify the weapons you know and love.
A Bartender who’ll give you booze, and let you change your outfit style (including the DLC one) to something more fitting.
There are important Story characters to meet, and the heart of the whole game: the Mission Board.
There are two kinds of missions in Hired Gun, the main story, and the big score you’re chasing. Then there’s Bounties, quick random missions that take place in unlocked areas from the main game and feature a variety of objectives. They come in B, A, and S class ranks and get harder respectively.
Once you’re deployed on a mission you’ll have objectives, and a large area to explore looking for secret locations and x-number of treasure chests. These chests are stuffed with loot, and loot means two things – new stuff to equip, and or sell later on.
Once you’ve completed the mission you get the end mission loot screen, where you can pick and choose what to keep and what to leave for sale. From guns, to charms, to relics, and more can be equipped or left for sale. Then you’ll get an overall rating screen, some payment for the job, less the cut taken by the Imperium’s Tax body and then it’s time to roll back to Martyr’s End. Here you can sell any loot you still have for hard cash, and hard cash can then be used to buy better gear or visit the Rogue Doc once you’re back.
Doc’ll let you use that currency to boost your augmetics or doggo.
It’s that sweet: Do mission, get loot, get money, upgrade and do it all over again gameplay loop which for me keeps me coming back for just one more run.
Missions have pretty good auto-saves and you can activate some in-game checkpoints. You can also buy items from these checkpoints, and you’ll be able to replenish things like grenades. You can also keep all the money, loot and gear from a run and start that mission over again if you want.
The Grimdark of the 40K ‘verse has been a hard thing for some video game adaptations of Games Workshop’s IP to manage. Some do it better than others, Space Marine and Inquisitor Martyr stand out as pretty good. Necromunda: Underhive Wars isn’t bad either, but Hired Gun totally nails the 40K aesthetic down to a giant Golden Throne ‘T’.
If like me, you were hoping that they got the feel and the look of the one of the biggest Hive Cities in the 40K lore right, then you’re not going to be upset with this one at all. It looks absolutely fantastic on a Series X and brings the whole thing to life in a way that hasn’t been done before. These areas, these levels, are not only interesting from the 40K aspect but they’re also interconnected, and highly explorable – packed with secrets and little places to get to where you can find a chest or some random money lying around.
Exploration off the beaten track is often rewarded.
Necromunda: Hired Gun nails the 40K style graphically as well, I’ve talked about the architecture and so on, but the graphics for the characters, the textures and the details are 100% spot on from the art that’s been released across numerous Games Workshop products on the line since the very first Rogue Trader way back.
The guns are good. Autoguns, Bolters, Stubbers, Heavy Bolters, Plasma Pistols and more abound in the roster of fully modifiable and upgradeable firearms. They look great and capture the feel of the models brought to reality in the game engine. Quality stuff.
Brought to Life
Animations for the game are generally good, with a body-immersion for your character so you can see not only their hands, but their legs and feet as well. There are a few things in some of the cut-scenes that look a little odd like the intro to the Ogryn for example on the very first mission, but barring that – in game – they look and feel just as badass as they do as models.
Sound design is another area where the game does well, with the thrum of generators, and the tick-tick-tick of cogitators – ancient computers that would make Charles Babbage proud. The guns are impressive, and the thunk of a Bolter is especially satisfying.
In fact, once you’re done with this review, here’s a link to the Royal College of Firearms take on the 40K guns from Hired Gun.
So the voice work here is good, I’m enjoying the performances and my Bounty Hunter sounds like a gritter version of the current Doctor: Jodie Whittaker, and I’m always up for an accent that’s from the North – because even Necromunda has a North. The male voice is just as good and the rest of the cast do a pretty solid job bringing the various characters to life, especially the roguish Kal Jerico.
A few Hitches
There are a few hitches and they’re being fixed with a patch, with Streum On Studios promise that they’re looking into improving the game in ways and listening to fan feedback. It’s hard to trust devs after Cyberpunk 2077 and Outriders to name but a few, however, you have to go on faith and not paint the whole industry with the same brush as those who let you down.
Frames can drop on a Series X, but they don’t mar the experience and my runs haven’t given me any progress blockers or slow-motion chug frame drops. A few audio glitches and an odd moment where the traversal mechanic of the grapple launcher didn’t quite work is all I’ve had during my many hours with the game.
For me, it ticked the right boxes, and pushed the correct sequence of switches in my shooter-brain augmetic.
So, after all’s said and done, this single-player adventure, with a wealth of content, respectful of the 40K ‘verse and jammed with character and fun is definitely well worth it. I’m not sure I’d say it’s a must-buy for anyone but a 40K fan – but I’m certainly going to recommend this one and I’m looking forward to see what the studio has up their sleeve to keep the game supported if they have plans to do that.
Now, I have a Goliath asshole that needs to meet my newly upgraded doggo…
Catch you in the Underhive!