A little past the halfway point of Necromunda: Hired Gun, something’s on our mind. We’re facing a boss, both of us armed with a chain gun, and both of us forgo cover to stand in the open, hammering hundreds of bullets into each other’s torsos, until he finally drops dead. Anticipating the outcome, we take a moment to reflect: “Is this really how this game is meant to be played?” Honestly, for all the RPG upgrades and intricate level design in Hired Gun, it seems it really is.
The levels really are intricate, though, at times almost spectacularly so. Streum On Studio’s latest excursion into Warhammer 40k territory truly respects the aesthetic and lore of its source material. The industrial gothic squalor of its Underhive is lovingly crafted from rust and feats of metallic engineering – a living mass of ancient mining operations, heavy manufacturing, giant railways, and pillars crowned with iron skulls that loom in judgement. The nests of pipelines and girders aren’t mere background detail either, with their rocky verticality and hidden nooks where local outlaws stash their valuables. A veritable adventure playground for your tough bounty-hunter, fully equipped with cybernetic implants and a no-nonsense Yorkshire accent.
Add in slick control and weapons that come with a healthy kick, and the stage is set for something as appealing as a mid-budget DOOM. But it rarely quite works like that. The enemy are one reason – the distinct traits of factions muted by genre limitations and production-line spawning, as hundreds of 3D-printed clones, camouflaged by their own insignificance, spray you with whatever until you plant your sight on them and squeeze. There are a few exceptions – teleporting witches, bulky Ambots – but mostly you don’t know who you’re shooting and it barely seems to matter.
The other reason is that deploying skill or smarts in fights is less efficient than simply charging towards opponents, blasting. The incessant rain of fire from goons dovetails with a hyperactive gain back mechanic that refills your health whenever you do damage, undercutting much need for things like evasive manoeuvres, target selection, or special powers. The only thing better than simply shooting, in fact, is your melee attack – there’s no downside to getting amongst a mob and despatching each in turn, pressing a button to trigger a (needlessly long) kill animation, during which you’re invincible.
There are high points. A couple of the levels slow or spread out enough to make it worth altering your approach, and the scale and shape of the place remains impressively varied. Yet most grand locales wind up merely hosting a drunken rumble, where as long as you can recharge your health slightly quicker than they drain it, you’ll be just fine. Add to that some minor technical messiness – the joys of accidentally restarting a mission because the wrong menu item is highlighted – and the result is the mindless chaos of chain gunning a bullet-sponge boss to paste.
For all its grand designs, this hired gun too often shoots itself in the foot.
Format: PC (tested) / PS4 / PS5 / XBO / XB S/X
Developer: Streum On Studio
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release: Out now