If you’ve ever felt the very specific urge to see what would happen if the gameplay style of Bulletstorm were to get crossbred with the Warhammer universe, then I’d like to say you’re in luck with Necromunda: Hired Gun. The game is very clear about its inspirations and has a pretty straightforward and commendable vision for the energetic and gory first-person shooter it wants to be. We don’t get many straight-up action games out of the Warhammer universe, so it’s nice to see one rise from the slew of slower strategy games and Diablo clones. That said, while I won’t act like I haven’t enjoyed much of my time with this game, for me to recommend it to you would really depend on a handful of caveats like your tolerance level for above average gameplay, inconsistent level design, and an enemy roster that rarely takes advantage of the Warhammer universe’s infinitely diverse and delightfully bizarre characters.
"While I won’t act like I haven’t enjoyed much of my time with this game, for me to recommend it to you would really depend on a handful of caveats like your tolerance level for above average gameplay, inconsistent level design, and an enemy roster that rarely takes advantage of the Warhammer universe’s infinitely diverse and delightfully bizarre characters."
When you first fire up Necromunda: Hired Gun it will hit you with an incredibly well-realized version of Necromunda. The seedy, industrial underworld of Warhammer’s Hive City constantly assaults your senses like a bolt to the face with its polluted scrap yard aesthetic at every turn and it’s a delightfully demented joy to experience. The line between organic and machine is constantly blurred, with characters that could pass for somebody in our time and fully robotic shells that hardly have a whisper of humanity left in them. Just walking around martyr’s end, which is Necromunda’s hub world, will show you all you need to know about how seriously Streum On Studio takes the mission of realizing this sleazy, turbulent world. All things considered, the team has done an outstanding job with making each of the game’s levels and characters feel distinct yet still like they belong in this world, and they should be commended for that alone. But when you take that, and combine it with above average gunplay, a wide range of customization for gear and weapons, a deadly mastiff companion, and a pretty decent story about rivalry and conspiracy between powerful gangs in the 41st millennium, then you arguably have some real potential here.
However, just like in the world of Warhammer, it’s not all beds of roses for this game. Fairly soon after you notice how well everything is realized and designed, you will also undoubtedly notice the game’s many, seemingly endless list of technical issues. The frame rate will often seem to target 30-ish frames a second but often and suddenly, it will plummet to single digits when the action gets going, and sometimes it’ll tank for no discernible reason at all. Other times, it can feel relatively stable during fairly heavy action, so I won’t pretend to make heads or tails of it. All I know is that most gamers will find it to be unacceptable, and I don’t think they’d be wrong.
Given that the visuals are as generally good as they are, I could certainly understand not getting much more than 30 frames a second out of this game on the PS4 Pro, but there is just no excuse for it to run this consistently poorly. On top of that, with levels not being quite as clear on where to go as they probably should be, and the takedowns being animated in such a way that you can rarely even tell what the hell is happening with them, it’s hard to consider this as an example of anything other than a good game that creates an unfortunately low ceiling for itself. Outside of a few cool ones, most of the takedown animations are pretty bland, and that’s when they behave as intended and don’t send you flying across the level for no reason while your character continues to mangle an enemy that has long since, and inexplicably disappeared.
"Given that the visuals are as generally good as they are, I could certainly understand not getting much more than 30 frames a second out of this game on the PS4 Pro, but there is just no excuse for it to run this consistently poorly. On top of that, with levels not being quite as clear on where to go as they probably should be, and the takedowns being animated in such a way that you can rarely even tell what the hell is happening with them, it’s hard to consider this as an example of anything other than a good game that creates an unfortunately low ceiling for itself."
So, it’s fair to say the game is unpolished and lacks a suitable level of optimization. Fair enough. But what is the game underneath all of that? And is it worth putting up with its myriad issues? These are more nuanced questions. At its core, you have an aggressive and lively linear first-person shooter here that leans heavily into its ability to bring the Warhammer universe to life, much like Streum On Studio’s last game Death Wing did. Weapons are varied, combat feels above average, and customization is taken to a comical degree in some instances. Want to slap a sniper scope on your sawed-off shotgun? Do it. Do you want to focus all your charms and enhancements on being purely focused on loot quality, HP level, defensive capabilities, or crit chance? Necromunda: Hired Gun’s got you covered. Before you know it, you’ll be wall-running, double-jumping, and grapple-hooking your way around Necromunda’s many arenas while popping enemies apart like pinatas, just as a real 41st century mercenary should. The combat doesn’t ever quite rise to the level of Bulletstorm, but despite not being as good or as satisfying as the game’s it’s so clearly inspired by, Necromunda: Hired Gun combat is still pretty okay when all of its moving parts are synced up and working as intended. Backing you up of course is the thumping soundtrack populated by a wealth of excellent hard rock and metal music that fits the game nicely and gets the heart pumping just right.
The deep customization of your character, gear, and your mastiff all offer a wide range of strengths to focus on, though I do feel like the weapon customizations themselves often present too much of a tradeoff. Gaining some accuracy just to lose a bunch of penetration or stability can feel more like an arbitrary lateral move than an actual upgrade. I had a hard time finding parts I actually wanted to use on my guns because of this. Also, the game will not register your trigger being pulled during a reload animation, so if you are like most first-person shooter fans who just hold down the trigger while the reload animation if finishing up to keep your character shooting as much as possible, get ready to have some awkward moments where you are holding down the trigger but not shooting until you release it a pull it again outside of the reload animation – which I personally never got used to during my playtime.
Enemies are varied but not as much as I’d like. They basically boil down to being either little guys and the big guys with some elemental variations here and there, and you deal with them all roughly the same way – strafe around them like a maniac until they are dead or weak enough for a takedown. That is good enough to be fun, but I just feel like they really should have dove deeper into Warhammer’s arsenal of creatures for the enemy roster. Enemy AI is also quite aggressive and challenging, but don’t expect those on your side to be the same. For whatever reason, most noticeably in the game’s many “A” or “B” side missions where you fight alongside friendly NPC’s, I often felt like I and my mastiff were doing – most if not all – of the work. These gripes are decidedly smaller ones, but when piled on top of the game’s many technical issues, do make it that much harder to recommend the game to the general masses.
"Necromunda Hired Gun gets a few things right. The customization is deep. The world is well-realized. If it weren’t for its many problems and its painfully unrefined state, it would be an easy recommendation for anyone who likes their shooters fast, furious, and bloody."
Which brings me to the main thrust of this review. Necromunda Hired Gun gets a few things right. The customization is deep. The world is well-realized. If it weren’t for its many problems and its painfully unrefined state, it would be an easy recommendation for anyone who likes their shooters fast, furious, and bloody. But as it currently stands, its recommendation comes with some serious asterisks.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Above average combat; Great art style; Wide range of customization for gear and weapons; Interesting story.
An inexcusably long list of performance issues; Inconsistent level design; Enemy variety falls short.