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Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun Review

Suffer not the pixelated heretic to live

I am so very glad that the shooters of old have managed to re-establish themselves. Even the half-derogatory term of boomer-shooter does nothing to impede my enjoyment – there is just something so deftly charming about running at a breakneck pace, turning pixelated punks into a shower of gore. Oh, and digging around for the odd keycard.

All these things are present within Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun, however its greatest draw is the role you embody. Sure, Doom had us playing as a ‘space marine’ all those years ago, but decades later we can finally step into the boots of a ‘Space Marine’ – capital ‘S’, capital ‘M’. The Emperor’s finest exist as the ultimate power fantasy, so building a retro FPS around them just feels right.

With your thunderous footsteps serving as the death knell to all misbegotten Chaos dorks, you are tasked with touching down on the forge world Graia (a familiar setting for anyone who played 2011’s Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine), because something just ain’t right in this neighbourhood. What follows is an investigative adventure to figure out what is going on – with a very shoot-first-keep-shooting-shoot-a-bit-more-and-only-then-ask-a-question-if-you-feel-so-inclined kind of attitude.

Mate, drone restrictions means you can’t fly that in a public space

It’s a satisfying and fast-paced gameplay experience – your colossal size and stature means nothing as you sprint and leap like a gazelle, vomiting forth a range of munitions that would make DoomGuy blush. Couple this with amazing power up items that are squirreled away in secret corners, you truly become an angel of death. The controls are absurdly responsive, allowing for fluid movement and precise aiming, which is crucial in the heat of battle – it feels super close to something like Quake III Arena. The game also takes steps to strike a balance between the brutal close range options and long-range shooting, ensuring that players have a diverse set of tools to tackle each encounter. Whipping out a shotgun that turns enemies into a fine red mist feels every bit as boomer-shootery as it should. It’s just a shame that the shotgun (and all his loud buddies) will be taken off you at the end of a chapter.

Often you will be blasting through corridors of chaff-like enemies, pathetic little goons that would probably have a better chance of slowing you down if they crossed their fingers and wished for you to slip in their impending blood puddles. Every so often however, the game will throw a ‘purge event’ at you, tasking you with clearing out an area that is brimming with silly billies – and some of their tougher friends. The game really heats up when you are suddenly juggling hordes of demonic filth and enemy Space Marines who are far more resistant to light arms fire. These events are usually deployed in an arena-like setting, and the observant player can often clue in to secret power-ups to help mow through the weeds. The most thrilling of these are boss battles – when all the pomp and ceremony of a big bad is deployed with a giant ornate health bar, prompting you to step up your game lest you become paste. Seeing all of these cartoonishly evil baddies rendered in their charming retro way evoked images of the tabletop models I know and love, so huge kudos to the art team at Auroch Digital.

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It’s hard to imagine something cooler than a chainsaw sword – a CHAINSWORD if you will

A surprisingly modern mechanic that made itself apparent early on was the sticky-targeting mechanic offered by your dedicated melee weapon. Revving your chainsword will actually slow time briefly, and mousing over an enemy will cause a satisfying snap-to movement that rapidly places you within sawing range. At first this seemed like a fun little gimmick, but I quickly came to realise that this snap-targeting could be used even while you are briskly moving in another direction. The dedicated charge button can be great for knocking foes off a cliff edge – but what if you miscalculated and ended up greeting gravity with them? Well, turn to one of those numpties that you missed, and sword-warp your way back to safety. Positively chefs kiss – even if the mass of a Space Marine in motion begs to ask how it could be scientifically possible.

Something that tickled me greatly, was realising that the game cheekily had implemented a core tabletop mechanic into its gunplay. On your UI, you immediately see that weapons have a STRENGTH stat, displayed as a number – and enemies would have a similar digit reflecting their TOUGHNESS. In the world of plastic models, this is a way to determine how effective your weapon may be on your target – and in Boltgun it serves the same purpose. While anyone with any cognitive function will understand that often the loudest gun will pack the biggest punch, it was fun seeing the more monstrous enemies wade through my hailstorm of bullets – Space Marines may not feel fear, but an encounter with a greater daemon absolutely had me scrambling for the biggest number I could muster.

Talking smack is fun, but I got a feeling this guy can’t hear us

The game world is every bit as stunning as it can be by way of retro fakery. The scale and oppressive nature of the 41st millennium bleeds through every brutal edge, and the mess you leave in your wake serves as a gory reminder of how little life is valued in that universe. Getting from point A to point B is relatively straightforward oftentimes, but the odd occasion will see a keycard or puzzle thrown your way. While these puzzles are far from brain-bending, they often come with little warning – and when the rest of the game is played at such a swiftness, it can be jarring to suddenly realise your progress has been harshly halted. One puzzle saw me leaping through portals, realising far too late that I was going in circles. While the set piece for such an experience was neat, it quickly soured when I saw the same portal for the umpteenth time – especially when I had already tried two different methods to figure out the path. If you find yourself in a similar situation, try following the candles.

This could have been made better if the utilisation of your robot pal was a little more involved. The game starts with you being handed a Servo-Skull to be your assistance and guide – basically a very grimdark version of Navi – or at least that’s how I originally interpreted it. Instead this doofy bonehead will flutter around and offer random tidbits about the game world, or point out power-ups I had yet to collect – there was no “where the fuck am I going?” button to be seen. A bummer, but you could also argue that as a boomer shooter, such a level of helpfulness has no place within it. But hey, at least the game has a dedicated taunt button, which unironically rules.

Desire to extend middle finger intensifies

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Final Thoughts

Across the 10 or so hours of gameplay, the game delivered on every promise I had conjured in my head. My hulking form waded through every imaginable horror that Graia could throw at me, and each death begged a moment to reconsider my plan of attack. I never felt understocked on tools of kickassery (apart from the start of chapters, c’mon guys), and at the end of it all, my only sadness was that there was no multiplayer or co-op action to be had with mates. Given its price point, and rock-solid presentation of AA-level development, I have no problem recommending this to anyone who likes a classic shooter experience.

Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun Review
Life is the Emperor's currency, spend it well
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun successfully captures the dark and expansive lore of the Warhammer universe, immersing the player in a grim and pixelated future that will appeal to both fans of the franchise and FPS enthusiasts.
The Good
Old-school level navigation is awesome
Awesome boomer-shooter aesthetic
Cleverly recognises the tabletop mechanics
Secrets and power-ups are generous and feel awesome
Controls and options are far from dated
It’s clearly Warhammer 40k
The Bad
Old-school level navigation demands patience
Your assistant robot borders on useless
Why take my guns away? Bleh!
8
Get Around It
  • Auroch Digital
  • Focus Entertainment
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
  • May 24, 2023

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun Review
Life is the Emperor’s currency, spend it well
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun successfully captures the dark and expansive lore of the Warhammer universe, immersing the player in a grim and pixelated future that will appeal to both fans of the franchise and FPS enthusiasts.
The Good
Old-school level navigation is awesome
Awesome boomer-shooter aesthetic
Cleverly recognises the tabletop mechanics
Secrets and power-ups are generous and feel awesome
Controls and options are far from dated
It’s clearly Warhammer 40k
The Bad
Old-school level navigation demands patience
Your assistant robot borders on useless
Why take my guns away? Bleh!
8
Get Around It
Written By Ash Wayling

Known throughout the interwebs simply as M0D3Rn, Ash is bad at video games. An old guard gamer who suffers from being generally opinionated, it comes as no surprise that he is both brutally loyal and yet, fiercely whimsical about all things electronic. On occasion will make a youtube video that actually gets views. Follow him on YouTube @Bad at Video Games

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