Necromunda: Hired Gun
The Games Workshop Renaissance continues
Necromunda: Hired Gun is another good game in a growing line of Warhammer 40,000 games (we don’t speak of Dawn of War 3) in recent years. The First Person Shooter (FPS) takes place in the titular world of Necromunda and puts the player in the boots of a bounty hunter working in the grimy underbelly of the hive city.
As written above, the game is set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, in particular the world of Necromunda. Necromunda for those unaware of the setting is one of the biggest hive worlds of the Imperium of Mankind. It is a manufacturing world where hundreds of billions of people are crammed into hive cities – gargantuous structures the size of mountains.
Underneath these hive cities, known as the underhives, the criminal elements of the city gather. These are brutal places where violence is the only law and war a constant companion. Gangs are just one of the many dangers lurking in the abandoned levels of the hive city. Many people are forced to find refuge in the underhive – mutants, chaos cultists, renegades and genestealers.
The dangers of the underhives are many, and into this world the player sets foot.
The game is an FPS with an emphasis on movement. Anyone who has played Titanfall or Apex Legends will be quite familiar with the movement system (in particular if they played as Pathfinder). Running and gunning is not only encouraged, but a must since enemies often flank, charge at and advance on the player. Wall running, double jumping and a grapple hook allow the player a high degree of mobility.
Levels take advantage of the movement system. The level design is quite impressive. While linear in nature, the levels never feel constraining or narrow. They are quite spacious at places, allowing the player to tackle the enemies various ways and use the movement system to its fullest. They also complement the environment perfectly, making for quite memorable scenes and action pieces. In addition, the player is given an incentive to explore the levels thanks to chests sprinkled throughout them. Each chest has additional loot that can be picked up for the level.
The player has various abilities to aid them in slaughtering the denizens of the underhive. Besides an array of weapons, the player can use melee takedowns against stunned enemies, strip shields using energy pulses or use heightened senses to slow down time and manage the firefight better. Abilities can often be used in conjecture to create beautiful works of violence and modern art. No ability felt vestigial or useless.
The health system is quite simple. The player has a health bar and a shield bar. The shields can be recharged using shield batteries that are scattered around the level or drop from enemies. Health doesn’t regenerate on default. However certain abilities can allow limited regeneration (though require unlocking). The player can also use health packs purchased at the start of the level to get a quick boost of health but at a monetary cost. Besides them there are stim packs. These revive the player should they get overwhelmed or mess up a jump and plunged into an abyss. Like health packs, the stims are also purchased before the mission but also at terminals.
If movement is one half of the core mechanics, the other half is gunplay. The gunplay is quite satisfying. Guns vary from heavy stubbers that can rip through crowds to plasma rifles that incinerate enemies. The player can carry up to four weapons; two rifles and two pistols. This forces the player to choose their loadout carefully. Thankfully each gun can be customized extensively. Want a heavy bolter that fires rapidly? Just buy the modifications. Do you want your autogun to acts as a sniper rifle? Modify it. The game allows extensive weapon customization with actual visual impact on the gun models.
The guns themselves are extremely fun to play with. They feel impactful, in particular the bolters. The damage they wreak is also satisfying to witness. The game has plenty of gore. Limbs get taken out, guts fly off and heads explode in detail. It really gives visual feedback to the player. The enemies themselves are quite varied. Different gangs have distinctive looks and tactics. Eschers, for example, are an all-female gang that prefers employing plasma weaponry and invisibility fields. Golaiths prefer brute strength. Besides their employment of rocket launchers and heavy stubbers, they like to use melee weapons and charge at the player with jetpacks.
Each gang has its own hierarchy. From regular gangers that can be mowed down easy, to heavy gunners whose backpack can be hit once and explode. Lieutenants with shielding that require heavy weaponry to bring down to bosses such as Ambots and Ogyrns that tower above the battlefield. Each has a distinctive silhouette that allows the player to differentiate them at a glance and thus switch to the appropriate weapon to dispatch them.
A Dog’s Life
Another mechanic in the game is the player’s dog. The player is able to summon the dog for a limited time to the battlefield. The dog can be upgraded much like the player to be made more lethal. At first I saw the dog as a mere gimmick but as the campaign progressed I started relying on the mutt. Once summoned the dog can reveal all surrounding enemies in a radius. It can also attack enemies on its own and at worst be a bullet magnet. Used alongside abilities, the dog can be quite a potent equalizer.
After the first mission, the player is brought to the main hub area of Martyr’s End. This area serves as the place where the player may purchase guns, bionic upgrades and weapon customizations. The area also has a firing range and gladiatorial arena to test weapons and configurations before missions. Here the player can also choose to either progress the story or pursue side missions in order to earn cash and loot.
Cash, Guns and Bionics
As alluded to before, money is an important part of the game. The player earns cash by finding credits, opening chests and selling loot such as guns and trinkets. While the player would often find most good weapons in the levels themselves, bionic upgrades and customizations do cost a pretty penny. Thankfully, the game allows the player to grind money in game by taking various side missions. These are divided to categories based on difficulty and unlocked via progression. These missions take slices of previous levels and have the player either hunt x amount of enemies, destroy/install/release x amount of stuff, defend areas from waves of enemies or capture points of interest.
Most of these missions can be completed in comparatively quick time and confer reputation with various factions in the underhive. Since each mission specifies the enemies the player will meet, the player can also be better prepared to meet them. In addition, often times these missions will have additional loot chests to find, in the same place as their campaign counterparts.
It is not necessary to grind these missions but should the player want, or need, to upgrade their bionics, they are indispensable since the price of bionic upgrades quadruples by each level. The bionics themselves are separated into main and sub categories. The main categories are major body parts which confer passive advantages and unlock the sub categories to upgrade. The sub categories are often active skills that allow the player to better fight, explore the levels or just survive.
Again, I stress, it is not necessary to upgrade bionics, but I found my progress often stymied without them. Of course, the dog can also be equipped with bionics to increase their effectiveness.
Besides bionics, the player can also buy guns and items, though for inflated prices. These guns can be customized as mentioned before though they are often inferior to anything that can be found in the levels.
Art and Graphics
I am not going to say that the game has next generation graphics. I don’t think of myself as an expert in graphical fidelity nor do I own a top of the range rig (middle range, sadly). That said, I found the game and its effects to be quite pretty. The environments are just gorgeous. They fit the setting to a tee. Huge natural caverns, large manufacturing halls filled with molten steel and citadels built atop mountains of garbage.
The levels are quite colorful as well. While there is the expected gunmetal grey and brown rock, there is also a huge palette of colors. From glowing blue pools of pollution to bright yellow rivers of molten metal to the soft red glow of fungi, the world of Necromunda: Hired Gun is a sight to behold.
The feat of making every level not just seem decrepit but also lived in is quite remarkable. The gothic aesthetic of buildings and statues married with the cogs and bolts of machinery is quite impactful. It is Warhammer 40,000. These details extend to the guns themselves. Each one is a great work of art that fits the settings. They are bulky, brutal things. Often big and unwieldy with many scratches and gashes. Add ons are often jury rigged, with scopes on certain guns looking out of place (as they should!).
The enemies themselves are just as colorful as the setting. Gangers will have Mohawks, tattoos and garish grab as they charge the player. Each looks as though their mini models were brought to life.
Sound and Voice Acting
The sound is adequate. The weapon sounds are, as mentioned before, satisfying and the ambience is quite nice. The soundtrack however is lackluster. It is mostly forgettable, with generic metal riffs the only notable exception I can recall from level climaxes.
Voice acting is passable. Everyone does their job well enough. I found all voices to be appropriate and fitting. No performance fell flat. That said, its nothing spectacular or worth reporting on. It does its job.
God emperor, the jank. The game has plenty of issues. Enemy AI sometimes breaks mid firefight. Some objectives won’t trigger properly. I caught notable slowdowns in certain intense firefights. Clipping through objects, including level walls also occurred. The dog’s AI ignoring all enemies around it is a common issue. The list can go on. These issues didn’t flare up constantly in my playthrough, but happened enough to be noticeable and thus forced me to note them down.
On the performance level, I already wrote that there were some notable slowdowns, but only during intense firefights in a couple particular levels on four separate occasions. That said, the game ran well overall on high graphics with only one notable crash occurring in over a dozen hours of continuous play.
I left the story for last because, honestly speaking, the story is not that important for the game. I am usually a player that prefers a good story to gameplay but Necromunda: Hired Gun doesn’t offer much and I don’t begrudge it for that. The player starts the game as a bounty hunter on a mission that goes bad. Saved by another bounty hunter, they are now trying to find out who screwed them over. It’s a very simple story centered on a more localized conflict rather than some epic tale of revenge with the fate of the galaxy hanging in the balance. Just a bounty hunter looking for retribution getting involved in local power struggles. This works for the game and is one of its strengths. No deep story, just kill gangers.
Necromunda: Hired Gun is a competent FPS emphasizing movement and gore over realism. It brings the Warhammer 40,000 franchise to life, illuminating another facet in the setting; that of the criminal underground in the hive cities of the Imperium of Mankind. While its soundtrack is forgettable and its voice acting passable, its environment really does a lot of the heavy lifting. It is enjoyable and fun though lacking in longevity. One friend watching my gameplay remarked it reminded him of RAGE 2, and looking at reviews it does seem similar. Thus if you like RAGE 2, or just looking for a nice mindless FPS or maybe exploring another corner of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, I highly recommend it.