I’m going to be upfront here. I know nothing about Warhmammer 40K. I played a bit of Space Marines back in the day and thought it was boring, but that’s the extent of my personal experience with the series. It and Necromunda are related tabletop games played with miniatures set in the same universe. While I don’t have a lot to offer in regard to the WH40K lore, I do love me a single-player first-person-shooter. Necromunda: Hired Gun is a weird game in some ways, with a handful of choices that go against what you’d expect from a typical genre entry, but the visuals are high quality and the action is so violent that I didn’t even mind. This is a fun FPS, no more, no less.
Necromunda: Hired Gun starts with basic character creation that requires you to pick your sex and face for your character. You’ll almost never look at them, though sex does determine your voice. The game begins with you and two fellow mercenaries heading into Black Serpent territory to find and kill the elusive Silver Talon, all to claim a large bounty. But things go wrong when the opposition proves to be too much, along with a mysterious mercenary known as The Shadow, and both of your companions end up dead.
Before you bite the dust, you’re saved by a noble named Kal Jerico, who has your body repaired with highly valuable bionics at the underhive bar called Martyr’s End. The story isn’t all that good and is somewhat hard to follow, but perhaps that’s more due to my lack of universe knowledge. It really just boils down to your character trying to find the Silver Talon to collect the bounty. Although there is some intrigue regarding your actions which leads to an explosion in gang conflicts, as well as a revelation of the true nature of Jerico’s motives. The voice acting is damn good though, and this isn’t something to simply play for the plot.
Meet the martyrs
Before most missions, you’ll find yourself in Martyr’s End. There, you can talk to Jericho and the bartender to move the plot forward. You can also purchase gear from a vendor, as well as upgrade your bionic implants with the help of a sketchy cyberpunk doctor guy. There isn’t much to do in this area, but you can test your loadout in a training area, as well as swap out the general look of the bar’s patrons by talking to the bartender.
More importantly, you have the mission board, which is how you’ll take on main and side missions. There are only 13 main missions in Necromunda: Hired Gun, and some of them are less than 20 minutes long. On the other hand, there are endlessly rotating random side missions available ranked B through S. I’d imagine that higher-ranked side missions are meant to be harder, but I didn’t notice much difference. These have a variety of objectives, such as defending a place from enemy waves, destroying a few ambots, or tracking down a bounty target. On the default difficulty, this is a very lenient game. It’s not very long though. After about a dozen hours, I’d finished the story and done a lot of sidequests, buying most of the upgrades I wanted along the way.
The upgrades are fun, however. You can purchase them for both you and your helper, a cyborg dog that you can call into battle to fight and highlight foes. These upgrades do things like give you more health, reduce ability cooldowns, and improve the effectiveness of said abilities. Abilities aren’t all that necessary, but they’re entertaining to use and can add some variety. Each ability is bound to a different key, or you can activate them from the ability menu. One lets you slow down time, another teleports you to enemies and blows them up, while one I never even bought gives you temporary auto-aim. I don’t need no stinkin’ auto-aim, Necromunda: Hired Gun.
Fell to pieces
The star of the show is obviously the action. There aren’t a ton of guns, but there’s a solid variety. They’re also mostly a blast to use. Shooting feels impactful and accurate, and your character is nimble and highly mobile. You can double jump, air-dash, wall-run, the works. You always want to be on the move while you’re blasting, so don’t expect Necromunda: Hired Gun to be a cover-based affair. Don’t anticipate any degree of subtlety either, as this is a relentlessly gory game. Enemies are thrown at you in large numbers and they explode when you shoot them. You can use your grappling hook to quickly reel yourself to a foe, only to blast them in the torso a couple of times with a shotgun, then watch as chunks of meat and blood fly in the air.
One of the main mechanics in Necromunda: Hired Gun is that you heal by doing damage and killing enemies. Therefore, you’re encouraged to run around in the open while tearing everything around you to pieces. It’s fucking awesome. I mostly just run around and pop enemy’s heads clean off their shoulders one after the other. It’s ridiculous fun. The levels themselves are also varied and look great, so I didn’t get bored, which would have likely happened had the game gone on longer than it needed to.
Each level has certain objectives. Sometimes you’ll need to find batteries to open the way forward, or maybe set charges to blow some shit up. One level has you input coordinates to move a crate. Another takes place on a train where you need to make your way to the control booth. Navigation can be kind of clunky though, as it isn’t always apparent how to move forward. The levels are often bigger and more open than they need to be as well. Finding chests of loot is kind of hard due to this.
Beware of the jank
Of course, there is a fair amount of jank and weird decisions to be found. Character models don’t look great, which is why almost all of them save for Jerico have their faces covered during narrative bits. Their animations are often stiff and the AI is far from great. The bionic upgrades menu has some clarity issues, such as how it doesn’t quite explain that the purchasable Shock ability works just like a takedown for enemies that don’t have takedown enabled by default. Speaking of which, you can take down most regular enemies simply by getting within melee range.
Takedowns are brokenly overpowered, true, but the animations are awful. The camera moves strangely during these sequences, and there’s so much clipping and goofy movement that I hated looking at them. You often don’t have to shoot if you don’t want to. Just spamming takedown can get you through most things. Then there’s the loot itself. The way you acquire it at the end of each mission is just weird, as it isn’t immediately clear how anything works. The way the game imposes what weapons you can and can’t bring is similarly strange. The super-weak handgun you start with is always in your inventory, even though you’ll never use it. You can bring two main guns and two sidearms, but one type of shotgun is counted as a sidearm, but only one.
Regardless of some of these issues with UI and clarity, Necromunda: Hired Gun had the shooting action I was looking for. It has a reasonable amount of content and I enjoyed myself for the dozen hours I played it, even if I rarely understood what was happening or why. It’s fun enough to just run through the levels while eviscerating everything in sight. I felt bad about upgrading my dog though, as he kept getting scarier and scarier looking as I bought new upgrades. Sure, I constantly have him rip people’s heads off, but that dog would have probably been perfectly happy barking at cyber-mailmen.