This week Focus Home Interactive released their Warhammer 40K First Person Shooter; Necromunda: Hired Gun. Which, for me at least, has been eagerly anticipated.
I’m a big WH40K fan, not of the table top game, Omnissiah no, the last thing i want to do is engage in the source material and interact with people. But the lore that has spawned from this dark Sci-Fi war game is some of the greatest fantasy ever thought up.
For those not familiar with 40K lore, it’s a horrible and violent vision of the future, in stark contrast from the enlightened utopia of Star Trek. Hell, it even makes Star Wars look peaceful. Humanity rules the stars, at constant war with any Xeno race that happens to be in their way. Or not in the way, quite often a fair detour out of their way, because to humanity all Xenos are scum that need wiping out.
There’s a joke that’s often told that goes something along these lines; Harry Potter fans want to live in the wizarding world, Star Wars fan want to fly with the rebels, WH40K fans want to stay the hell away from the 40K universe.
There’s no position in 40K you would want to be in. The average citizen’s life is worse than slavery, the military are thrown by the millions at alien enemies in the name of genocide. Even the Emperor of this fascist space empire is a living corpse, bound to the thrown and fighting off demonic powers constantly less they break through to destroy Terra (Earth).
So why am i so dam excited to be stepping into the shoes of a mercenary in one of the worst places in this already terrible universe?
Well, for one, i don't have to smell it, until Sony unveil the next Duel-Scents controller that adds that new layer of unwanted immersion. But also because it’s a setting that’s absolutely fascinating, and beautiful in it’s own dark gothic way.
There has been many WH40k games before, most of which I've picked up in Steam sales and then ignored like the rest of my Steam library. Partially because I'd rather use my PC for work and my console for relaxing, but also that most of the 40k games aren’t that, well, good.
Before you rev up your chain swords and declare a waaaagh on my current location, let me clarify. They’re all decent enough and if i were more taken by isometric games, strategy games, or isometric strategy games, I'd probably consider them immense fun. But i don't, I'm more ‘left trigger to aim, right trigger to shoot’ or a sword swinging RGP guy.
So, while I've had fun with the likes of Inquisitor and Mechanicus, it’s more for the lore than the game play.
Now onto hired gun, this is almost exactly what i want from a game set in the Grim Dark future.
We’re first person, allowing me to stop and read all the flavour dished out on wall posters or engraved into machinery.
It’s fast paced, no stopping to strategize here. Just run, gun, and try not to get killed.
It’s brutal, similar to Doom’s 'Glory Kill' mechanic, Hired Gun lets you perform take downs if you get close to your victim. This gives you a much needed health boost, and makes you feel bad ass to boot.
There’s a decent variety of these fatalities, I'm certain I've not seen them all. One of my favourites (Yes i have a favourite murder) shows me hacking something sharp into my foe then hammering repeatedly on it with my other hand to really drive it home.
These are all very quick to perform too, so it doesn’t really interrupt the flow of combat.
It’s beautiful, in as much as this world can be. With horrific biomechanical servitors working as the locking mechanisms for doors, and metallic skulls added to every spare bit of set, least it go ungarnished. It really does have a polished look that i, perhaps unfairly, didn’t expect from a 40K game.
The mechanics of play; With wall running and double jumping allowing you to get almost anywhere, it’s clear they designed the levels with exploration in mind. Wall running is fairly standard in any futuristic shooter these days, but when it’s so fun to do, why wouldn't it be.
I had to remap the medkit button from clicking the right analogue stick to the Select button (or whatever Xbox are calling that middle left now) as i found it too easy to accidently heal myself when i didn’t need it. And with a limited supply of medkits this was a dangerous mistake to make.
Luckily the game gives you the ability to remap literally every action. Which is a vast improvement from a set list of different pre set controller configurations most games give you, when they give you any thing at all that is.
The Dog; So, this is one thing i hadn’t been aware was in the game till the second set of trailers released. Perhaps it was there in the first, but I'd missed it. Whether or not this effected my decision to go against my usual 'No pre orders' rule and pre order is it still up for debate (It did). But regardless having my beefy canine companion certainly adds at least another point to the merits of this game.
The pup doesn’t get in the way, isn’t always present, but when you call upon them, they spawn from the void (presumably) and attack along side you. Now, in the tutorial section when it asked me to make use of my attack hound i was expecting it to leap on and rip apart who i was facing with more of a pre rendered action vibe. I was not expecting my poor mutt to get mowed down with ballistics to be left unrevivable on the floor.
So the dog isn’t gone, after a time period, or distance maybe, you are free to once again call upon Robo-Dog. But it’s safe to say i learnt my lesson of not calling them in to charge down the enemy lines and use them for more up close actions instead.
What’s more, to add a nice pallet cleansing cuteness, to call the dog you hold out and give a couple of squeezes to a squeaky chew toy. It’s wonderful.
As for story, it is there certainly, but I've not progressed far enough to give any real opinion on it just yet. Though it has set it out to be something interesting. A murder mystery that will bring in high power individuals and various gangs on this tribalized planet.
I have a couple of annoyances. Precise aiming is hard work, I've played with the sensitivity but no matter what, i struggle to get it to move just that little bit. However, in a game that the vibe is fast paced Run'N'Gun, the need for this precise firing isn't absolute, but I'd still like the option.
There is also a little bit too much time wasting in the HQ area before the missions can begin. Walking between a multiple NPCs to get small bits of exposition feels like busy work. I would much rather these main story chats took place in a quick cut scene.
This game very much feels more like Doom than say, Halo. With it’s ultra fast paced movement, it’s need to collect health rather than it auto regenerating, and of course those glorious, glorious take downs. While I'd never say this is a bad thing, as Doom Eternal is widely considered a masterpiece in fun game play, my personal preference is for a slower more methodical shooter.
Take a peep at the official trailer.
Yet, I'm really complaining that my delicious ice cream is rather on the cold side. It’s certainly great fun to play, i will continue to relish in having a shooter game set in a high quality imagining of a universe i love.
If you’re a fan of the 40K aesthetic, then you’re probably already buying it. But if you’re a fan of Doom like shooters, then i highly recommend picking this up.
For what it’s doing it does it perfectly, and in a line, it is the best WH40K game I've played.
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