NECROMUNDA: HIRED GUN
By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on June 9, 2021
There's something about the Warhammer 40K universe that you either like or hate. I have talked to a great many people about it and there seems to be no in-between in that regard. Personally, I don't know get what's not to like. Everything is grim, cold as steel and dangerous; my kind of universe! This is also why I was immediately interested when I heard about Necromunda: Hired gun; a fast-paced FPS game, set in this violent and, as far as I'm concerned, truly awesome universe!
Now, before I do anything else, I want to first address the elephant in the room; the game's performance. As you may or may not have read, the game suffers from performance issues across multiple platforms, resulting in major screen stutter or even complete freezes. There were also some imbalances when it came to sound or, more specifically, the voice-over part of the soundtrack. This last issue already seems to be fixed by a recent patch, along with other minor flaws. Incidentally, I started playing this game on my PS4 Pro and had my fair share of stutter along the way. Luckily, when I switched to my PS5, the issues at hand became far less noticeable. Mind you, they were still there, but far less game-breaking then they had been up till then. Plus, developer Streum On is already hard at work to fix the performance issues, so we'll ignore them for the remainder of this review.
So, on to the game at hand; what's happening here? Well, as we're used to from the Warhammer 40K universe, things are definitely not fun, happy and colorful. As we start our adventure, we enter the sprawling Underhive of the greatest of hive worlds in all of the Imperium of Man: Necromunda. This world is a gritty and thoroughly dangerous place where everyone just tries to get by, scraping together a living by any means necessary and, more importantly, survive. It is in its huge network of halls, tunnels, industry domes and war-torn passages that we meet our protagonist who is, as the title of the game implies, a hired gun. So the very first thing we do is choose a gender and an appearance for our battle-hardened mercenary. After that, we enter Necromunda and set out on our first quest. It doesn't actually take very long for things to go horribly wrong and it is because of this that we find ourselves in a large settlement called Martyr's Rest after being blown half to bits...
When we wake up, it seems we have been "saved" by Kal Jerico, the very same man who got us into trouble in the first place. You see, we were hired to hunt down the person or persons responsible for the murder on a member of the Merchant's Guild, a guilder called Marro Veerax. We set off, accompanied by two other hired guns and searched the industry domes of the Underhive for any trace of the murderer. Quickly enough, though, things turned out not to be quite what they seemed, which resulted in us getting mortally wounded. When we wake up, we're at Martyr's Rest, at the, for lack of a better word, office of a suspiciously dirty looking doctor. Then, Kal Jerico comes in and casually tells us that he had some modifications made to our cybernetic limbs, resulting in what he promises us to be far better performance. Martyr's Rest serves as the game's central hub; here, you can pickup contracts, talk to people and buy stuff. It even has an arena called the Gladiatorum, a fighting range in which you can try out your new gear.
So, we're in Martyr's Rest. We've just received new implants and a guy we don't trust says he can help us... hmm, this looks dodgy at best, wouldn't you agree. Still, there's no way but forward, so let's go! It is from this point on that the upgrading of both our own hardware, as well as that of our loyal cyber-canine companion, comes into play. By completing missions, selling gear and collecting bounties, we earn our way towards enough cash so we can upgrade our hardware. This, in turn, makes our live easier, so we can more easily fulfill contracts, collect gear to sell and collect higher bounties, which results in us being able to upgrade your bionic implants, and so on. It's a tried and tested cyclic game mechanic that has worked flawlessly in other games in the past and continues to do so in Necromunda: Hired Gun.
Being a game of the FPS persuasion, the game also features a wide selection of destructive weaponry. You will start your game with a simple pistol, but the fact that you can pick up practically every weapon in the game and add it to your ever-growing arsenal, means that you'll be able to quickly find a gun that is suited to your preferred play-style. You also pick up other items along the way, which can be used as modifiers in-between missions, giving you a wide array of perks that can really stack up if used right. These items enhance your chances of survival by strengthening your constitution or modifying your weapons. On top of that, before each mission, you come to a loadout screen, so you can quickly choose your favorite weapons for the mission to come. At the end of a mission, you'll get an overview of all the weapons and items you've picked up along the way and can decide whether to add them to your inventory or sell them for some much needed cash.
Necromunda: Hired Gun is an old-school FPS game, which means that sneaking around and hanging back during fights will only get you so far. You're actually far better off using my personal preferred method of playing this type of game, which is running into the fray screaming and blasting everything that gets in your way. The trick is to keep moving, because the more enemies you defeat, the more ammo and health you will have. For the health portion of this equation, this is thanks to a cool skill that goes by the name of Auto-sanguine. This helpful skill enables you to regain health by hurting and killing enemies. Every time you receive damage, your hand will glow red for a short period of time. If you manage to wound or kill enemies during this period, you will regain some of your health. On top of your health, you also have a refractor shield, which can be replenished by collecting shield powerups, dropped by dead enemies.
Every FPS game in history would be nothing more than a walking simulator if they didn't have enemies. Luckily, enemies are certainly not in short supply in this game. As you make your way through the levels, you'll come across groups of enemies and, more often than not, you'll need to defeat these enemies before you can continue your journey. When you come across this kind of "arena" fight, the battle music kicks in, so you know things are about to get hectic. And, speaking of the battle music, what an awesome addition to the soundtrack this is. Now, I might be a bit biased, being a fan of metal music myself, especially the Death metal variety, but I really, really, REALLY love the music that accompanies the frantic battle sections of the game. Plus, it's the logical choice, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, come on; metal structures, metal enemies, metal appendages. What kind of music would be better suited for this kind of theme, right?
Provided that the good people at Streum On keep their word and fix the performance issues that are currently plaguing the game, they've got a winner on their hand. I for one can only say that I truly enjoyed playing Necromunda: Hired Gun. What the game lacks in story-depth, it more than makes up for in FPS gameplay. The game itself feels more like a different themed version of Doom than a Warhammer 40K game, which tend to be s lot slower and more tactical at times. Add cool abilities like a wall-run, double jump and a grappling hook to that mix and you've got one hell of an explosive package on your hands. True, the enemies aren't the sharpest tools in the proverbial shed, but they have the numbers to still make things somewhat difficult for you. Your dog companion, who serves as a companion during your travels, will come in handy from time to time and can be upgraded to be even more of an asset than it already is. The game's level design is really well executed, giving you multiple options in which to approach any given situation. It's not just a simple flat-surfaced arena shooter, but rather an intricately built, fast-paced and bullet-riddled exercise in environment traversal.
When you put all of your abilities to work and mix in a pounding and awesome soundtrack, a wide variety of cool guns and truly beautiful artwork, you get something truly fun. The game's theme fits the gameplay perfectly and the gritty look and feel of everything and everyone you come across is perfect in my opinion. So it is with this in mind that I can only say that, although it currently suffers from a number of issues, Necromunda: Hired Gun is a fast, fun and frantic Warhammer 40K themed shooter with its wildly pounding and mechanically enhanced heart firmly in the right place!