Game Reviews

Necromunda: Hired Gun Review

A visceral and fun bounty hunting romp with more jank than an underhive junkyard.

Necromunda: Hired Gun Review

Necromunda: Hired Gun could have potentially been one of the better Warhammer 40K licensed video games. From the prerelease trailers to the not-so-subtle Doom inspirations, Hired Gun looked to be a violent, visceral romp in Hive Primus’ dejected underbelly. Developer Streum On Studio has a reputation for janky releases, though. Look no further than their last release Space Hulk: Deathwing, a previous Warhammer 40K first-person shooter that oozed atmosphere but fell short in just about every other department.

Unfortunately, Necromunda: Hired Gun is stamped from the same sheet metal as Deathwing, though it is arguably better than its predecessor in some areas. There’s plenty within this seedy underhive to appreciate, but not every part has been expertly crafted. Hired Gun is an enjoyable shooter, one many will undoubtedly have a good time with, but it doesn’t make it out of the manufactorum in fighting condition.

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Necromunda: Hired Gun – budget Doom with a whole lot of jank.

Necromunda: Hired Gun has been likened to the recent Doom titles on more than one occasion, and the comparison isn’t without merit. Hired Gun is very much a mobility focused first-person shooter, where stopping to line-up your shots will lead to your death. You need to keep running and gunning if you plan to stay alive, and it’s in this regard Necromunda: Hired Gun excels.

There’s a sticky wallrun that feels good to use, forward slides and sideways dashes to bolt around your enemies, and a grappling hook that’ll sling you up and around the various combat arenas within Hive Primus’ rundown domes. Movement in Necromunda: Hired Gun is snappy, responsive, and deadly. When the game is clicking on all cylinders it’s a badass bullet ballet as you dodge, duck, and dive between enemies with your boltguns, autopistols, lasguns and the rest of your body-annihilating arsenal.

Thing is, Necromunda: Hired Gun is a few rounds shy a full cylinder. For all that it does well, such as movement, there’s a junkyard of jank to match. Take for instance the aforementioned grappling hook. It’s quick to use and often puts you where you want to be. Yet, it will more than happily wedge you between objects in the environment, pinning you in place and forcing a restart. This didn’t happen more than a handful of times, but it’s just one of many, many off-kilter issues that tries to drag Hired Gun into the sump.

Necromunda: Hired Gun is a few rounds shy a full cylinder.

For every positive trait in Hired Gun there’s an equally negative or baffling one. Take the guns for instance: each is a solid cacophony of rage and cordite. The sound design for each type of weapon is spot on. The lasguns crackle and spark with sinister energy, and the shotguns roar with a throaty explosion every time you pull the trigger. But – because there’s always a but – there’s zero sound feedback from hitting enemies.

That may not seem like a huge deal when reading it on paper, yet recall some of the best shooters on the market. Doom, Overwatch, Destiny 2 – each has a punchy sound-effect tied to bullet impacts. Pumping lead into an enemy’s body is accompanied by a meaty, thumpy impact sound that further augments gun-feel and feedback. Necromunda: Hired Gun lacks these sounds entirely. Instead, headshots are highlighted by flaccid floating text that says, “Critical Hit.” I disabled that UI element immediately.

Speaking of audio, it’s all over the place. The ambient sounds that fill out and bring to life the various environments of Hive Primus’ underhive are all pretty damn solid. Whether it be the distant wail of some Sump monster, or the grinding of the colossal gears driving a train the size of a small city, ambient environmental audio is pretty good in Hired Gun.

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The same can be said of the music. Composer Olivier Zuccaro clearly took inspiration from Mick Gordon’s Doom soundtracks, leaning heavily into the industrial metal genre Gordon expertly channeled for Id’s outstanding shooters. That’s not the sole motif Zuccaro utilizes though, mixing in some more western-flavored notes and tunes to fill out the soundtrack and give it an appropriate “man with no name walks into town” vibe. All said, the soundtrack is good; it won’t “wow” anyone, but it certainly elevates the gameplay its attached to.

Voice-acting is okay, in a “the voice-actors were fine, but the voice-direction clearly wasn’t” sort of way. The scatterbrained story clearly written without any regard for fans new to Warhammer 40K and Necromunda doesn’t do the voice-overs any favors, but Necromunda: Hired Gun’s cast does well enough with the material they were given. That said, the audio-mixing in the game clearly has VO tuned to the lowest possible volume, since it often sounds like characters are whispering to you during conversation. A recent patch somewhat addressed this, but it’s still common for ambient sounds and music to overpower the dialogue.

While we’re speaking of the audio, positional audio is practically non-existent in Necromunda: Hired Gun without some sort of external software like Dolby Atmos. It’s not uncommon for enemies to spawn in behind you and for you not to hear a peep from them. The only indication they even spawned on your ass is a swelling red haze on your screen and your own bafflement as to who could possibly be shooting you.

Much like sound the graphics are an equally mixed-bag. The game looks fine in motion, but performance should be better considering the game looks like an early PlayStation 4 or Xbox One title. Muddy textures are not hard to spot, animations are stiff and awkward (such as the melee takedowns you can perform), and the lighting is largely fine but not all that complex. Yet, even with Nvidia’s DLSS enabled my computer struggled to stay above 60 FPS at 1080p during the busiest scenes. I may have a 3070 Mobile, but considering how Necromunda: Hired Gun looks I shouldn’t be seeing performance this low with DLSS.

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Not the Emperor’s finest.

For every element Necromunda: Hired Gun does right there’s another holding it back. The world design is absolutely amazing – I’m only a casual Warhammer 40K fan and even I can say Hired Gun absolutely nailed the 40K aesthetic. The team at Streum On Studio aced the art design in Hired Gun, much as they did in Space Hulk: Deathwing. The team clearly loves the Warhammer 40K universe and it shows in every inch of every environment, weapon, and character.

Then why is the UI so damned soulless? Relic’s Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is a decade old, and it had a better UI than Hired Gun. Even that comparison doesn’t fully sell how flat the UI in Hired Gun is. Space Marine didn’t have a stellar, game-changing interface, but it was both functional and possessed that distinct Warhammer 40K flavor. Hired Gun’s UI looks like it was made by a temp using MS Paint and the Arial font, not by a team staffed by obvious 40K super-fans.

Enemy design isn’t as lifeless as the UI, but there’s a lack of variety that does hamper the overall experience in Necromunda: Hired Gun. Despite facing off against the various Houses that control the gangs in Necromunda, they all felt pretty damn similar mechanically. They are somewhat visually distinct, yet it felt like I had seen everything the game was going to throw at me by Chapter 4. There’s some minor variation here and there, but Hired Gun rarely challenged me to alter my loadout or approach to overcome the enemies I was facing.

Which is another issue with Necromunda: Hired Gun – your loadout and inventory feel like they were designed entirely divorced from one another. By the way, Hired Gun has loot, and it really feels like it shouldn’t. Guns, suits, items, charms, and archeotech can all be acquired from either slain foes or hidden chests scattered about a level. They come in various rarities, have different stats, and all felt superfluous.

Hired Gun has loot, and it really feels like it shouldn’t.

Necromunda: Hired Gun is balanced in such a way that these little stat boosts don’t really impact gameplay at Normal difficulty. They kind of matter in the higher difficulties, but not enough to truly justify their existence. These light RPG mechanics feel strapped on simply because Warhammer 40K itself has RPG mechanics, but they don’t gel well with Hired Gun’s more straight-forward first-person shooter design.

What makes the inventory and loadout systems truly strange are how they are handled. You can carry up to five basic guns, five sidearms, three special arms, and four heavy weapons in your inventory. That said, you can only carry two “primaries” and two “sidearms” in your loadout in addition to the Stubgun you can’t unequip. So, you essentially have three sidearms equipped at any given time. Why we can’t hold one of each type and swap out the Stubgun for a different sidearm is beyond me.

It doesn’t help you can’t open your inventory or manage it whenever you want. If you want to fiddle with your inventory you need to visit the shop vendor and go to the sell tab. If you put something in your inventory at the end of mission screen and change your mind you need to visit the shop vendor to remove it. If you want to change your loadout you need to either visit the Gladiatorum console or start a mission. You can modify your weapons at the Artificer, but why do that when you can do the same at the mission start screen?

It’s all cumbersome and not at all intuitive. You can hold four suit pieces, yet only equip one. Since enemy variety isn’t all that great there’s no incentive to fill all four inventory suit slots to support different builds, which is what the system is trying to get you to do. You can carry more “primary” type weapons than sidearms in your inventory, but you wield more sidearms than primaries in the field. It’s like both systems were developed by different parts of the team, and neither consulted with the other.

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The bounties and bionics are some of the best bits in Necromunda: Hired Gun.

The bionic augments for your hunter and mastiff are far more impactful, to include the various abilities you can unlock. These abilities are a little wonky to deploy, but can shift a tough battle in your favor. Better legs with improved wallrunning are infinitely more useful than a +3 weapon with an imperceptible boost to damage. You need a lot of coin to afford all of the upgrades on offer for you and your hound, however. That’s where Hired Gun’s side bounties come into play.

In theory these are bite-sized, five to ten minute objectives that task you with killing either a single specific target, or a bunch of specific targets. There are a couple of collectible missions and a capture one, but by and large the kill quests are where the game shines . . . well, mostly. Enemies in Necromunda: Hired Gun spawn one of two archaic ways: they’ll either respawn in areas you’ve left, or out of “monster closets.” During these side bounties they’re normally generated by the first method, meaning you need to backpedal to a previously cleared area to push your objective.

When spawns are rapid and you don’t have to slog about for your targets these side bounties are a great way to sample Necromunda: Hired Gun’s strengths. That’s not always the case though thanks to the odd spawn logic, and since you need to run these bounties to grab all the bionic upgrades on offer the experience oscillates wildly between exciting and tedious. That said, when these side bounties didn’t waste my time I had more fun in them than I did some of the campaign missions.

You can technically play these after beating the game if you haven’t had your fill of Hired Gun, but after you’ve bought every bionic upgrade there’s little reason to return outside of grinding faction reputation. There are over 15 factions you can increase your rep with, and the higher your reputation the more money you’ll make from their bounties. Money you’ve no need for anymore since you bought all the upgrades, and the loot isn’t worth a damn (the vendor caps out at +1 quality goods, even after beating the campaign).

That’s the thing about Necromunda: Hired Gun though: despite all these flaws the exciting bits are really damned good. For all the jank, for all the curious design decisions, whenever Hired Gun let me loose to kill a fuckload of gangers in the derelict domes of the Underhive it was a gleefully violent good time. The mobility, the guns, the abilities – whenever you’re able to bolt about and murder with impunity Hired Gun is at its best. It’s all the minutia surrounding the gunplay that bogs Necromunda: Hired Gun down.

Necromunda: Hired Gun isn’t short on issues, but it has plenty of redeeming qualities. I dunno if the game is worth the $40 price-tag quite yet – not until Streum On Studio patches some of the game’s most glaring issues – but it’s definitely the sort of shooter that’ll fill a weekend if you ever find it on sale. If anything, I hope Streum On is given a chance to put a sequel together. Hired Gun has the spirit; it just needs a little more focus and a king’s bounty of refinements.

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The Verdict

Despite all the jank and problems I had with Necromunda: Hired Gun, I still enjoyed playing it. Sure, there was always something that annoyed me. The game often wants to test your patience, but when it’s locked and loaded Hired Gun is an enjoyable first-person romp within Warhammer 40K’s Necromunda setting. When Hired Gun works it works, but I’ll be Throne-damned if it didn’t try to step on its own toes the entire time.

Necromunda: Hired Gun does have redeeming qualities. The movement is great, the gunplay feels good, and the environmental design is stellar. There’s simply a legion of issues on both the design and technical fronts working overtime to hold it back. If you are willing to overlook Hired Gun’s many problems and massive amounts of jank you’ll likely have a great time blasting gangers to bloody bits. But, I won’t fault you for waiting on a sale or sequel instead.

- This article was updated on:June 5th, 2021

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Necromunda: Hired Gun

  • Score: 3 / 5
  • Available On: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
  • Published By: Focus Home Interactive
  • Developed By: Streum On Studio
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • US Release Date: June 1st, 2021
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: "Necromunda: Hired Gun does have redeeming qualities. The movement is great, the gunplay feels good, and the environmental design is stellar. There's simply a legion of issues on both the design and technical fronts working overtime to hold it back. If you are willing to overlook Hired Gun's many problems and massive amounts of jank you'll likely have a great time blasting gangers to bloody bits. But, I won't fault you for waiting on a sale or sequel instead."
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