Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun Review – Spritely Shooter

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun Review

While the brand might not be quite as ubiquitous as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Warhammer 40K has to be a close second. When it comes to games, there isn’t a genre that the Warhammer world hasn’t invaded. The latest entry in the parade is Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun, which asks: what if the early Doom and Quake games had been set in the Warhammer universe?

Gouts of Red Pixels

In Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun you play as a Space Marine. Your enemies are Chaos Space Marines and the rot-spewing Daemons of Chaos. This premise is just that, an excuse for the commander to send your character to towering fortresses and desolate, mountain landscapes oozing with pustule-covered Nurgle. The levels are relatively large. They often conclude with one of those cast-of-thousands, wave-based battles we remember from 90’s-era shooters. Along the way there are secret, treasure-filled areas to find and keys to locate, opening the next series of rooms.

Of course, the levels in Boltgun are a bit more complex than those of the OG first-person shooters. But they still rely on classic mechanics like health and ammo pickups and an escalating series of weapons drawn from Space Marines lore like shotguns, plasma rifles, and the titular boltgun. There’s also a pickup called Contempt, which gives your character an extra damage power-up. The levels are tuned to fast movement, not complexity for its own sake.

This is a retro shooter. You don’t need to worry about crafting, inventory management or stamina. In keeping with the retro feel and gameplay style, there simply aren’t many mechanics to get in the way of the fun. Kudos to Auroch for not stuffing 30 years of later shooter ideas into the game.

The Boltgun is Your Buddy

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun is fast-paced and, like the classics, doesn’t involve a whole lot of deep strategic thinking. Sure, some weapons do damage at a distance, while others ventilate enemies up close and personal. But this is a game about running and gunning and enjoying the blood-drenched show. Almost any weapon gets the job done in very satisfying fashion. At normal difficulty, Boltgun is something of a cakewalk, with only a few end-level battles being a real challenge. I’d suggest playing at one of the higher difficulty levels.

Where Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun really shines is in its synthesis of 90s shooter graphics and mechanics with more current tech. For a game that is ostensibly about honoring the past, it has a surprising number of graphics settings and visual effects. As so often with these kinds of projects, this results in a game that is probably close to what you imagined you were playing in the 1990s, when 3d shooters were brand new.

Boltgun includes the ability to adjust the look of the game via several retro settings. By increasing the retro palette color intensity and decreasing the pixel count, you can travel back to a time when pixels were the size of bricks. No matter how you play with the settings, the game runs at a solid 60fps. It’s fluid and polished. The hard-driving soundtrack is just what you’d expect from the marriage of Warhammer and Doom-like shooters. Weapon sounds are excellent and punchy.

A Tasty Treat

The Warhammer 40,000 universe is a good match for a retro shooter and Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun is proof that the concept works. Not every Games Workshop licensed game is a winner, but Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun crosses the finish line in style. It’s not deep or complex. Most of its core mechanics are decades old. But I had more simple, addictive fun with Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun than with many, more sophisticated shooters of late.

***PC code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Fluid, fun action
  • Classic mechanics
  • Good use of the 40K license

The Bad

  • Repetitive enemies
  • Not much story