The second videogame based on a Games Workshop franchise in a week’s time, Necromunda: Hired Gun is out now for Xbox, PlayStation and PC. After Age of Sigmar: Storm Ground, this time we’re checking out a first person shooter in the rich Necromunda universe – our test was done on a PS5.
While most the first party Games Workshop releases are of the tabletop/board game variety, the videogames that are based on them cover a wide range of genres – not just turn-based strategy, as the core material would suggest. This is partly due to the incredibly detailed lore that’s out there for pretty much every Games Workshop IP, and it’s surprising that we haven’t had a great story-driven first person shooter epic because of it. Does Hired Gun fit the bill?
Streum On Studio, the developer behind the game, is certainly no stranger to the concept – they were behind Space Hulk: Deathwing back in 2016, but as we pointed out in our review it wasn’t the game we were hoping for. Necromunda: Hired Gun takes place in an entirely different Games Workshop universe – one that we also visited digitally with Necromunda: Underhive Wars a few months ago. But while that was a somewhat faithful take on the tabletop mechanics, Hire Gun goes full FPS with its gameplay.
As a bounty hunter, you get a very different look at the Underhive, which is a dirty and shadowy part of Necromunda. This is especially interesting because Underhive Wave took the same setting, and the perspective change is an interesting one for fans of the source material. You’re there on a mission to kill a mysterious figure who’s being charged with murder (a good example of how justice is served in the world of Necromunda), but it quickly becomes clear there’s more to it than meets the eye.
With a sci-fi meets postapocalyptic kind of look and feel, the world of Necromunda: Hired Gun is one you instantly want to delve into and find out more about – though unfortunately the narrative delivery underdelivers in this regard. There are frequently hints that point at you being part of a much richer universe filled with lore, but you’ll only really interact with a handful of characters throughout the campaign. While you can definitely make a great shooter without interacting with a wide cast of people, the writing here isn’t strong enough to support the choice. In many cases, little story hooks that you want to get invested in don’t really lead anywhere, and Hired Gun ultimately left us wanting more.
And while Doom and Doom: Eternal aren’t narrative masterpieces with a strong roster of characters, the richness of the source material here makes it feel like a missed opportunity to differentiate. As it stands, Hired Gun instead feels like it wants to take the Necromunda formula and apply it to the Doom template. Expect to be constantly on the move, using verticality and zipping through scenes as you take out enemies with a mix of gunplay and melee finishers. As a fun twist, you at least get to bring a vicious robo-dog with you.
As a Doom-inspired shooter, however, Hired Gun feels a bit too generic and rough around the edges. The latter can be seen in lackluster AI performance (in both friendlies and enemies), sometimes poorly paced and/or balanced battles and locations that don’t always lend themselves to Doom-like gameplay because there’s not enough room to move around. That last part is a bit of a double-edged sword, as a large reason for this is that the world building is excellent and gives a nice grimy representation of the world of Necromunda.
Unfortunately, as with Deathwing, there’s also a lack of technical polish in Necromunda: Hired Gun. From visual glitches to two or three hard crashes, this is a game that needed more time in the proverbial oven. We started testing on the day of release as well, so it wasn’t that we were playing with pre-release code either. Ultimately, what starts off great as you step into a first person perspective that takes you to the Underhive ends up feeling like another unfulfilled promise of a great narrative-rich shooter in the Games Workshop universe.