Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun – Review

No one has been this angry at Chaos since Jack Garland in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. Get ready to purge the heretics as Warhammer 40k storms onto consoles and PC. The relevant term appears to be “boomer shooter“, a first-person shooter with retro stylings that liken it to Doom and Duke Nukem 3D and others. That said, I am not that old and Boltgun really appeals to the part of me that grew up with Quake and Unreal Tournament.

Shooting a Boltgun at a demon on a orange rocky battlefield

It’s loud, in your face and bloody… and frequently it’s loudly bloody in your face. The pixelation and limited colour palette give this one a distinctive art style. There’s something sumptuously nostalgic while being bold and fresh with enough modern sparkle and shine to make things pop. Enemies and their bloodied corpses are really well-done sprites within the 3D space, they feel appropriately old school but they never really flaked out and broke immersion. The details are lovely too as a second wave of nostalgia hits from recognising old Warhammer models and that wonderfully bold ‘Eavy Metal paint style. I also appreciate being able to adjust the “retro” in the menu with sliders for pixelation and colour palette.

Shotgunning a Raven winged demon in a temple

Gameplay is not overly complicated, there’s no aiming down sites or cover mechanics. Just you and your bolter, and a small arsenal of other familiar weapons such as plasma guns and heavy bolters. I started playing with some caution, ripping through cultists from a distance with my bolter but things really get going once you jump into the fray. Keep moving, keep shooting, and bring out your chainsword as needed or just if you’re feeling bloody. You can also charge forward and flatten lesser enemies with a satisfying squelch. The charge function is a nice addition and also handy for some platforming, which isn’t much of a necessity but does help you locate secrets. Secrets tend to power up your weapons temporarily like a good old-school power-up, however, there’s no detailed manual nowadays and no in-game explanation of what each power-up does.

firing a plasma rifle at a rotund demon in an industrial setting

Mostly stripping features back to a simpler time has truly paid off. Planning battles around available health and armour “contempt” pickups is still fun and seeing the modern enhancements to old-school graphics is super cool. The only place they really fall down is the lack of a map or waypoint marker. You do have a handy servoskull as a guide but they’re not super helpful, much preferring to point at the obvious ammo for your already fully loaded weapon than point out where the next objective is. Maybe this is payback for accidentally shotgunning it as it moved into my peripheral vision.

attack flying demons in a medieval town like setting

The environments are pretty incredible though, even if the layouts get confusing. The art style seems to force each area to be distinct and creative, whereas other 40K shooters seem to send me down one endless gothic corridor after another. There’s also a variety of foes that necessitate switching your weapons to deal with their armour, speed and/or attack patterns. Pretty early on you’ll come across some squishy cultists and some magical dayglo demons with the odd Chaos Marine and a rare, imposing Chaos Terminator.

Chainsawing a demon in the face

The levels themselves tend to take around 20 minutes to half an hour and there are three chapters full of them. Much more than I expected. Noted that some of my playtimes were extended due to getting lost and running in circles. There is some repetition to the “just go shoot things and find the exit” gameplay, but with new adversaries and a handful of distinct and iconic weapons, the only fatigue came from getting lost. It also helped that gunplay is just pure fun. You feel powerful as a Space Marine without feeling too clunky (although I did turn up the turning acceleration). Your weapons can shred through minions even in large numbers but some care is needed for the more imposing foes.

attacking a group of enemies across a ravine

Boltgun is a game that feels crafted with care by people that understand the source material and the genre. It absolutely nails the aesthetic and atmosphere I’d want for a 40k game while remaining distinctive and eliciting some of the best FPS-related nostalgia.

9/10 star rating

Publisher: Focus Entertainment

Developer: Auroch Digital

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows





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