Shooting Almost Straight

HIGH Getting a grappling hook during a train level.

LOW A big emphasis on unnecessary RPG elements.

WTF Seeing trash mobs materialize right before my eyes.

I know very little about Warhammer 40,000, and even less about its Necromunda spin-off. What I do know is that whoever decided that it would be a fit setting for a fast-paced, Doom-style FPS deserves a promotion. It’s an impossibly industrial world where molten iron pours out of seemingly every orifice in the environment and everyone dresses like they’re Mad Max extras. Of course gunfights regularly break out while heavy metal blares on the soundtrack. It would be more surprising if they didn’t.

Necromunda: Hired Gun is what we call a ‘AA’ game, meaning that it doesn’t have the financial backing of a massive publisher, nor does it have the narrow, refined scope of an indie release. Screenshots make it look comparable to anything else on the market, but in motion, the animation is lacking, the framerate tanks when the action gets even the slightest bit hectic – which, as one may guess, is most of the time – and the cutscenes are one step up from a motion comic.

I understand that these things are a turn-off to many people, but anyone who’s willing to look past a lot of jank may be won over at times by Hired Gun’s manic energy and fantastically realized setting. It may be unpolished, but it gets plenty of things right.

With the 2016 Doom reboot as clear inspiration, Hired Gun wisely focuses on fast movement and verticality. Double-jumping, wall-running, air-dashing and a full-on grappling hook are all available either right out of the gate or soon afterwards, and arenas are often multiple stories in height, openly encouraging us to take full advantage of our character’s mobility. There are so many ironsights trained on us at any given moment that the best defense is to stay on the move, and the resulting combat owes as much to character action games as it does to traditional shooters.

All of Hired Gun’s best elements come together in just the second mission — a train level, which is one of my favorite tropes. The train itself is massive (each car is the size of a building) and when we’re battling on its undercarriage, sparks from the track fly up all around us. It’s dazzling and cathartic, and Hired Gun sings in instances such as these, when the arenas are massive enough to let us move around and the ammo is as plentiful as the enemies we can use it on.

Where developer Streumon Studio stumbles is in its insistence that Hired Gun be about more than just action. Their most famous release is E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy, a shooter that leans heavily on an immersive sim angle. Hired Gun is not that type of game, as outright violence is the only solution to any given problem, yet Streumon couldn’t quite work up the confidence to shed some of the RPG elements that only disrupt the pace of an otherwise wildly frenetic ride.

There is, for example, an almost live-service-esque abundance of excessive loot. Players can expect to end every mission by sorting through a mountain of extra guns and gadgets, often with inconsequential variations in stats. That they’re categorized with weird terms like “long las” and “heavy stubber” is something I can chalk up to my general unfamiliarity with Warhammer, but even once I knew which guns were which, the occasional rush of finding something genuinely cool was offset by the tedium of figuring out what I was keeping and what I was selling. It’s a level of inventory management that I don’t want in an experience like this.

Hired Gun also provides too many customization options, and they’re all just boring stat adjustments – plus two here, minus three there. No shooter fan wants to spend time worrying about whether a bolter needs an extra pip in range or penetration, and I certainly don’t need to be brought back to the hub between every mission to test out new guns, purchase abilities I’ll never use, and stand around getting updates on a story that I don’t care about. I’m a bounty hunter. I’m collecting bounties. No need to give it any more time than that.

I tend to obsess over the Doom reboots, but with good reason – they make a good case for the purity of a shooter like this. If there’s a way to elevate the formula to something more, Streumon doesn’t accomplish it – all of this unnecessary cruft just bogs the whole thing down.

This excess baggage is disappointing because Hired Gun is such a blast in the many instances when it gets out of its own way and allows the player to let loose. I could bring up nitpicks with the encounter designs, such as the boss battles in which trash mobs will literally materialize out of thin air (seriously, if a boss must have adds, then at least spawn them while I’m looking away), but when it’s rolling, it radiates the sort of over-the-top energy that I’m still so happy to see back in the mainstream light after a generation or two of every shooter trying to be Gears of War.

Hired Gun seems to have unique problems on every platform – I personally suffered from a memory management issue that crashed the game multiple times – but I’m past the point of focusing criticism for small games on technical infidelities that’ll likely get fixed over time anyway. I’m more concerned with Streumon honing their craft. They have the right attitude and the perfect setting — they just need to ditch the baggage.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Streumon Studio and published by Focus Home Interactive. It is currently available on XBO, XBX/S, PS4, PS5 and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately ten hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Blood and Gore and Intense Violence. Loads of gun violence and explosions here, and limbs and heads are frequently blown off. Not at all for kids.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The HUD does a barely passable job of indicating where danger is coming from in the heat of the moment, but the action is often so hectic and all-encompassing that I rarely found directional sound to even make that much of a difference in how I played. It’s accessible, but not great.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

Mike Suskie
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2 years ago

100% agree with this review, although I think I might have been a bit kinder to it in the end.

Hired Gun feels like a game that has too many ideas and not enough polish on anything. Still, I’d love to see a sequel.

How did you like the voice acting, and did you play as the woman bounty hunter?