For context a bit of a history lesson is in store before we can properly talk about Necromunda: Hired Gun, starting with its developer Streum On Studio.
This French indie outfit was also responsible for 2017’s Space Hulk: Deathwing a game that really impressed when it came to recreating elements of the Warhammer 40K universe, but failed in just about every other aspect with gameplay, audio, performance and stability all left undercooked and the game a slog to get through.
Necromunda: Hired Gun is another crack at things as it’s also based on a Warhammer 40K property, this time the titular Necromunda, a Hive World. For those new to 40K (and don’t want to read the wiki entry we linked to) a Hive World is a planet-sized factory whose main exports are items for the eternal grim dark war of the universe, and misery. Think of it as every sci-fi cautionary tale about dystopian, crime-filled mega cities rolled into one.
With a new setting and promising trailers showing off improvements across the board, did Streum On impress with a second chance at things? As you may have gussed by the headline… not really.
Loading up Necromunda: Hired Gun for the first time and it’s very clear that it’s the same developer as Space Hulk: Deathwing. The visuals are improved over the previous entry, but there’s an artistic continuity that’s familiar, as is the rather jank nature of how things look, feel and sound.
Even in the opening cutscene there’s choppy audio, weird cuts, erratic animation and a general sense of instability in how things are presented – all portents of things to come.
Out of the cutscene and into gameplay and things smooth out a bit. The player character will put Doomguy to shame in the sheer speed this lad achieves while walking around. The character movement and shooting actually goes rather nicely as you’re tutorialised and you’re introduced to the movement as well as combat and your companion the cyber-mastiff, an augmented dog that can scout and attack enemies.
After this we’re back to cutscenes and story telling which, again like Deathwing, is utter wank. We’re massive fans of Warhammer and Warhammer 40K here so we’re used to the absolute pulp nonsense of this universe but Necromunda: Hired Gun takes it to the next level of “oh my god we don’t care”.
Between all the presentation problems combined with bad writing and even worse voice acting and the story is such a non starter that we’re only mentioning it so people can feel free to skip the cutscenes. Something gang war something betrayal something MacGuffins something something something.
Just load up the levels and kill anything that moves.
Next you are forced to learn about the loot mechanics in the game as there’s very little actually explained to you with only loading screen tips giving you any idea.
To simplify killing: enemies drops money and loot but the big source of the latter is in chests that the player will need to access off the beaten path. The levels in this game are hilariously big to make up for the fact that the player can scale the highest mountain in a second with their combination of speed and tools like a grappling hook.
The problem is that the loot is not only boring, but also not surprising. You will see and be able to use every single weapon in the game from within 30 minutes in and unlocks as you go are just the smallest upgrades on this limited pool.
Things are mixed up a bit with customisation with guns, the player and the cyber-mastiff all able to be upgraded. The guns get extra love as their individual parts can be swapped out.
We’re not paying by word to host this review but we could write another 1K article about this weird weapon system and why it doesn’t work at all. To save you some time it’s best to say that there’s some good ideas here – the developers obviously added in a lot of gun stats to allow players to experiment and choose how they want to play.
The problem is that certain things are broken, like how you can spec into high damage hip firing but the animation is so screwy that it becomes unplayable from a visual point of view.
It’s also broken because there’s very clearly an optimal way to play the game. Because a big part of combat in this game is healing by way of damaging enemies, the best way to play is just to choose the gun with the highest magazine size. This is because you can keep shooting – and healing – for longer.
Other guns with smaller mags and / or lower rates of fire are almost useless because of how quickly you lose health while reloading.
When your looter shooter is solved and becomes stale within the opening couple of hours you know something is wrong.
Speaking of hours Steam says we spent around 10 hours in Necromunda: Hired Gun, but we’d say around a quarter of that is optional side missions to earn extra money so we could experiment with upgrades.
Except we wouldn’t recommend anyone does that, as the side missions are copy pasted segments of the main story with minor changes. Farming for credits or loot is top tier mindless especially as loot chests, enemies and other factors remain the same each time you play.
And that’s assuming you can play without crashing. We played on PC where performance was decent on our aging rig, an RX580 8GB, 16GB of RAM and a Ryzen 5 3600 with mostly medium settings. The problem came from crashes instead. In the 10 hours we had eight crashes. Eight! Four of those were hard lock ups during loading and four were crashes to the desktop complete with Unreal Engine popups prompting us to submit the crash reports.
This game is not devoid of merit. The art design, like Deathwing, is amazing and it’s clear that these developers have a deep love and respect of Warhammer 40K. There is some mindless fun to be had turning on the auto aim upgrade and wiping out an entire squad of bad guys before our 80 round drum magazine runs out, and if you like your FPS games fast this must be one of the fastest out there.
But it’s just not enough. Mistakes from Deathwing have been repeated along with countless more new ones. Love or hate Gearbox but they cracked the looter shooter code more than a decade ago with the original Borderlands in 2009. To see a new game, even from a much smaller studio, not grasp the fundamentals is a real shame.
Even if you’re a 40K die hard, give this one a miss.
Necromunda: Hired Gun
Necromunda: Hired Gun is a mess. It's severely lacking in direction and polish and should not have been released as is. This game should be an Early Access title with a 1.0 promised at least a year in advance with player feedback.