With so much lore behind Warhammer 40,0000 to unpack and various video games, books, tabletop sets, and more expanding upon its setting, it’s an intimidating series to get into, no doubt about it. So of course, I know next to nothing about the Warhammer 40,000 series… but after playing Boltgun, I definitely want to learn more. As a boomer shooter fanatic, I couldn’t pass up the chance to try out Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun for myself, and as it turns out, it served as the perfect introduction to the franchise. If you’re not looking to get invested in Warhammer lore but love a good shooter, I still encourage you to try out one of this year’s best shooters.
The Absolute Power Trip of Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun
While I admitted my knowledge of Warhammer 40,000 lore is sparse, it’s hard not to know about the legendary Space Marines. These hulking masses of human flesh are powered up with giant suits of armor and their signature chainsword. They pretty much annihilate everything in their path, and Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun expertly captures the feeling of being an unstoppable killing machine. Indeed, Boltgun‘s unnamed hero might just give the Doom Guy a run for his money.
I immediately noticed I felt a bit heavier than your average FPS protagonist. It makes sense, after all, because I’m clad in this bulky armor. The sound design, which is excellent across the board, captures the weighty footsteps of your character immediately. Starting with just a chainsword, you’re able to slash through these puny cultist enemies in no time, leaving nothing but bits of flesh behind. The chainword feels quite a bit like Doom 2016 and Eternal‘s brutal melee hits. Using this cruel weapon lunges you forward onto an enemy and saws away. Combined with your varied arsenal of Space Marine weapons, and you have a recipe for disaster for your foes.
The signature boltgun is the first gun you find, but it’s also among my favorite to use. The sound is satisfyingly powerful and obliterates smaller cultist foes, and even some of the stronger enemies in the game. As you progress through Boltgun‘s lengthy chapters, you’ll come across a diverse arsenal. There isn’t a single weapon that felt weak and each suited its own purpose in battle. The devastating effect these guns have on the various cultists, demons, Chaos Space Marines and more create a literal path of carnage in your wake. As was the case with your Space Marine’s heavy footsteps, the sound design on each weapon surpassed my expectations. The shotgun, likely the second weapon players will find in Boltgun, has one of the most satisfying sound effects I’ve heard in a while. When you reload, the empty shells from your shotgun fall out and create this metallic clink on the floor below. I really cannot emphasize just how satisfying this sound is.
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun’s Awesome Environments
All of this carnage takes place in some of the most immersive and creative environments I’ve seen in a boomer shooter. I didn’t realize just how awesome Warhammer 40,000‘s aesthetic was, with these giant, metal Gothic cathedrals and giant, grungy factories and spaceships. The mix of church-like scenery and grimdark fantasy and science fiction create a spectacle to behold. You’ll trudge across plenty of these cathedrals while slaying the forces of chaos, and every level was like a new surprise. You’ll also come across a desert-like environment during the second chapter and finish the third chapter in this giant industrial spaceship filled with a lot of surprises in store. It’s hard for words to do these levels justice, but these levels elicit the same feelings of awe I felt while playing one of my favorite boomer shooters, Amid Evil.
The environments you fight in are a mix of corridors, open environments, and some very creative arenas. One level, for instance, takes place on a elevator the size of several city blocks, and a few levels almost completely abandon the science fiction aspect of Warhammer 40,000 and make way for some sort of dark fantasy hellscape. The many arenas you’ll fight often contain different levels in elevation and avenues to take advantage of in a firefight. Combined with your impressive lunge forward (which allows you to traverse large gaps), levels are designed to take advantage of this. These levels are overloaded with tons of ammo, armor, and temporary upgrades for players to pick up, and temporary upgrades are hidden throughout to power up your weapons for a short duration or even during a whole level.
Some may say there are too many pickups scattered across these maps, for I never once felt starved for ammo. This must be, however, a very deliberate choice by developer Auroch Digital. While some boomer shooters demand players use ammo wisely and switch weapons frequently, Boltgun gives players an excess. To play into that ultimate power fantasy of being a Space Marine, I see it as the best choice Auroch could have made. You’ll have to tackle hundreds of enemies in a given level — from plague toads to armored Chaos fanatics and other horrible monsters — and some of them are quite powerful… but so are you. With these pickups in place, you’re able to continue that power fantasy without feeling overly weak — at least, on the normal difficulty.
Boltgun can, at times, be a challenge for players, especially when more powerful enemies start to crop up. Lords of Change and Great Unclean Ones will appear and humble you a bit, but I always prevailed in the end. This isn’t a downside to Boltgun, though I could see some of these scenarios being frustrating for some. I only have a few real complaints for Boltgun. The first is switching weapons when you have the plasma rifle equipped.
Boomer shooters necessitate players switch guns on the fly, and the plasma rifle, for whatever reason, doesn’t switch fast at all. For all guns except the plasma rifle, you can switch your gun in the middle of shooting or reloading. For whatever reason, the plasma rifle almost refuses to switch out and can really disrupt the flow of combat as a result. One other minor gripe is visible. Lighting in Boltgun can lead to some clarity issues in earlier levels, and with the retro filter on top of that, visibility can be low during combat. Turning down the retro filter didn’t seem to help, but adjusting the brightness a bit higher than recommended showed some improvement.
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun | FinalThoughts
The fantastic part about Games Workshop allowing so many developers and publishers to create games based on the Warhammer license is that you end up with an unexpected surprise. Despite my lack of Warhammer 40,000 knowledge, I am absolutely looking forward to learning more about the series. While I admit the story is sparse, the overall aesthetic with Boltgun‘s outstanding level design and addicting gameplay kept me hooked. Chaos better look out, because Boltgun doesn’t miss its shot.
Warhammer: 40,000 Boltgun was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the publisher over the course of 9 hours of gameplay – all screenshots were taken during the process of review.