Review – Necromunda: Hired Gun
Can you feel massively disappointed and betrayed with a game you knew nothing about prior to playing? I thought this wasn’t possible, but Necromunda: Hired Gun proved me wrong. In theory, this Warhammer 40,000 title had everything to become one of my favorite games of the year: a meathead first-person shooter featuring the ultraviolence, heavy metal, and glory kills from Doom, coupled with the wall-hopping mechanics from Titanfall. It sounds like a dream come true, but my god, this is one of the most broken and irritating titles I’ve played in a while.
Necromunda: Hired Gun is a fast-paced first-person shooter that focuses a ton of its resources with a bland story. Luckily, you can easily skip this, as it’s a tremendous waste of time. Long story short: you’re a bounty hunter living in a stereotypical haven for drunkards and mercenaries. The core gameplay loop is to accept missions in order to get more money to buy more equipment at the various shops at your disposal. Keep doing this until the (surprisingly short) story ends. To be honest, the story being as insipid as it is wouldn’t be an issue if the combat and level design made up for it. Which, of course, is absolutely not the case.
This might be one of the most broken first-person shooters I’ve played in years, and I’m not exaggerating. I was playing Aliens: Colonial Marines for kicks before tackling Necromunda: Hired Gun. To say that Gearbox’s disaster of a licensed shooter felt less egregious to play at times would actually be an accurate statement. Necromunda‘s decision to include elements from most fast-paced shooters in the market ended up shooting itself in the foot because these games only work thanks to their pristine levels of polish and stability.
For starters, Necromunda: Hired Gun is a console FPS devoid of aiming assist. That wouldn’t be an issue if the game was designed with large gun blasts and close-quarter combat in mind, but for some reason, most of its enemies start drowning you with bullets from hundreds of feet away. You will usually notice their presence only after they start shooting at you and then you’ll realize how hard it is to shoot back at them. The aiming is so faulty and the camera controls are so unpolished, that it’s legitimately easier to just rush towards your enemy like Leeroy Jenkins, holding down on the R2 trigger and hoping you’ll take them down before they do the same with you.
Second, let’s talk about the button placement. In 99.99% of shooters released over the past two decades, the Triangle button is usually assigned to changing weapons, right? That’s not the case in here. Instead, pressing that button will make you throw a grenade. R3, usually assigned to melee attacks, heals you. You crouch and slide with L3, which feels janky and out of place. Crouching is usually assigned to either R3 or Circle, but pressing the latter in Necromunda: Hired Gun makes you call your dog to help you out in combat.
Yes, Necromunda: Hired Gun‘s protagonist has a dog, and while he’s an adorable good boy, he’s borderline useless in this game. For some reason, however, he doesn’t necessarily follow you at all times during gameplay, even though the box art makes it look like he’s a much more integral part of the experience than he actually is. Pressing Circle makes you squeeze one of your dog’s toys, summoning him from the depths of the Kingdom of Random Pop-Ins. The mutt will materialize in front of you and will proceed to attack enemies in your vicinity until the game decides you’ve had enough fun with your pet, taking him back to wherever the hell he stays when you can’t call him.
The controls are also insanely glitchy. If you decide to use a rifle and play like rifle players usually do, holding down the R2 at all times even while reloading, you’ll notice that if you do so, you won’t be able to shoot again until you remove your finger from the trigger, wait an extra second after the reload animation has ended, and then proceed to press it again. Was this intentional, just to teach us the virtues of patience? Or was this just a weird glitch? I’m siding with the latter.
Furthermore, even menus feature glitchy controls, believe it or not. If you decide to navigate through options with the D-pad, the game eventually stops recognizing your inputs, forcing you to use the analog sticks instead. It happens every single time you’re in the pause menu, by the way. In more than two decades playing games, that’s the first time I have ever witnessed a glitch while navigating menus. You can call Necromunda a groundbreaking title when you think about it…
Do you think we’re done with gameplay issues? Nope! Another element Necromunda: Hired Gun borrows from Doom and Doom Eternal is the concept of glory kills. It’s nowhere near as polished in here though, as expected. You can perform them just like in iD Software’s game: you shoot enemies with your gun and once they have suffered enough damage, you can press the Square button (yes, the same button assigned to reloading your gun) to perform a very long and slow glory kill. Given the quality of the character models and animations, which we’ll talk about in a few, you can already imagine I only performed a takedown once or twice during the game. I had things to do and places to be, and I didn’t want to spend them being locked into an animation that looked clunkier than a Mass Effect sex scene.
Finally, to add an extra layer of salt to a bloody wound, the Titanfall-esque wall hopping mechanics are just awful. Not only is the level not ideal for such mechanics, being usually comprised of either cramped corridors or really large arenas where walls are way too far away to be considered useful, but they were also poorly coded. If you just so happen to be near a wall, you’ll automatically glue to it and proceed to do the aforementioned wall hopping like some sort of ninja gecko. When the game insists you to use it, however, it feels like the controls actively decide to troll with you and make you fall to your death halfway through a hop. The more you die during the mission, the less money you’ll get at the end of it, so you might as well restart it if you die more than once.
Necromunda‘s gameplay is atrocious, being by far the worst thing the game has to offer. Sadly, I don’t think that the game would have been a lot more fun if the gameplay wasn’t as bad. The level design is still a bit bland and the focus on storytelling only hinders the game’s pacing. Not a single character is either memorable or likable. Granted, I would have loved to see this game being released in a functional state gameplay-wise, but there are other issues in here, namely in the graphics and sound departments.
Visually, Necromunda: Hired Gun is a mixed bag. It can look impressive on occasion, as it features some high-quality textures, especially on your character and on your weapons, as well as some decent lighting effects. It does attempt to run at 60fps at all times, but it stutters whenever there’s too much action onscreen. With that being said, I expect a lot worse from the performance, considering how pitiful the gameplay is. As a side note, the game does feature a framerate counter if you’re a performance purist. I don’t think I have ever seen this being included with a console game before.
On the other hand, every single character model which isn’t the protagonist is hideous, with some enemies looking like models taken straight out of a PS2 game. They are also poorly animated, feeling extremely robotic, a feeling which is amplified by how terrible their AI is, making them look and act like malfunctioning robots. The game also loves to shove post-processing effects in your face as well, and they look as ugly as the aforementioned character models.
The sound design could, in theory, be Necromunda‘s biggest highlight, purely because the developers wanted to include a ton of original trash metal riffs whenever a battle ensued. In a way, the soundtrack is actually my favorite thing about the whole game, but it’s just… fine. It’s alright. There are good riffs in here, but they’re nowhere near as memorable as their main sources of inspiration in the gaming world.
Necromunda: Hired Gun suffers from one of the most botched cases of sound mixing I’ve heard in a game in a while. The dialogue volume can range from louder than a literal trash metal riff to virtually nonexistent at times. Sound effects will occasionally decide to show up for work or just give up on appearing at all. Your dog actually barks louder than rusty elevators and machine guns. Finally, enemies spit out one-liners every three seconds or so, but you’ll often hear them coming from the opposite side as to where they’re actually located in the map. Just like the rest of the game, it’s a complete mess.
I may have sounded a bit too harsh on Necromunda: Hired Gun, but that’s mainly because there was so much potential in here. This could, nay, SHOULD have been a killer action game had the developers had more time to fix its literal dozens of glaring issues and huge emphasis on (bland) storytelling. This game just wasn’t ready for release. Hell, it was barely ready to be considered a beta build of a AA title. I also don’t think patches can fix all of its problems. As it stands, this one just failed miserably in its delivery.
Necromunda: Hired Gun features some good textures and occasional decent lighting effects. Character models and post-processing effects are terrible, on the other hand. The framerate isn’t stable either.
The button placement is absolutely nonsensical, the aiming is downright impossible without any kind of assist, the framerate is unstable, and the game is riddled with glitches. Hell, even menu navigation is glitchy and unpolished!
The heavy metal soundtrack is quite good, and the voice acting is passable, but there are lots of issues regarding sound glitches and wonky mixing.
Necromunda: Hired Gun could have worked if it ditched its focus on storytelling and if its gameplay wasn’t so downright broken. There are signs of a good game in here, but this just wasn’t ready to be released at all.
Final Verdict: 4.0
Necromunda: Hired Gun is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and PC.
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of Necromunda: Hired Gun was provided by the publisher.