Necromunda: Hired Gun Review

Hired Gun had a rocky release for Xbox on the first day. Framerate was low, turning left to right turned it into a stuttering nightmare, and the aiming with a controller was difficult due to PC-like lack of aim-assist.

The first patch is out, and things are really looking up.

Necromunda: Hired Gun is a first-person shooter, based on the Warhammer board game of the same name. The story is about a bounty hunter who stumbles into a series of double crosses between warring cyberpunk gangs and rusty royalty.

The game itself plays like a Titanfall – the player has augmented double jumps, wall runs, and slides to traverse towering edifices. During combat the player can call upon a number of different weapons from rocket launchers to pistols, a faithful cyborg mastiff to fight by their side, as well as a series of augments that can slow down time, grant super-human strength etc. Things get tougher as the levels progress and to alleviate the challenge there is a levelling and loot system.

The combat itself also lifts heavily from DOOM. Each arena has sludgy slabs of metal pounding over each encounter as the player flits across walls, dodging bullets and reducing shields so that they can perform brutal executions. Hired Gun encourages dynamic forward motion by awarding health if the player can shoot an enemy after they are hit and expects good use of evasive moves when the player needs to reload.

One of the highlights of this is a siege in which I had to hold off waves of enemies, as allies were reduced to ash around me. I was slowly forced further back into this decaying citadel into ever more cramped environments.

The levels drip with Warhammer 40K mood – there are collapsed gothic churches, ossuary-inspired cathedrals that drip with blood, and gloomy tunnels that are stagnant with alien goop. Every surface seems to have multiple layers of flaking rust, the whole world looks like it is barely holding together.

Problems arise when the game’s systems collide with this environment. Bent pipes and discombobulated geometry looks cool, but when this is combined with combat arenas that require a fluidity of movement, it is frustrating to backpedal away from powerful enemies only to snag some loose masonry and be brought to a standstill.

The gun customisation is another example of cool ideas clashing with each other. Hired Gun wanted me to care about loot but, in the same breath, told me loot is irrelevant because I could customise my way out of any rough edges on a gun. When a shotgun can become a sniper rifle with a few tweaks, and a sniper rifle can become a machinegun, what’s the point of finding new guns other than a damage meter going up?

The game tries to balance gun requirements with the different enemies it introduces – some are more susceptible to different types of damage (fire, electricity etc.) and others are incredibly weak to close range attacks. The problem is that Hired Gun does nothing to explain this and relies on trial and error on behalf of the player. When a group of 4 enemies can destroy all of a player’s health it communicates to the player that it is better to play with caution in every scenario. This is frustrating because I didn’t feel like I was fully exploring my options until the very end of the game.

This feeling of caution had a lot to do with the bugs. Already much better than the day one release Hired Gun really chugs along on the Xbox One X, with the framerate taking dips during frantic moments. The Xbox Series version takes advantage of the extra horsepower by looking nicer and staying solid throughout. However, both suffer from game crashes that occur around save points. I never lost any significant progress but there was always a moment of trepidation whenever I saw a little ‘saving’ icon. I’d like to see the instability addressed with another patch.

This is a game that is full of cool ideas and features, some shine incredibly brightly almost in spite of other design ideas placed next to them. I really enjoyed my time playing it but there were too many moments where I was unsure whether the developers were aware of what they had done, success by mistake if you will.

As credits rolled on Necromunda: Hired Gun I realised that I could walk around the hub level at the same time. I triggered conversations, upgraded my mastiff companion, admired some wanted posters…Then I tried to skip the credits and found that the A button prompt didn’t work.

This is Hired Gun in a microcosm.

Conclusion

Hired Gun is a game that punches above its weight in that it tries to take on too many things at once and struggles under the sheer weight of the number of ideas it introduces. In many ways it is better than its AAA peers because of its audacity, in other ways it is an example of a game that needed a few features cut.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Frenetic combat with nods to both Doom and Titanfall
  • Incredible levels and world design
  • That music when it kicks in
  • Rochenda Sandall is great as the female bounty hunter
Bad
  • The loot system feels unnecessary
  • The audio mixing is not great
  • There are a lot of crashes even post patch
7.4
Good
Gameplay - 7
Graphics - 8.5
Audio - 6
Longevity - 8
Written by
AJ Small is a games industry veteran, starting in QA back in 2004. He currently walks the earth in search of the tastiest/seediest drinking holes as part of his attempt to tell every single person on the planet that Speedball 2 and The Chaos Engine are the greatest games ever made. He can be found on twitter (@badgercommander), where he welcomes screenshots of Dreamcast games and talk about Mindjack, just don’t mention that one time he was in Canada.

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