Developer: Streum On Studio
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platforms: Xbox Series X , Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC (Reviewed)
Release Date: 1 Jun 2021
Price: $59,95 AUD – Available Here $39,99 USD – Available Here
A hitman. Bounty Hunter. Hired Gun. A lot of names for one job but they all require the same. Get a target, find a target, eliminate the said target. Do all of that and a hefty payment will soon be transferred to your account. It is a dangerous and rewarding job with a high death rate and no health insurance. Yet, many folks are attracted to it. Especially in video games (obviously no one is going to advertise it in real life), so much that there are some games with all of the gameplay and story revolving around it. Necromunda: Hired Gun puts us in the shoes of such a bounty hunter and expects us to make it all the way to the end. We just might be good enough to make it, but is the game also good enough to be deserving of our time? That’s the main question.
One thing (out of the many) that makes this game stand out is that it’s set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. You take the role of one unnamed assassin in Necromunda, one of the many densely populated hive worlds. It is a place where millions live and die every day. A place riddled with criminals, outlaws, scavengers, and mutants. A perfect place to be a bounty hunter, really. The story is thrown in bits and pieces at you and it only serves as an excuse for you to bag bodies. The main factions in Necromunda: Hired Gun that you’ll encounter the most are House Orlock, House Goliath, and House Escher. The first one is what would happen if you gave steampunk cosplayers a weapon and you’ll see a lot of them at the beginning of the game. Members of House Goliath are huge, bulky and they wield (as expected) heavy weapons. And lastly, House Escher is an all-female gang armed with plasma weapons and they have a thing for various psychoactive substances that might or might not be all legal.
As you might expect, the premise in Necromunda: Hired Gun is pretty simple. Find a target, bag a target, get paid for the said (now probably dead) target. While the premise is simple, to the road to all that is anything but. Usually, between you and the target stands a small army made of scavengers and various gangs. You can see how it feels like to be a scavenger by blasting them in the face and then search their corpses (almost everyone has something on themselves). Or just run past them. Well, I should put “run” in quotation marks since there is no dedicated sprint button but your character moves incredibly fast. So fast that sometimes you will be able to zoom through the large sections of a level without most of the enemies even noticing you were there. Throughout the levels, you also have not-so-easy-to-spot treasure chests that will reward you with a new piece of armor or a gun. Oh, guns! Let’s talk about guns. The customization system for guns is Necromunda: Hired Gun is something else. Play long enough, earn credits, buy various attachments and that garbage shotgun from the start of the game can now paint the walls red in a few seconds. There are no weak weapons or strong weapons here, every gun can eventually be turned into a genuine force of destruction. Or you can just sit back, push the takedown prompt in front of the enemy and watch how the gruesome animation plays out. And that was the part where I started to notice some things. Unpolished, unrefined things. Something that might have flown under the radar during the development. First of all, pretty soon I noticed that takedown animations make my character immune to all sorts of damage (enemies might shoot at you but nothing will happen). This can be obviously exploited to a great length. Another (and somewhat hilarious) thing is the speed of my character. You move faster than most of the enemies by default which also impacts their aiming skills. A lot. Make no mistake, it’s easy to die in this game even on the lowest difficulty – as long as you play fair. If that’s not your thing, then zooming around the enemies and using takedowns as a guerilla tactic will get you far.
When I say Warhammer 40,000 universe, what kind of setting comes to your mind? Something dark and gloomy, I bet. You would be right. However, the crew from Streum On Studio did some impressive magic with what was given to them. The environments in Necromunda: Hired Gun are a mix of steampunk and industrial revolution with a color palette that should simply be called 50 Shades of Brown. What saves the visuals here is the incredible details put in the background of every mission and mission hub that you’re in. Every piece of gigantic machinery that you see is on the move. There is molten steel, machine oil, and dirt everywhere you look. Every structure you see (and enter) is colossal which gives you an overwhelming sense of insignificance and that whatever you do in this game won’t really have any effect in the grand scheme of things. A feeling that goes really well with the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
The main culprit for the incredible OST in Necromunda: Hired Gun would be Olivier Zuccaro, a sound designer from Streum On Studios who already made a name for himself working on titles such as E.Y.E Divine Cybermancy, House of The Dying Sun, and Diaspora. The soundtrack here often switches from loud industrial riffs to heavy ambient drums that only serve to amplify the feeling of dread and unease. The music in this game is something that I expected to only serve as an insignificant backdrop to all the gunplay, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. Tracks like “The Harder They Fall” and “Warp Infused” will surely infuse you with some adrenaline during the intense corridor shootouts.
While Necromunda: Hired Gun might be rough around the edges sometimes, the good here definitely overshadows the bad. This is a fast-paced first-person shooter with a surprisingly deep customization system for your guns, a great soundtrack, and a trusty dog that will save you from a clutch more times than you would expect. Wait, I didn’t mention the dog yet? This is what it’s called “saving the best for last”. Your cyber mastiff is there to mark enemies for you, attack them occasionally and he even has its own upgrade tree. In my headcanon, he is the reason why I’m doing this whole bounty hunter gig. I mean, if I can have an excuse for going on a murderous rampage in a video game, it might as well be “I’m doing it for my dog”.
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