Review: Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun Was a Great Idea with Middling Execution
I’ve been playing a lot of Warhammer 40,000: Darktide lately. Despite its flaws, it has great combat. One of my favorite weapons in Darktide is the boltgun—and right around the time I was discovering how satisfying it is to blow heretics into little chunks, the announcement trailer for Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun came to my attention. Its intersection of boomer shooter meets Warhammer 40,000 was intriguing enough, but the fact that it was all about the boltgun made it a must-play for me.
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun (Boltgun) is a first person retro shooter—or “boomer shooter” if you prefer. In it, you play as a Space Marine tasked with purging Chaos and its heretical followers. You really don’t need much more impetus to take out your chainsword and fight the corrupted forces of chaos. As a retro style first person shooter, Boltgun is about fighting hordes of enemies with a huge arsenal of weapons.
Combat in Boltgun feels great, and weapons in Boltgun have some serious power. I would argue it’s too much at once, but anything less wouldn’t deliver on the Boltgun promise. I was gibbing enemies from the moment I picked up the eponymous weapon. But it’s not just about the Boltgun – each weapon feels powerful to use. From the meltagun to the heavy bolter, there was not a single disappointing firearm, with each feeling like it had its place in the arsenal. And,if you run out of ammo, or just want to get up close and personal, you always have your trusty chainsword.
Boltgun also features a pretty good variety of enemy types — from those that will stay back and take shots at a distance, to enemies that will intentionally try to get in your face. Some of the larger enemies felt like bullet sponges, but there were never too many of these — and they helped keep the pace of fights interesting.
Boltgun is at its best when you’re in the thick of combat. I appreciate the occasional lull to break up the action, but I often found myself getting lost in Boltgun’s levels. Unfortunately, the level design in Boltgun isn’t always good. Some of the levels can be frustrating to navigate because of the sameness of the textures and corridors, which is especially frustrating with the lack of any sort of map. And while looking for color coded keys to open like-colored doors is a staple of retro shooters, this was leaned on too heavily in Boltgun.
Despite Boltgun’s occasionally frustrating level design, there are visual set pieces and vistas that really sell the Warhammer 40,000 experience, and make Boltgun a pretty game. There are some settings that you can tweak to make Boltgun even more visually appealing, though, including a retro slider that allows you to adjust just how retro and/or pixelated you want your game to look. Even with the retro visuals turned down all the way, Boltgun still looks retro—just as if you were playing it on a really good computer in the mid to late 90s.
While I enjoyed my playthrough of Boltgun, I was waiting for the game to show me something new or even just something different. Other retro styled shooters have done a great job keeping me engaged beyond simply shooting endless waves of enemies. That said, I really loved the combat, and it ticked a few retro shooter boxes for me. However, its level design is often boring, and occasionally frustrating. There’s a lot to like about Boltgun, but not enough to make me want another playthrough. If you want to slay heretics in the Emperor’s name and can look past a few minor flaws, you’ll probably enjoy Boltgun.
Boltgun is available today on Xbox One and Xbox X|S, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 as well as for PC via Steam.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review.