Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun

20 June, 2023 - 11:29 am by
About 6 mins to read
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun is a fantastic example of a game exploiting the nostalgia for something that never actually existed. Its look and feel is exactly what late-thirties me feels that teenage me would have envisaged if told there was a Warhammer 40,000 set first-person shooter coming out in the mid 90s, right down to the main menu showing the game booting up from a felt-tip labelled floppy disk (ask your parents) on a flickering CRT monitor. It leans hard into the mislabelled boomer-shooter genre, down to the chunky 2D sprites, convoluted level design and red-blue-yellow key searches, but beneath the blocky pixels are some very 2010s game design touches that elevate this into something genuinely enjoyable on its own merits. 

At A Glance

Visuals7 /10
Sound8 /10
Positives+ Chunky Action
+ Great Audio and Soundtrack
+ Varied Weapons and Enemies
Negatives– Some Questionable UI Choices
– Lack of map may be disorientating
– Slow start
Price (When Reviewed)£17.99
Our Playtime12 hours
Version TestedPS5
Available OnNintendo Switch, PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One

In gameplay Boltgun borrows far more heavily from Doom (2016) than Doom (1993), despite the visual design. The game is fast paced, makes good use of vertical as well as horizontal spaces and frequently employs arena-style encounters against waves of hostiles before opening up the next exploration area. There’s also a similarly light touch to narrative; outside a brief scene-setting intro there’s some loading screen text for each level but otherwise it’s pretty much just environmental story-telling throughout.  

As well as the highly satisfying eponymous Boltgun there’s a great variety of weaponry present that all feels weighty and destructive, as well as meaningfully different. In a nod to the table-top roots of the setting enemies have a toughness value and weapons a strength value, so matching your firepower dispenser of choice to your target is advisable to ensure that you’re operating efficiently. You’re a space marine, a giant genetically modified super-soldier in power armour, and the game does a great job of making you feel like the walking tank that you are, but getting overwhelmed or running low on ammo through careless mis-management is all too possible, especially in those aforementioned arena areas. 

Enemy variety is also excellent, with a selection of cultists, chaos space marines and daemons turning up to offer resistance. They manage to be visually distinct and offer a variety of challenges, from the Horrors of Tzeentch which divide upon death to swarm you to the rather disgusting plague toads of Nurgle. Juggling a number of different threats and matching them to your own arsenal of answers provides a good challenge, engaging enough to keep you switched on but well paced and not so in-depth as to overwhelm. 

My one chief criticism of the game is some rather poor UI design. Health, armour (here quite brilliantly termed “contempt”) and ammo are all easy enough to track, but enemy toughness values can be hard to spot especially in the fast-paced combat encounters where it matters, and most infuriating of all (on PS5 at least) the grenade and sprint buttons (L1 and R1 respectively… maybe?) are shown on the screen the opposite way around to how they should be. The result of this is a good 50% of the time I’ve tried to sprint out of (or into) danger I’ve instead thrown a grenade, and then far too often sprinted into said grenade and blown myself up. Partly that might be my own brain tripping me up, but it still annoys a lot for such a small thing. 

There is also no map function, which some other opinions I have seen have found more of an issue than others. Personally I didn’t find it too much of an issue, but in general I have a pretty good sense of direction in video-game spaces. It seems an odd oversight, either way, and may be something to bear in mind depending on your own tolerance for getting lost and backtracking. I didn’t find any of the maps to be Dark Forces confusing, but there are a few labyrinthine moments. 

All of this adds up to a generally satisfying ultra-violent palette cleanser of a game; good for a 20-minute to an hour blast through when you’re not in the mood for something more meaty and just want to switch off your brain and blow daemons back to the warp for a bit. Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun has released on pretty much every platform, and at a decent budget price point, making it an easy recommendation to anyone who enjoys a solid action game, with bonus points if they think the genre peaked a decade ago or have a weakness for Games Workshop’s grimdark setting. It’s solid, unpretentious fun with a keen eye for the appeal of the 40k universe and a good grasp of what makes a good shooter tick. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I bought this.

Our Rating