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    Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun review

    Boltgun is the first truly exceptional Warhammer 40,000 game since Dawn of War 19 years ago. An intense, retro-themed FPS in the stylings of Doom and Quake, Boltgun follows the “Sternguard Veteran,” a nameless, faceless soldier of the Ultramarines requisitioned by the conniving Inquisition and let loose on the traitorous Black Legion and their daemons. For the uninitiated, a Space Marine is a violently hateful silverback gorilla with the brain of a 14-year-old. What separates them from the average gym goer is the 10 tons of nuclear-powered armor they’re entombed within. Walking is a bit sluggish, but turn on auto-run in the accessibility menu and the Veteran becomes a bounding hulk of metal and flesh, a bunnyhopping tornado of pure carnage and zealotry. It’s one of the few instances where a licensed Warhammer game appropriately conveys the overwhelming power of a single Space Marine. 

    Need to know

    What is it? Warhammer 40,000 retro FPS

    Release date: May 23, 2023

    Expect to pay: $22 / £19

    Developer: Auroch Digital

    Publisher: Focus Entertainment

    Reviewed on: Windows 10, Ryzen R7 5700g, 16gb DDR4 RAM, Radeon RX 5700

    Multiplayer? No

    Link: Steam page

    $18.24Preorder at GamersGate$18.69View at Green Man Gaming$20.50View at Eneba US

    As both a 40K fan with a deep love of the older source material and boomer shooter veteran, I was thrilled to find that Boltgun excels as a tribute to the insanity of the 41st millennium and stands on equal footing with recent classics Dusk, Ultrakill, and Amid Evil. 

    Boltgun’s maps are typically linear corridors flooded with cultists and lesser daemons, funneling the Veteran into larger combat arenas where powerful champions and ascendant daemons lie in wait. Doom-style keycard hunting is kept to a minimum, but there’s some clever level design that’ll see you looping back through the grimdark industrial zones you’ve already purged.

    The scale of these levels can be beyond belief. A collapsing cliffside bastion early on boasts an array of mammoth gun emplacements held aloft by great wrought iron girders, the picked-clean corpses of the titanic warmachines that once carried them to battle slouched over in the distance. A discombobulating setpiece towards the end of chapter 1 threw me through a warp portal, where my ever-present servo-skull dutifully informed me that “geometry has now become non-euclidian.” I was caught in an endlessly looping blender of gothic arch bridges until I began to follow the patterns of candles, sigils, and sacrificial plinths that guided me towards an exit. 

    Both the occasionally haunting atmosphere and breakneck combat are reinforced by an incredible arrangement of sludgy guitars, thumping industrial beats, and monastic chants and harpsichords.

    What really impressed me is how organic it sounds—it’s like the beating industrial heart of the fascist Imperium of Man is being given musical shape. At its best Boltgun’s score sounds like Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine being played live at the Vatican.

    Clash at daemonhead

    The foes you stare down as one of the Emperor’s Angels are wonderfully varied. There’s a lot beyond the common Chaos Space Marines and Terminators, like the Aspiring Champion—a tanky melee fighter that’ll charge at you with a high-damage chainaxe. Sometimes death isn’t the end for these bruisers: after you put them down they can be brought back to life as a “Chosen of Chaos,” an enraged berserker able to deal near-instant death. Hilariously, this whole ritual can be bypassed entirely if you just dump your magazine into his corpse until there’s nothing left for the gods to resurrect.

    The real stars of the roster are the daemons of Chaos Undivided—these guys are like classic ’80s horror mooks pulled from a never-released Sam Raimi film. Lasgun to my head, my favorite are the Pink Horrors, which spawn two blue copies of themselves on death, which constantly managed to catch me off guard. Boltgun’s intense, frenetic combat was always pulling my attention somewhere else before I could finish the job proper. 

    Boltgun’s arsenal incorporates tabletop Warhammer’s “strength vs toughness” check, where a weapon’s strength value must equal or surpass the target’s toughness value in order to do meaningful damage. It’s simpler in practice—if a combatant boasts a high toughness value, shoot them with a big gun. The emphasis on weapon-switching echoes some of Doom Eternal’s pattern-recall based gunplay, with the only way to reliably penetrate the psychic field of a Tzeentchian Lord of Change being to rearrange their atoms with a strength 7 plasma gun.

    Still, It can be a little fiddly in the heat of battle to remember that the Vengeance Launcher (despite looking like it could tear through the hull of an aircraft carrier) is strength 3 and is best relegated to chaff-clearing duty.

    Warhammer 40K: Boltgun

    (Image credit: Auroch Digital)

    Still, Warhammer fans of all stripes will appreciate the attention to detail Boltgun manages to pack into its low-poly models. More than once I bounded past a blown-out wall or dashed through ruins that looked like 1:1 copies of the unpainted terrain languishing in my “to-do” bin. Entering the reliquary under the civilian “habitation block” (what a normal government would call a “city”) prompts the ever-present Inquisitorial servo-skull to gently remind you your every action and movement is being monitored, and that failure to perform the proper rituals will result in punishment. There’s even a dedicated taunt button that prompts the Veteran to snarl the kind of quotes you see on shirts while waiting in line at the hardware store.

    These little bits of detail and flourishes of stagnation, hate, and repression are all quintessentially 40K, and help to give Boltgun a sense of identity distinct from other Warhammer games. 

    Boltgun had won me over early on with an arena battle in a wide-open loading bay surrounded by gothic spires, the words “PURGE!” flashing across the screen in blood red. With full health and little ammo, I had to face down the mutant mob ahead with only my chainsword and shotgun. I died more than a few times, but the final gouging of my blade into a Chosen of Chaos really did bring back two of my favorite gaming memories—my first time clearing “Dead Simple” on Nightmare difficulty in Doom 2, and wiping my friend Adam’s left flank off the table at my local gaming store. 

    Warhammer 40 and ,000: Boltgun: Price ComparisonWarhammer 40,000: BoltgunGamersGate$18.24PreorderWarhammer 40,000: BoltgunGreen Man Gaming$21.99$18.69ViewWarhammer 40,000: Boltgun...Eneba US$20.50ViewView Similar Amazon USAmazonNo price informationCheck AmazonWe check over 250 million products every day for the best pricespowered by PC Gamer

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