Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun is a self-proclaimed “boomer shooter”, and largely succeeds and what it sets out to do. It fills in the blanks for a Warhammer 40K game to exist in this genre. Aside from its unique position in this genre, it is a somewhat forgettable game. What’s surprising, is that Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun is fast-paced, contrasting that of the lumbering space marines we’ve come to know over the years. Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun manages to be a fun run ‘n’ gun through its universe using a fun set of weapons, and not much else.
The events of Boltgun is around the forces of Chaos, meaning that it focuses on the followers of the malevolent God and what they reap. While the story is rather shallow and straightforward, it thrusts you across the galaxy leading an investigation and fighting off the Chaos Space Marines. It’s not a terribly exciting campaign, but it is just enough to propel you forward across its three chapters. But like the 1990s, it’s light on story and heavy on shooting.
When you’re first dropped onto the first planet of the game, all you have is the trusty chainsword. It’s unsurprisingly a sword with a chainsaw attached. It definitely helps you get acquainted with the enemies and how melee can be used in combat. It’s especially helpful in making the first gun you get your hands on feel earned. That first gun is the iconic Boltgun, and despite the name of the game, there’s seven more weapons to wield. You’ll have acquired four of the game’s eight weapons by the end of chapter one. You’ve got a plasma gun that shoots like a rocket launcher, a shotgun, and a heavy bolter to name a few. Repeat reloaders rejoice as the game lets you do so without impunity. Each of the weapons you use have a Strength rating represented by a color arrow and “STR”, which helps you know if the weapon you’re using is effective as it could be for enemies. It’s a really smart system to let you rock, paper, scissors your way through engagements. Sadly, as you traverse whole chapters, your inventory is not carried over.
The game will often drop health and contempt, the game’s armor system. You are unlike other heroes in this genre, and both health and armor can be filled above two-hundred points each. There are some modern conveniences that WH40: Boltgun uses, like a mantling system as you jump across large chasms. Though a tried and true method, Boltgun employs the use of the colored keys system that goes beyond the standard red, yellow, and blue and uses variations on the system. It’s a retro shooter that knows what it is, but introduces new systems smartly.
There are three chapters with eight missions per chapter, and while the overall experience isn’t long, it doesn’t ever overstay its welcome. There’s no map to call up, and while the levels are rather linear, there were times I kept getting turned around that this would have solved. The aforementioned keys are a classic system to have, but more often than not, the keys are almost always located nearby. It tends to defeat the purpose of the keys with them being so readily close to the player.
At first, it seems that the early enemies made of papier-mâché while the chaos marines are made of tank steel. Then you’ve also got enemies at the start that act like tuskan raiders when they see you instead of shooting you. Thankfully this changes rather steadily, and there’s a good variety of enemies that explode upon death, fly over your head, or just are bullet sponges. If for no other reason than to hear yourself shout epitaphs, you can taunt during play. It feels very appropriate for a space marine to do.
I do find the overall challenge of the game to be pretty basic. On the normal difficulty, it wasn’t that hard to get through. So seasoned first-person and retro shooter players should ratchet it up one notch. There are four difficulties to choose from: low, medium, hard, and exterminatus. At the end of a level, you’ll be presented with a screen capturing time spent on a level, how many kills you got, secrets found, and what difficulty you played it on. Speedrunners and completionists will be interested in doing it better and faster like classic shooters promoted.
In playing the PC version, I did have one issue where I couldn’t disable the rumble in-game. Even disabling all controller support in Steam couldn’t stop it. I play mouse and keyboard, and the only thing I could do was unplug my controller every time I went to play the game. Hopefully in a future patch they can add something as simple as a toggle for vibration on the controller.
Most of the game’s music is rock, and works well for the era it is evoking. And then there are times the score is operatic and epic, perfectly fitting its gothic future that the Warhammer 40K universe is known for.
Admittedly, this retro shooter supports 21:9 natively, even if what it’s going for as a lost relic of the 90s wouldn’t allow for such things. As you’d expect, it looks and performs great, with a consistent and high framerate that doesn’t need to be mentioned. The game does future modern graphical effects like bloom, which is used nicely, but can be turned off if you’re a purist.
My PC Specs:
– Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
– Intel Core i9 13900K @ 5.8GHz
– ASUS ROG RYUJIN II 360 ARGB AIO Liquid CPU Cooler
– G.SKILL TRIDENT Z5 6000MHZ 64GB (32×2) DDR5 RAM
– ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4080 16GB GDDR6X
– WD_BLACK SN850X M.2 (4 TB)
– LG UltraGear 34GP950B-G (21:9 Ultrawide @ 3440×1440)
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun is a solid first-person shooter that captures the 90s era well, it’s hardly anything revolutionary. It’s a nice homage that does a solid job of making you feel like the game existed back then, but modern things like mantling, bloom, and 21:9 support give way to its immersion. The game is unapologetically Warhammer 40K, and the weapons and enemies are true to the source material. The Warhammer 40,000 Universe has nothing else like Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun , and that’s what makes it so distinct in the space and genre.
A Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes