Windows Central Verdict
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun is a fun and nostalgic gore-fest that will satisfy fans of the tabletop classic and retro first-person shooters. The fast-paced gunplay combat is challenging and enjoyable, with plenty of entertaining weapons for blowing enemies up. Its 2.5D pixel-art graphics are particularly gorgeous, oozing charm and adoration for the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
Fast-paced and gory combat.
Charming retro-style 2.5D graphics.
Quick-saving helps preserve pacing.
A vast arsenal of weapons and power-ups keeps it fresh.
Lacking controller input customization.
Bosses are tedious on harder difficulties.
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Games Workshop's world-famous tabletop wargame Warhammer 40,000 has been adapted into many genres of video games over the years. There have been strategy games that have stayed true to the tabletop game's strategic aspects, like the Dawn of War series and Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector. At the same time, others have attempted to use the grim and violent setting to create intense action games like Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine and Warhammer 40,000: Darktide.
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun falls more into the action-focused category with this take on a first-person shooter. What sets Boltgun apart is that this game evokes the visual aesthetics, gameplay, and tone of classic shooters from the 1990s, such as Duke Nukem 3D and Quake. I was immediately hooked since I love Warhammer 40,000 and DOOM.
Combining the over-the-top action, gothic architecture, and brutal setting of Warhammer 40,000 with the adrenaline-pumping gameplay and 2.5D graphics of 1990s-era DOOM games sounded like the perfect combo.
Thanks to the fine folks at Focus Entertainment providing an early review code, I could check out Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun to see if it would meet my expectations.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Focus Entertainment. The company did not see the contents before publishing.
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun: Art and performance
As part of its tribute to 1990s first-person shooters, Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun features a stylized 2.5D engine that renders environments with 3D polygons as the enemies you encounter are 2D animated sprites.
The presentation is expertly crafted with clean animations, conveying the gritty industrial and gothic horror environments of Warhammer 40,000’s tabletop setting while invoking nostalgia for the legendary first-person shooters it draws inspiration from.
In addition, Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun flawlessly runs at a 1080p resolution on Xbox Series X with a 60 FPS framerate to maintain the modern standards of graphic fidelity while preserving its retro presentation.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun|
|Install size||4.2 GB|
|Release date||May 23, 2023|
|Platforms||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC (Steam)|
|Average completion||14 hours|
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun: Gameplay
The premise of Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun is that you play as Malum Caedo, the Space Marine, a proud super soldier in service to the Imperium of Man. One day, you are called upon by the Imperium’s Inquisition to travel to the Forge World Graia to purge it of the forces of Chaos which have taken it over.
The forces of Chaos consist of heretics, cultists, traitorous Chaos Marines, and bloodthirsty Daemons who commit horrifying rituals and bloody massacres in the name of their Chaos Gods. If left unchecked, they will continue to wreak havoc across the universe, so you must eradicate them.
The story is about as basic as it gets and serves mainly as an excuse to drive the gameplay forward. While it may disappoint people looking for a richer narrative, it’s perfectly acceptable for the kind of game Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun aims to be. We’re not here for character development or in-depth stories but purely for the frenetic, bloody gunfights and purging Chaos scum. Not too dissimilar from the DOOM reboot.
The gameplay structure of Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun is chapter-based, where you must charge through massive levels to reach the end goal while slaughtering any Chaos heretics and Daemons you come across. Throughout Graia, you will find many health and shield packs to keep you in fighting shape during the mission, together with a large arsenal of weapons to collect strewn about the planet.
There are also secret areas in each level that house power-ups and special weapons, which can help you overcome the more difficult battles and boss fights found later in the game. These slight detours are rewarding as they offer tactical advantages for those who take the time to explore Graia’s grim and gritty environments. They also serve as a welcome relief from the chaotic gunfights.
Speaking of gunfights, it’s time we discuss the main selling point of Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun — the combat. Combat in this game is extremely fast-paced, chaotic, and brutal. If you’re not constantly on the move and lining up your shots perfectly, the forces of Chaos will tear you apart before you know what hit you, especially on the harder difficulty settings. Thankfully, the weapons you will gain on this journey pack enough firepower to help you even the odds.
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun’s weapons include the likes of the titular Boltgun assault rifle, the face-melting Meltagun, the grenade-spewing Vengeance Launcher, the explosive Plasma Gun, and more. In addition to ranged weapons, you can access grenades to clear out groups of enemies and a couple of melee attacks in case enemies get up close and personal.
You have a charge attack which enables you to shoulder tackle enemies out of the way to help you escape being surrounded. You also have the Chainsword, a chainsaw fashioned into a sword that lets you lock on to enemies and dash towards them to rip them apart by mashing its associated attack button, which has more similarities to DOOM Eternal.
On top of that, the hidden power-ups I mentioned earlier will grant you all sorts of temporary benefits like increased damage output, briefly slowing down time, extra ammo and shield capacity, infinite ammo, and more.
Combat can be overwhelming at first, as you’re constantly fighting dozens of enemies simultaneously. Still, once you get into the rhythm of running and gunning, it is a very satisfying indulgence. The controls feel tight and responsive, the sheer number of weapons to collect adds spice to the combat, and blasting enemies into piles of pixelated blood and gore is exceptionally gratifying.
The cherry on top is that this game features a quick-saving/loading system that instantly saves your progress at any point during gameplay. With this feature, you create personal checkpoints during battles and then instantly quick-load back into them in case things go wrong.
This feature is very welcome as it preserves the combat’s lightning-fast pace and prevents you from having to start a fight from the beginning if you die. Just make sure you don’t accidentally quick-save yourself into a corner. Otherwise, you must load from a manual save file or an autosave file instead.
My complaints about this game are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things but are still worth pointing out. For starters, the bosses can sometimes be tiresome to deal with on difficulty settings higher than Normal Mode. I was playing Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun on Hard Mode for the extra challenge and noticed the bosses had so much health that most of my weapons were barely making a dent in them.
The bosses practically demanded that I use the hidden power-ups to kill them efficiently without being overwhelmed by their minions. I still managed to beat them regardless after unleashing my entire arsenal on them but just be warned that you will be in for the long haul if you decide to tackle them on the harder difficulty modes.
My biggest issue comes from the game’s controls. While they are responsive, some button placements for sprinting, the Chainsword, and the shoulder tackle felt awkwardly placed for my tastes. I wanted to re-map the buttons for these actions to different places, but there was no option to customize your controller layout manually; all you get is a bunch of pre-set controller layouts in the options menu.
However, I did manage to find an alternate controller layout that felt a bit more comfortable than the default layout. While this isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, I still would’ve appreciated more in-depth options to personalize the controls to my specific playstyle fully. Perhaps using one of the best Xbox controllers with re-mappable extra buttons could remedy similar complaints.
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun: Conclusion
Overall, I enjoyed Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun. The combat was addictive and satisfying, and the retro art style was visual eye candy. Not to mention that there are some charming easter eggs and references to Warhammer 40,000 lore and other titles hidden in the game — showing that the developers at Auroch Digital poured in so much love and respect for the franchise when they made Boltgun.
If you’re a fan of Warhammer 40,000 who wants to experience the glorious power fantasy of being an unstoppable Space Marine or a fan of gory, action-packed 1990s-era first-person shooters, then Warhammer: Boltgun could stand out as one of the best Xbox games for you.
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun is now available after launching on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch on May 23, 2023.
Alexander Cope is a gaming veteran of 30-plus years, primarily covering PC and Xbox games here on Windows Central. Gaming since the 8-bit era, Alexander's expertise revolves around gaming guides and news, with a particular focus on Japanese titles from the likes of Elden Ring to Final Fantasy. Alexander is always on deck to help our readers conquer the industry's most difficult games — when he can pry himself away from Monster Hunter that is!