Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun is a great example of bringing modern technology to bear on old-school ideas. This is a boomer shooter that looks like it was made for boomers – we’re talking the cool ones that were rocking 486s and Pentiums – but while it might be dressed like a retro shooter in the vein of Quake and Unreal, this is a 4K, 120fps FPS frag-fest that zips along with a brutal amount of speed and aggression. Add in the Warhammer 40K license, and you’ve got a winning, and unabashedly punishing, formula.
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun has you in the hulking metal armour of a veteran Space Marine and sets you on the path to piety by purging worlds of heretics, daemons and the agents of Chaos. Warhammer 40,000 has always offered its science fiction setting and tabletop gaming with a side order of brutality and gore, and Boltgun settles itself firmly into this territory within moments of you crash-landing on the planet.
You begin with a chainsword – one of the coolest weapons in a Space Marine’s arsenal – and all it takes is a quick rev of its motor to launch yourself at the nearest enemy and turn them into red spongy bits on the ground. Tougher enemies might need a few goes, but if you run out of ammunition it’s a capable backup to have to hand.
It’s onto the ranged weaponry soon enough, and as you’d expect you’re gifted a titular Boltgun to begin with. This gruesomely powerful weapon has much the same mushy transformative powers as the Chainsword, but you can be a bit further away this time. Weapons in Boltgun feel incredibly powerful, with tangible weight and a cacophony of sound effects each and every time they’re fired. Your arsenal expands as you progress, but as standard weaponry goes, you can’t beat a Boltgun.
If you’ve played Warhammer 40,000: Darktide in the last year, then Boltgun can feel like a pixel de-make at times. The way the universe of 40K has been captured feels very similar, and of course the shared weaponry and enemy types mean that it’s a constant battle for your grey matter. Boltgun does forge its own way with its blistering speed, though, and the inhuman tenacity with which your Space Marine wades into battle.
I also love the aesthetics here. It looks like you’re playing something in 1998, but it has the feel of a 2023 shooter. Movement is fluid, weaponry changes are rapid, and everything you do feels unequivocally powerful, taking as much inspiration from the modern Doom entries as it does the sprite-based original.
You can add the pounding soundtrack into the mix as well. The high-octane mix of heavy metal and electronica helps to keep you on edge, reflecting the insane pace of the gunplay and the gore-filled results of each and every action. If you’re looking for an adrenalin hit, Boltgun has you covered.
The commitment to ‘the bit’ means that Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun stays true to its old-school shooter roots, with very little signposting, apart from the occasional spot of yellow marking to show you can climb up through an area. Otherwise, you’re left to your own devices. The same goes for storytelling, which extends to your servitor’s asides, short loading screen introductions to each area and the occasional cutscene. It doesn’t hurt it, but there were times where I yearned for a little more explanation.
You’ll likely know from one screenshot whether Boltgun is going to be for you, and while it’s a glorious homage to the shooters of old it offers few further surprises beyond the nods to modernity.