Warhammer 40K: Boltgun has taken the boomer shooter genre by storm. Boltgun combines the run-and-gun combat of classic DOOM titles while successfully encapturing the power fantasy of being an Ultramarine.
While there are some glaring issues that keep it from being a perfect game, Boltgun is a fantastic experience for all Warhammer 40K fans and new and old boomer shooter fans. In our review of Boltgun, we’re diving deep into many different categories that comprise this retro-FPS game to help you decide if Boltgun is worth it for you.
The Story of Boltgun
Boltgun takes place in the Forge World Graia several years after the events of Warhammer 40K: Space Marine, where the player takes on the role of Malum Caedo, a veteran Space Marine of the Ultramarines chapter sent by the Inquisition to clean up the mess left behind on the planet while investigating further threats.
The game quickly kicks off with a brief introduction while Malum Caedo and his squad are sent down to Graia, and their drop pod is damaged during the descent and crashes on the planet’s surface, leaving Caedo as the sole survivor.
After that brief introduction, your only given story updates at the end of each chapter, of which there is three total. This leaves the impression that Boltgun is here to win you over with its gameplay; for the most part, it succeeds!
What is otherwise a solid introduction leaves more to be desired from what little plot Boltgun has. The storyline in Boltgun is one of its weak points that is something we’ve come to expect more of in the best Boomer Shooter games. We were a bit sad to see this in our review of Boltgun. However, the game does have many great elements, so read on!
The Power of a Space Marine is Showcased in Boltgun
Space Marines are notoriously known for being superhumans, capable of achieving feats that only their rare breed can accomplish with a long list of physical enhancements such as 19 new organs that include two hearts, three lungs, and a towering, muscular physique that make a typical human look like a dwarf when standing next to a Space Marine. The weight of their Power Armor is over 250 lbs, and still, these Space Marines can enter into a full sprint and perform leaps and bounds effortlessly.
Boltgun perfectly captures this feeling of walking in the shoes of a Space Marine. With each step, you feel Malum Caedo’s weight as each step is accompanied by a loud stomp, invoking a sense of power from merely walking or running.
This is something we thoroughly enjoyed. Warhammer 40K is a universe that fans love to immerse themselves in, and Boltgun did not disappoint in this regard!
The Arsenal of a Space Marine
It wouldn’t be a boomer shooter if we didn’t mention the game’s awesome guns. After all, it’s the name of the game. Unsurprisingly, the first weapon you obtain is the Boltgun, a massive firearm that shoots rocket-propelled .75 caliber bullets, each with an explosive charge inside.
Your First Weapon is Awesome, and It Just Gets Better from There
Shooting a self-propelled bullet the size of a large soda can at your enemies and watching lesser Hertitics explode in one shot continues to elevate the power fantasy of being an Ultramarine. Aside from your trusty Chainsword, which can cut nearly any foe into pieces, the Bolter is the weakest weapon in your arsenal. That’s right, the weakest.
Shotguns that shoot armor-piercing rounds, Plasma Guns that shoot balls of plasma at temperatures equivalent to the sun, and much more await you in each daemon and heretic-infested level.
If you are looking for a game that has awesome gunplay with powerful weapons, then Warhammer 40k: Boltgun is for you!
Movement and Gunplay Reviewed in Boltgun
Now that we have described the capability of what a Space Marine and their guns can do, does Boltgun live up to that fantasy? Absolutely. Like any run-and-gun boomer shooter, your movement and guns are everything. Maneuvering around each stage with Malum Caedo’s thundering footsteps and thundering gunfire not only feels great but sounds great as well.
However, even game’s fantastic combat has few flaws. From turning yourself into a human battering ram by charging into your enemies, cutting them apart with your Chainsword, or blasting them apart with your devastating arsenal, combat feels quick, fluid, and powerful.
No matter what weapon you use, you feel the weight in pixel sprite animations, the sound, and what remains of your enemies.
The Sounds of War
Boltgun has fantastic sound design and some good music, but some areas are great, while there are a few minor complaints. Firstly, moving around as Malum Caedo sounds and feels great; from walking to going into a full sprint, the sounds and thumps underneath each step are great.
Every gun you use sounds great and has a wonderful weight behind each blast. Malum Caedo also has a taunt button, which has a surprisingly long list of lines, some of which even make references to Captain Titus from Warhammer 40K: Space Marine.
Taunting Isn’t as Awesome as We Would Like (Only a Minor Complaint)
However, while it is a minor complaint, the taunt button can only be used while not firing. It’s great to hear an Ultramarine speak and taunt the enemies of the Imperium, but we wish there were more conversation, boasting, and shouting. In comparison, Deep Rock Galactic has a taunt button as Boltgun does, but the characters constantly talk without needing a button input.
It seems incredibly odd not to have a solo Ultramarine curse and shout back and forth between the traitors and daemons he is fighting. It’s a minor critique, but it would add another layer of personality and immersion to Boltgun.
Review of Boltgun’s Combat Flaws
There are a few minor issues with combat, but most won’t matter to you unless you are a boomer shooter veteran. Firstly, there is a lack of feedback whenever you take damage. In Boltgun, there is no sound or on-screen indication whenever you take damage until you get to extremely low health. This is something we had to highlight in our Boltgun beginners guide and tips. Without the feedback, we expect many new players will get themselves into too much danger before they notice.
For comparison, DOOM 1 & 2 caused your screen to flash red, and Doomguy grunts each time you take damage. This lack of feedback is one of the few frustrations that Boltgun’s combat has.
Secondly, the Plasma Gun is the only gun you have to wait for the entire animation to finish before firing. This often leaves players with a few different choices, avoid using the Plasma Gun, dedicate every Machine Spirit upgrade to fix its negative downsides, or play more passively when using the gun. This might not have been an issue if every gun was like this, but seeing only one has this downside is strange. We think this may be patched or updated sometime after our review of Warhammer 40k: Boltgun.
It’s known that Plasma Guns generate an immense amount of heat, and they require constant pressure venting to avoid exploding in the user’s hands, but having the ability to swap weapons and let the Plasma Gun cool that way wouldn’t be a detriment to the gameplay flow.
Heretics and Daemons
There are plenty of enemies to purge in Boltgun. Recently Warhammer titles have taken a massive liking to the Chaos God, Nurgle, and his followers, putting them in nearly every recent game as the main enemy you fight next to standard cultists.
We are happy to have found in our review that while that is the case for Boltgun, the roster of Nurgles daemons has grown, meaning you will have to fight Nurglings, Plague Toads, and more alongside cultists and even Chaos Marines.
While there isn’t any presence of Korn or Slaanesh, Tzeentch’s forces and corruption are here, which is a pleasant surprise. Maybe it’s because Vermintide and Darktide have been using only Nurgle’s forces for years, so we are happy to see the change of ways in Boltgun.
Each enemy is wonderfully captured in Boltgun’s crunchy art style, and lots of inspiration has been taken from the tabletop. Nurgle’s forces are slow but tanky, Tzeentch’s forces bombard you with magic, and Chaos Cultists always make for a nice in-between.
Boltgun’s AI Problems Reviewed
As good as the enemies look, they have some minor problems. There is a lack of noise most enemies make; outside of the blaring background music, there is little voice to the combat. The most you will hear any enemy scream or speak is when Cultists spot you for the first time. Even Chaos Marines barely speak as they try to purge you.
Also, a lot of the AI is simplistic; ranged enemies don’t move much, typically stand still like turrets, and often can feel spongy, especially bosses. While we won’t spoil what Boltgun’s bosses are, yes, they are huge threats on the tabletop and in lore, but with the previously mentioned lack of player and enemy feedback, it’s hard to notice or feel progress.
Weapon Strength and Toughness
One of Boltgun’s interesting choices is drawing from the tabletop by integrating weapon strength and enemy toughness. Enemy toughness is indicated by the number in the shield icon next to their health bar, requiring you to use stronger weapons if the number isn’t green or yellow.
It’s an odd way to teach players that a Chaos Marine in Terminator Armor won’t take a lot of damage from a Bolter, but they will feel the impact of a Heavy Bolter.
If you are experienced in playing retro-FPS games, you are familiar with the format of reserving stronger weapons for stronger units. While that is the case in Boltgun, we found in undertaking our review of the game that there is a lack of difficulty in trying to dispatch these enemies with high toughness. This is because of the constant ammo and health pickups scattered around every inch of each level.
Bloody Beautiful Environments
Map design and environments are a bit mixed. Some levels feel like they blend together because they lack anything outside of combat. Then other levels have unique set pieces and incredible attention to detail. Once you start fighting the forces of Chaos, you witness the levels and environments begin to twist under Nurgle or Tzeentch’s influence.
While there are ups and downs, each level will lead you to a “Purge” section where the only objective is to kill. These can be fun or downright tedious either because of the level design or the lack of any unique objectives or challenges aside from killing all the enemies in the small zone. Overall, it’s simplistic but otherwise good fun.
Perhaps Too Easy?
Even for experienced boomer shooter fans, Boltgun isn’t a challenging experience. This is great for new players and makes the game more accessible for everyone. Still, even playing on the hardest difficulty, there are dozens of ammo and health pickups, which almost trivialize the game’s difficulty. By far, the only difficult sections of Boltgun are the bosses, mainly because they feel like bullet sponges.
This necessarily isn’t a reason not to play the game, but if you were looking for a challenging or story-rich experience, Boltgun isn’t going to provide much. For those looking for a more harcore experience, you may want to check out our review of Cultic (another boomer shooter). However, this is still a solid addition to the latest trend in boomer shooters.
Final Review of Warhammer 40K: Boltgun
In our review, we found that Warhammer 40K Boltgun is an amazing Warhammer game but an above-average boomer shooter. It’s easily one of the best games to pick up and play for around $20 on Steam and other platforms. Not only that, but it gives new and old fans of retro-FPS and Warhammer games a great time. We highly recommend picking it up and trying it yourself, even with its problems and low replay value.
So go forth and finish what Captain Titus started on Graia. It’s a fantastic title for those who can’t wait for Space Marine 2 or those who just want to purge some Xenos. For another great modern Warhammer 40K FPS game, you may also want to take a peek at Darktide and the fun it has to offer.
For now, go and fight in the Emperor’s Name!
This review can also be found on OpenCritic.com.
Warhammer 40k: Boltgun is a terrific game for fans of the series who want to kick some a** as a space marine or for those new to the boomer shooter genre. Hardcore fans of the genre may find it overly simplistic and lacking enough of a story to be worth the investment. However, at roughly $20, it will be a great diversion for many.
Movement & Combat
Graphics & Environments