You'll love it if:
- You long for the simpler times of the videogame world
- Violence is not the answer. It's a question, and your answer is always YES!
- Pixelated art is your cup of tea
- Making the enemies of the Emperor explode into pieces of gore puts a smile on your face
Not for you if:
- Calming and meticulous gameplay is your objective
- Your favourite weapon is a sniper rifle
- You prefer photorealism in your FPS games
Why are you here? More importantly, why are you interested in Warhammer 40k: Boltgun? Hogwarts Legacy came out just a few months ago, and The Legend Of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom just dropped. You have enough gaming with just these two titles to keep you occupied for hundreds of hours, and you know that compared to an indie game like Boltgun, they clearly seem like the superior choice, so my question still persists… why are you here?
I don’t have to see your face to know that even now, you’re mulling the question over in your head. It wasn’t pure interest that brought you here but a sort of dark fascination. After being treated as a number and sick of all the “safe” development choices studios make these days, you saw the Boltgun trailer didn’t you? It wasn’t made to appeal to the greater audience, it wasn’t marketed to fool ESRB ratings, and it certainly wasn’t embarrassed with its source material. It felt pure, interesting, and, more importantly, fun.
Is it true love?
So now you’re considering it. You’re saying to yourself, “I’m not gonna buy it. I’m just gonna read a review about it and forget it ever existed.” Hahahahaha. Fool! If you’re reading this, it’s already too late! You thought you could escape fast-paced, adrenaline-filled boomer shooters? You thought you’d never feel the ecstasy of turning a heretic into a meat-chunks exhibition for the emperor’s glory again? You thought that you could escape the 40k universe and enjoy adult entertainment? There is no escape.
You can feel it now, don’t you? Righteous fury runs through your veins as you watch the chain sword being revved. The desire to touch the sanctified metal of the Bolter makes your hand sweaty and clammy with nerousness, just like the first time you were on a date. You are almost getting dizzy, overcome by the need to spread violence in HIS name. With all that, I only have one thing to say to you. “Here’s a Boltgun, Space Marine. Correct the blasphemy that is their continued existence!”
Warhammer 40k: Boltgun review TL;DR
Boltgun looks good. Boltgun sounds good. But more than that, playing Boltgun fills me with enough righteous fury to exercise muscles while lifting I never even thought I had. Buy it, play it, and thank me for your peach fuzz facial hair growing to a full beard and your muscles inflating like a bodybuilder’s.
That, he does.
Story: Kill, kill, kill, and then kill some more
When it comes to the plot of Warhammer 40k: Boltgun, I don’t have a lot of things to say in general. Don’t get me wrong, the extended Warhammer 40k universe is abysmally gargantuan. It’s just that in the grand scheme of Warhammer, Boltgun’s story is basically a regular Tuesday. And that is also the reason that even the game itself doesn’t treat it with any importance. All the information is given to us through the loading screens, each bearly containing a paragraph, between levels, or very few beautifully rendered pixel art cutscenes.
Short story shorter, you are an absolute beast of an Ulta-Marine named Malum Caedo. Idiotic tech priests experiment in the Forge World Graia with a power source left behind by the now Warp-lost Inquisitor Drogan. The experiment goes wrong, opening portals to the Warp and letting in an untold amount of heretics and demons. You, as Malum Caedo, get to clean up after their mistake, and by cleaning up, I mean turning every kind of lifeform you come across into a Jackson Pollock scarlet-coloured mural.
If you’re interested in something with a bit more “meat” in its story, check out the Star Wars Jedi: Survivor – Review: Revenge of the Jedi by George Makridis.
I, honestly, don’t know what came over me.
Visuals: Nostalgic goodness
Boltgun embraces its retro style. Natural environments that look lovely and industrial corridors that make you feel claustrophobic contrast the Warp-tainted shrines and the vast extending cathedrals. I don’t want you to think that the game is open-world but to understand that in this linear experience, my eyes were never bored of the pixelated environments I had to traverse so I could deny the Chaos worshipers of their price. For those not into pixelated art so much, the game provides a slider in the options menu to make everything sharper. Although, for the love of god, I don’t know why you would do that.
The variety of the enemy also delighted me with their extremely detailed sprites and animations coming straight through from the 90s. The game just looked incredible. It was retro because the artists wanted to portray it as such and not in the way that things were missing details. Everything from the boxy art of the weapons to the enemy sprites was handcrafted with attention to detail and love… and it shows.
Gameplay: Homicidal force of nature
Boltgun’s gameplay revels in its own simplicity. The loop goes like this: the Space Marine appears at the beginning of the level. The Space Marine kills everything in sight with extreme prejudice. The Space Marine proceeds to the exit. Rinse and repeat. No extra steps are required. This game is a boomer shooter at its core and tries to remind the player of a simpler time. A time when there was no end-game, and the most important part of progression was the journey. It tries to teach you that slaughter is its own reward.
There are no narrative hurdles the character has to go through to progress, nor any complicated puzzle-solving used to break up the shooting routine. Obstacles are solely made to force the player to experience more combat and are resolved by simply doing the “kindergarten” test: red door-red key, yellow door-yellow key, etc. The reason they are so simple is that there is no need to overcomplicate hurdles as they are not integral to the core gameplay. You are here to solely exterminate everyone… everything else is just a waste of time, and the game knows it and treats it as such.
Nevertheless, Boltgun does reward inquisitive players. Every level has a set amount of secrets sprinkled in less conspicuous locations around the map. As Boltgun doesn’t have any permanent upgrades your character or weapons retain throughout the whole game, secrets take the form of power-ups.
Aura of Doom turns Malum Caedo from an overzealous killing machine into an overzealous natural disaster by making him nigh invulnerable and giving him an unreal damage boost for a small amount of time. Infinite ammo is self-explanatory, but if you burned one or two brain cells from overexcitement, just like I did, then I’ll elaborate further by saying that for a few seconds, you are allowed to fire enough ammunition to crack the crust of planet Graia. A Vortex grenade is a one-time per-level consumable that is used for area denial. It also denies the enemy of their life, their allies’ life, and the decency of buriable remains in an area approximately as big as a football field.
They are wonderful additions to Boltgun’s gunplay, just like the few goodies I haven’t mentioned, and they make the time searching around the levels worthwhile so that you can find more exotic ways to turn the enemies of the Imperium into abused meat paste.
A grande that’s half a skull… amazing.
Now that you have some general information about the game, it’s time to discuss our playable characters. At this point, you know me well enough to understand that I’m not talking about Malum Caedo. I’m talking about the real MVPs, the instruments of your righteous rampage, your sanctified un-betraying companions, your high-calibre ballistic sonatas… Im talking about the weapons.
The Boltgun is your high-school sweetheart. It will never betray you. It will always prop you up when all else fails and give you the confidence you need to stick its gun barrel in a Nurglings mouth and pull the trigger. Iconic, reliable and most of all, effective. This game couldn’t have chosen a better name.
The Boltgun’s twin sister and your furious muse. Your melee option for this game doesn’t understand the concept of personal space and is always eager to sink its teeth into blasphemous flesh on the first chance. With the added bonus of being able to be revved up during a melee attack, the Chainsword graces you with the sight of watching the unbelievers being ripped apart by its jagged, metal protrusions while bathing you in a fountain of still-warm blood.
Pump and you shall receive! Or at least that is what I would say if the Shotgun could hold its own. Not all men are created equal, and unfortunately, that is also true for our multi-shell, pump-action contender. The weapon feels nice, looks nice, damn, even handles nicely but does almost no damage. What is the point of pumping a heretic full of lead if they can just shrug it off like I slapped them with a holy fly swatter? The Emperor has judged this weapon and found it wanting.
The Plasma Gun
For a weapon that fires bolts of superheated matter akin to a solar flare in appearance and temperature, the Plasma Gun is a bit underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, its high damage capabilities and the splash area of its projectiles make it a supremely versatile choice for most situations. It’s just that the gunplay it offers doesn’t satisfy that need I have when I play Boltgun. Yea, of course, you can fill a heretic with molten plasma, but that, in my opinion, is not as exciting as what the other members of your murderous cohort have to offer.
The Vengeance Launcher
This beauty knows how to hold a grudge. Compressed explosive material confined in an adhesive ballistic casing that realises its contents after a slight delay. If the heretics are not killed by the sheer force of the projectile cracking their cranium, then the almost instantaneous cyan explosion will do the trick. Fire at them, watch the projectile clung to their charred skin, and see their desperation in the last few seconds of their misbegotten lives before the cleansing fires engulf them. A spiteful weapon indeed.
The Heavy Bolter
Heavy-calibre firepower awakens something in some men and women that is not easily explained. The raw concussive power of ammunition turning everything in front of it into a no man’s land just provides some individuals with a peace of mind almost impossible to replicate in normal life. This weapon, for them, makes Michalangelo’s Capela Sistina and Da’Vincis Mona Lisa look barbaric in comparison. Unfortunately, I’m also among them.
The Heavy Bolter takes perfection and turns it into something else… something greater. It is an artful ballistic device with a fire rate of 250 RPM and capable of delivering armour-piercing, jet-propelled, fist-sized bolts with an impact energy of roughly 17625 joules that explode after impaling the enemy. It is a weapon designed to solve big problems when things have become personal and the sound it makes when it fires can bring people out of severe depression. Tied with the Heavy Flamer as my favourite weapon in the 40k universe, the Heavy Bolter can only be described with one word… godly.
The Volkite Caliver
Ah, yes, a Volkite weapon. Weaponry inspired by the horrors in the Age of Strife wars. Volkite Caliver delivers a continuous beam of thermal energy, deflagrating the target and those around them, no matter their organic or inorganic elements. It is extremely powerful and has the pint point accuracy of a surgeon’s scalpel, making it an excellent choice for any Space Marine wanting to watch their enemies boil from the inside out.
The Melta Gun
This isn’t a gun as much as a bulldozer is a vacation car. A Melta Gun works by creating a sub-molecular reaction inside a canister filled with a highly-pressurised pyrum-petrol concoction, with the resulting blast coming out of the barrel being tens of thousands of degrees Celsius. It is a construction tool made in the form of a weapon and unleashed with all its destructive power. While the Volkite Caliver delivers continuous damage, the Melta Gun concentrates its power into a small point of devastating impact. The amount of enemy armour doesn’t matter much if the resulting hole from your weapon firing can be miles long after all.
The Gravity Cannon
Last but not least, we have the armour breaker, the bone cruncher, the limb riper… the Gravity Cannon. Awarded to only the most exceptional Space Marines, Grav Cannons are weapons of mass destruction that bend the rules of gravity to deliver immense large-scale devastation. In Boltgun, Malum Caedo uses it to clean up areas with ease as the weapon makes enemies be crushed under their own weight and ruptures them from the inside out with no effort. It is the last weapon acquired in the game, and for a good reason, since two continuous seconds of its use can turn even the strongest of armoured enemies into cans of crushed heretic entrails. In my opinion, by far the most powerful weapon Boltgun has to offer.
Sound: Imperial harmony
Boltgun’s soundscape is… interesting. Lts talk about the music first. Warhammer 40k games seem to choose a mix of ecclesiastic music with orchestral operas as their base but also add elements more closely related to their own theme. For example, Warhammer 40k: Mechanicus adds a mix of electro to its religious hymns and Warhammer 40k: Darktide prefers a more gritty, industrial style of horror added to its epic elements.
Boltgun has a bit more fun with its music. A lot of the tracks I heard throughout the level were a bit of a deviation from our normal Wh 40k counterparts. Oh, don’t get me wrong, some of the levels try to auditorily immerse you in their hallowed church walls with their sound but truth be told, this feels like wasted potential. Although there is a strong Hair-Metal and retro-video game element to the game, it feels like there was a lack of effort when it comes to the individual tracks. They are serviceable, but other than Boltgun’s: A Good Day to Purge, most of them are a bit too generic for my part.
Malum Caedo is a human in the loosest sense of the word with a height of 2,4 meters and a weight of (armour included) around 1,500 kilograms. So, by extend, whenever he runs, it should sound like a bulldozer just grew legs and decided to take a jog. And that is precisely how it sounds. Our devout Space Marine makes the player feel like a hulking metal giant whenever he accelerates, giving you the illusion that something so heavy should never be able to move that fast. The cherry on top is that this feeling is transmitted to the player using only two elements: The sound of the footsteps and the head-bob of the character. For the results of the effect, it is absolutely brilliant how they managed to do that so simply.
For the enemies, a bit more of a retro sound distortion was picked. The game embraces its pixalted art style even when it comes to the enemy sound variety. Chaos Space Marines’ shouts come out like they were made in a different video game era, just adding to the feeling of nostalgia that the whole environment already provides.
A tool for every job.
Conclusion: Our faith has been rewarded!
Boltgun is an absolute banger of a game for all those that enjoy fast-paced FPS experiences. Auroch Digital has delivered something with more souls than any of the dozens of IP highjackers ever could… a game made with passion. It is true to the source material with a fun twist to it and delivers gameplay so brutal the Emperor himself approves. The sound is amazing and goes alongside the nostalgic 90s graphics seamlessly. If you’re not buying it already, I hope your Bolter jams and the next cult you have to eradicate, instead of hot Slaneshi demons, are Pox bearers of Nurgle. Buy it, play it, and wonder why high-calibre firepower suddenly arouses sexual feelings in you.
I really want to thank AVE Greece for the review copy of Boltgun.