Well, you’ve hit a gold vein if you like retro-styled pixel shooters! Warhammer 40K: Boltgun is out now, and the FPS lives up to its name. In the end, the bloody title surprised us with its game concept. But what’s so special about this retro shooter?
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Warhammer 40K: Boltgun is considered a so-called boomer shooter, but before you start thinking in the wrong direction (baby boomer): this just refers to old shooter games in the style of 30 years ago, like Doom or Duke Nukem 3D. That’s all, and that’s great.
And yes, with their old-school gameplay and retro look, these kinds of shooters are a natural refreshment among all those next-gen shooters with their UE5 graphics. Don’t get us wrong, the race for photo-realism is great but…
The Story of Warhammer 40K: Boltgun
What is Boltgun about? That’s right; it’s about a Boltgun (duh)! We step into the armored boots of a super soldier Space Marine and let our beloved weapon talk for us. Well, of course, there’s also some lore.
As a battle-hardened Ultramarine, we are sent to the Forge World of Graia several years after the ‘Space Marine’ events. There we are to recover an important energy source to stop the Demons, Chaos Cults, and the Chaos Space Marines from taking control of the world. Unfortunately, our comrades’ landing capsules are caught in a warp storm, and we must fight our way to the target as the only survivors. And you can imagine what that looks like: fast-paced, pixelated, incredibly trigger-happy, and filled with gore. We quickly realize the story is a little incidental, which is a bit of a shame.
The gameplay goes back to the roots
Boltgun’s gameplay is classy: equipped with a life and a shield meter, we run through the levels. Along the way, we pick up weapons, ammo and kill hordes of demons, cultists, and vile creatures. Here you can look forward to a comeback of familiar “things” like Nurglings, Terminators, and famous boss opponents. To pick up the shooter veterans: there is also an ultra-hard mode called ‘Exterminatus.’ But even on ‘Normal,’ most players will face a decent challenge…
Warhammer, the Boltgun, and us
Initially, we have to fillet our enemies exclusively with the iconic chain sword, which we operate by default with the right mouse button to slice through opponents. Holding the mouse button slows the game considerably, and when released, our Space Marine charges at the target with the weapon. If the enemies are a bit tougher, we can chop them up by pressing the right button again, which can also stun if they takes enough damage.
But don’t worry: halfway through the first level, you’ll get the classic Boltgun. You can look forward to this moment; it is epic and awesome… at least for franchise fans! Those familiar with the universe know this is a high-tech weapon of the 41st millennium with automotive explosive projectiles.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the weapons, especially the Boltgun, are a blast in their audiovisual implementation. After all, Auroch Digital didn’t name its game after the weapon for no reason. ‘Pewpew’ water gun blasting? Far from it! Here the animation, the model, and the sound are just right.
Later on, you’ll also get other iconic weapons, like the Meltagun, the Plasma Gun, or the Heavy Bolter. But be careful: ammo in Boltgun is scarce. Better save your best shots for the tough enemies! Besides the firearms, there are also three types of grenades, and we can push away enemies with a dash attack. Well, the Ultramarine boot camp seems to pay off…
We are fast but keep feeling the ground
Boltgun’s movement feels surprisingly coherent right away. It plays fast and fluidly, yet we stay grounded as players. And that reassures us a lot! After all, we are in heavily armored Space Marine armor, and Warhammer 40K: Boltgun represents this weighting despite the speed. We occasionally collect classic power-ups in the levels, which temporarily boost us with more damage, infinite ammunition, or short-term invulnerability — speaking of levels…
Compelling 40,000 level design in a retro-look
Regarding level design, Auroch Digital demonstrates a contemporary sense that picks up modern players while preserving the classic features of retro shooters. Our path leads us through snow-covered peaks, factories, and apartment blocks, which impressively reflect the abysses of chaos and the world of Warhammer 40K. And these areas invite us to explore. Away from the shooting, we occasionally have to find keys or destroy secret walls to get new weapons, like a Vengeance Launcher. Boltgun thus rewards us for exploring the areas with overpowered items (yay!). If you want to be undisturbed while doing so, there’s even an invulnerability setting that you can activate at any time via the accessibility menu.
Our verdict on Warhammer 40K: Boltgun
Boltgun is a wacky retro feast and gave us something like 10 hours of bloody visceral pixel combat that was incredibly satisfying. The game feels modern, and the pixelated Warhammer 40,000 world with its sprite graphics won us over. It looks good; it’s challenging and fun to storm through the many levels, discovering worthwhile secrets. Yes, the gameplay can be repetitive and the story somewhat incidental, but that’s to be expected from an FPS title that wants to follow a clear line and is inspired by retro shooters of the 90s. And it does a great job doing so! It’s a fantastic short-lived game that we can recommend to Warhammer fans and everyone who wants some variety despite next-gen.
Boltgun is available for PS4/PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch. You can buy it for PC via Steam, right now at a 10% discount. You can also get it on Kinguin (affiliate link) for a lower price.
Let’s switch back to modern graphics…
Retro is not your thing? Jump back into first-person shooters with more contemporary graphics. Find a great selection in our Best Free FPS Games ranking or the Best PS5 Games in 2023.
If you love hardcore sci-fi shooters, take a closer look at Returnal. In our Returnal Review, we explain what makes the game worthwhile. Do you like hardcore but prefer a WW2 setting? Then you should check out our Hell Let Loose Tips.
Which weapon do you prefer to use to mow down your enemies? Do you rather act from a distance or engage in bloody close combat with the chain sword? Let us know in the comments below.