The Boltgun is perhaps Warhammer 40,000’s most iconic weapon, yet it took until now for a video game to really nail its pulverizing impact. The Space Marine’s Bolter (as it’s commonly known) is not the machine gun equivalent it’s often portrayed as in other games. This powerful firearm is essentially a rapid-fire rocket launcher, capable of penetrating almost any armor and then blowing up the Imperium’s enemies from the inside out. Developer Auroch Digital clearly understood the assignment with Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun, as the eponymous weapon is tremendously fun to use as you rip and tear your way through eight hours of ’90s-inspired first-person shooting. The Bolter roars with an emphatic racket, and each pull of the trigger packs an almighty punch, ferociously propelling these explosive rounds through flesh and bone until the battlefield is little more than a crimson pile of viscera and sinewy chunks.
Classic retro shooters like Unreal Tournament and Quake are obvious inspirations behind Boltgun’s fast-paced and frenetic combat, but it’s the original Doom that feels like the principal source of reverence. The use of 2D sprites alongside 3D environments, color-coded keycard hunting, and garish, over-the-top violence all harken back to id Software’s seminal title. Boltgun is unashamedly a Doom clone with a Warhammer skin, but Auroch has sprinkled in some modern touches, too, from the dizzying amount of particle effects on screen at any one time, to the intricate level of detail found on each and every weapon, to the sheer scale of some of its environments. Verticality is also heavily emphasized, with a jump and mantle animation giving you the chance to scramble and leap off ledges, much like in 2016’s Doom reboot. All of this leads to Boltgun managing to capture a tangible sense of nostalgia while also tapping into the fluidity and pacing of a contemporary shooter. It’s a familiar but potent mix, resulting in a viscerally satisfying game that’s relatively easy to pick up and play.
The story is suitably paltry, however, providing just enough setup to explain why you’re on a distant planet mowing down anything that breathes in the name of the Inquisition. As battle-hardened Space Marine Malum Caedo, you’re dispatched to the Adeptus Mechanicus Forge World of Graia to investigate some concerning goings-on. As it turns out, the Ad Mech were running experiments that have predictably gone awry and spawned a Chaos invasion. After a botched landing leaves you as the lone survivor, you’re put to work cleansing the forces of Chaos armed with an ever-expanding supply of powerful weaponry.
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