When you get right down to it, is there really any difference between Warhammer 40,000 and Doom? Permanently angry space marines, giant guns, sci-fi installations being invaded by demons from literal Hell… basically all the same, innit? Really, it’s a wonder no one’s made a Warhammer boomer shooter before now.
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun keeps things gloriously simple. After a charmingly unsettling opening cutscene, the preview build just drops me on a planet full of Chaos cultists with a chainsword and a dream, and tells me to have at it. Immediately I’m racing around the map sending up pixelated sprays of blood, finding guns that would be banned under the Geneva Convention, and slotting comically large keys into control panels to open doors to places full of even more horrible enemies.
It’s an absolute blast. The guns—in this set of levels including a boltgun, a shotgun, and a plasma gun—are chunky and superbly satisfying, and the game makes sure you’ve always got more targets to use them on. The shotgun in particular is a new all-timer for me, taking enemies apart in booming blasts worthy of an Ultramarine. The maps are simple and built to be raced through, but full of secrets and power ups for curious explorers to uncover. It’s fast, simple, gorey fun that couldn’t feel more appropriate to the heavy metal world of Warhammer. The fact that it has a dedicated ‘yell at the enemy that you’re going to kill them’ button really sums up its vibe.
Visually, it draws heavily on Doom—enemies are 2D sprites animating in a 3D world—but with some modern lighting and particle effects that come together into something really striking. And a surprisingly wide variety of enemy types, from cultists and Chaos Space Marines to Pink Horrors and Plague Toads, means there’s always some new ugly foe to catch your eye (and your bullets).
Just as its aesthetic combines retro and modern techniques, the action too feels like a clever mix of the conventions of Doom with more modern FPS ideas. Boomer shooter purists may cock an eyebrow at having a charge-dash ability on a cooldown, a dedicated grenade button, and melee attacks, but it all adds up to an experience that’s old school yet accessible. If you like the idea of shooting monsters with big guns at high speed, chances are you’ll like this regardless of whether you’ve spent the last few years playing the likes of Dusk and Ultrakill or not.
And certainly anyone who’s a big fan of Warhammer 40,000 will find plenty to love. Faithful touches include Pink Horrors splitting into Blue Horrors when slain, Nurgling designs that call back to beloved minis, and a damage system built around the strength and toughness scores of the tabletop game.
Boltgun doesn’t have a release date announced yet, but what I’ve played already felt very complete—hopefully it won’t be much longer before it comes sprinting onto Steam, screaming and hoovering up health pickups.