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Review: Warhammer 40,000 Boltgun [Xbox Series X]

Dark Millenial

Games Workshop continues its crusade to bring Warhammer 40,000 to every possible video game genre with Boltgun. Riding the current boomer shooter wave, Boltgun puts you in the massive, blue pixelated boots of a Space Marine. Specifically, those of Malum Caedo, a Sternguard Veteran of Ultramarines chapter.

Suffer Not the Witch to Live

In terms of presentation, Boltgun is pure ‘90s. Everything is suitably garish and blocky by default. Enemies, corpses and your own weapon are 2D sprites that look much the same from every angle. Pickups float and spin in the air awaiting collection. Shots on target are rewarded with red, confetti-like arcs of pixels.

There are some limited options that allow you to customise just how retro the game looks. A palette slider lets you increase or decrease the amount of colours the game displays. A pixelation slider allows the player to alter Boltgun’s blockiness to taste. I found bumping the available colours up a bit helped get rid of some of the egregious banding visible in darker areas.

Unfortunately, there are no FOV options, and 120fps is firmly off the cards in the Xbox version. Performance seems alright in terms of frame delivery, but I did experience some stutter and freezing. Texture pop-in occasionally rears its ugly head when entering new areas.

There are no specific objectives except moving forward, finding coloured keys in order to open locked doors and reach each area’s exit. Exposition is almost entirely in the hands of your trusty Servo Skull, Incommodus. It’ll offer amusingly dry commentary on what’s happening and helpfully signpost pickups. The taunt button prompts Caedo to goad enemies or praise the God-Emperor in typically pious fashion. It’s a nice, flavorful touch, but doesn’t appear to have any gameplay utility at all.

Only In Death Does Duty End

Your main armament is the titular Boltgun, which feels suitably hefty when you pull the trigger. It effortlessly splats fodder enemies while still holding its own against tougher foes. Thankfully, it is far from your sole means to slay heretics. There’s a generous arsenal here, from shotguns and Heavy Bolters to more elaborate firearms later on. Sheathed around your waist is a Chainsword for melee purposes and you can close short distances with it equipped to come toe-to-toe with your targets. Finally, there are 3 different types of grenades and some additional ammo types.

Each of these weapons has a strength stat, and each enemy has a toughness value, somewhat in line the tabletop 40K. This allows you to gauge how effective your fire will be against tougher foes before you engage. You can buff of any weapon with a Machine Spirit powerup. There’s also the Aura of Doom, similar in function to Quake‘s infamous Quad Damage powerup.

Difficulty is all over the place. Never is this more apparent than when you enter a Purge Protocol area. During a Purge Protocol, you’ll have to (pretty much) clear the room to continue, as Boltgun throws its toughest adversaries at you in droves. These areas are littered with mini health and Contempt (read: armour) pickups, but the problem is that these only offer a buff of 2 points each. Having to frantically search for more effective healing items while under fire is not fun.

Ammo, by contrast, is available in abundance. What’s more, you can save scum to your heart’s content since quick saving is available at any time. If the Ruinous Powers’ hordes are still proving to much, there’s even an invincibility toggle in the accessibility menu. It’s just a pity that the challenge isn’t a bit fairer and more predictable to begin with.

It also has to be said that enemy variety does wear thin as you progress. This is particularly disappointing when you consider the rich tapestry Boltgun is cut from. You spend the game fighting the forces of Chaos, but what about the Necrons, Tyranids or Orks? The 41st millennium is positively lousy with potential adversaries that are notable by their absence.

Final Thoughts on Boltgun

Boltgun wears its boomer shooter inspiration proudly on its aquila-adorned pauldrons. The gunplay feels good, and 40K fans will get a real kick out of seeing the universe rendered in such a deliberately crude manner. That said, Boltgun does become a bit of a slog after the novelty wears off. It lacks variety, and some of the purge battles in particular can outstay their welcome.

Overall, though, there are worse ways to prove your fealty to the God-Emperor while you wait for Space Marine II later this year.

Warhammer 40,000 Boltgun is published by Focus Entertainment. It’s available on PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/Series X, Nintendo Switch and PC.




Boltgun is a solid boomer shooter that feels great to play but loses momentum after a while. Only classic FPS superfans or committed Warhammer buffs will stick around long enough to see the credits roll.

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Dan Smith

Hailing from grim, rain-lashed Northern England, Dan enjoys shooters, strategy games, RPGs and classic Sonic almost as much as using short vowels and complaining about the weather. He can usually be found playing copious amounts of Team Slayer.
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