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Saturday, May 27, 2023

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun: Carnage-filled fun for gamers of a certain age (and other people too!)

This coming December will mark thirty years since the original computer game Doom was released by id Software.  Gadzooks!!  Where did all that time go to?!?  Well, Doom sucked me in hard and refused to release its grip.  There had been a few first-person shooters before, notably id's own Wolfenstein 3-D.  But it was Doom that showed off the REAL potential of the genre.  And it broke the ground for other high-drama atmospheric entries in the category, like Star Wars: Dark Forces, Duke Nukem 3-D, and Quake.  Those in turn showed the way for more advanced games in the forthcoming generations, such as Halo and Call of Duty.

But no matter how advanced home computers and gaming consoles have become, my heart belongs to 1993's Doom and its contemporaries.  Especially for how editable it was, and it seemed like everyone and their brother was creating WAD files containing new graphics (my favorite is still the one that turned the Baron of Hell into Barney the Dinosaur), or sounds and music, right on up to new maps to play in.  Yes, the music was MIDI and the graphics were REALLY pixelated when you got up close to an element like scenery or an attacking monster... but that was just part of the charm.  Part of why I and many others came to love those games.

Well, a few weeks ago I heard about Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun, from Auroch Digital.  And what grabbed my attention was that it was created in the very same style of the Nineties-era first person shooters like Doom.  The game came out a few days ago and lo and behold a friend gifted it to me on Steam (where it's currently priced around twenty bucks).  So I installed Boltgun and played around with it.

Friends, that evening I felt what it was like to have played Doom for the very first time all those decades ago.  Auroch took the Warhammer 40,000 franchise and gave it a game it didn't know it needed.  If you're a "gamer of a certain age" who was among the first to play classic shooters, you will LOVE Boltgun.

The game has you playing a member of the Ultramarines chapter of the Adeptus Astartes (faux Imperial lingua franca for Space Marines).  If you ever played the Space Marine third-person game, you'll be especially delighted to learn that Boltgun takes place following that tale (and before the upcoming Space Marine II).  Your well-enhanced warrior, Malum Caedo, finds himself on the forge world of Graia.  Just like those Union Aerospace scientists did in Doom, it seems that the local techpriests got to messin' around with stuff they shouldn't have and opened a portal to Hel... I mean, the Warp.  Demons and mutant heretics and traitor marines have come through and are threatening the planet and all around it.  So as Caedo, you set out to make things right... by shootin', explodin', and chainsawin' every thing that's in your way.

Boltgun is an intense game, and the blocky pixelated blood and gore that splatters across your screen is all the more like enjoying a classic again.  Befitting a Warhammer 40,000 product, it is unfettered chaos and wreckage that will have you attacking anything and everything that moves.  I've gotten pretty good at taking aim with the selected firearm (mostly the boltgun) at relatively far targets, then rushing in to chainsword the baddie and any surrounding renegades.  It was like when I was playing Doom for the first time and came upon the chainsaw: Dad was walking past my room and had to see what I was giggling about.  I got the sense that he thought it was pretty gruesome (but also kind of funny).  Lord only knows what he would think of modern gaming.

I'm only three levels into the game, but felt it was already worth recommending to all two of this blog's readers.  I've been pretty well entertained by Boltgun so far.  What I would VERY much like to see however is for Auroch (provided that Games Workshop approves the concept) to open the game up for editing, just like we could do with many of the more popular first-person shooters of that epoch.  At the very least the studio could produce some add-on campaigns.  I would DEFINITELY pay to have Boltgun pitting the player against the Orks, or Tyranids (which reminds me of that legendary megaWAD that transformed Doom into the movie Aliens).

If you have fond memories of the gaming of thirty-some years ago, I think you'll like Boltgun.  It may also entice younger gamers to look around at the titles we had back then and give them a try also.

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun can be found for purchase on Steam, again for about twenty bucks.  Not a bad deal if you're looking for something to vent a little angst and tension without having to shoot at the wall like Sherlock did.


Cid said...

I must be older than you Chris because I still remember the original Escape From Castle Wolfenstein. Wolfenstein 3D is what got me into FPS gaming. I finished the shareware and promptly bought the full game. Then Doom came and I got 2 copies of that, one for me and one for my girlfriend/now wife so we could deathmatch over modem. I'm going to get Boltgun now, on your recommendation. Take care!

Chris Knight said...

Hi Cid! I read about the original Wolfenstein from a video game magazine when I was a kid. The article gave it a really glowing review, making note of things like how it used actual German language. I never got the original full Wolfenstein 3D but a few years later I wound up with the sequel Spear of Destiny and played that on through.

Ahhh yes, I also got the full Doom game after playing the first episode shareware release. And lo and behold I still have the original box and disks! Somehow they've followed me all this time since I was a community college student and multiple moves later.

So glad you and your girlfriend/wife had such a great bonding experience! :-)

MAGA Man Savage said...

I got Boltgun a few days ago. I like how it's so much like Doom too. I don't mind how the monsters, items of scenery etc. are pixelated elements eg they stay turned toward the player. If Boltgun gets a sequel and I hope it does Auroch and Games Workshop should make it a retroshooter in the style of Quake. Where everything but flat panels get a 3D model.

Chris Knight said...

Having a sequel in the style of Quake would definitely be a logical leap for the series... which I hope Boltgun is the first of! I was thinking today of all the mods made for original Quake, like the Capture the Flag mode. Would be a heck of a neat trick if that could be between loyalist Space Marines and their Chaos opposites in multiplayer.

James Stevens said...

Great review. I'm also of the Doom generation. Boltgun is a totally fabulous game that I've sunk at least 5 hours into so far. Boltgun has promise of a vibrant community growing around it especially if they allow for modding. If not that then maybe there will be bonus packs with new settings, enemies etc. A space hulk would be AWESOME to run around in. Keep up the great work Auroch!

Chris Knight said...

James, giving Boltgun a space hulk to play in, ABSOLUTELY!! There is so much potential that's in this game, for a sense of community to formulate around it. One of my favorite taglines about the original Doom is "Doom will never die. Only its players will." I'm just having a blast feeling like a big kid again playing Boltgun. And from what I've been seeing online we aren't the only ones either. Games Workshop and Auroch have struck gold with this game. I hope it just keeps on giving :-)

Chris Knight said...

Here's an example I'm talking about. This is the "Deimos Subway" WAD that a Doom player created almost thirty years ago. It's a custom-designed level based on a subway station. I was hoping someone had posted video of it on YouTube and I wasn't disappointed. The music is a tune called "Take The A-Train". That guy put a lot of thought and creativity in this and it's great seeing that people still play it.

"Deimos Subway" Doom WAD

Lee said...

Got Boltgun the day it came out and finished it over the weekend. It had been a very long time since I last enjoyed a game like that. Hope this is just the first Boltgun and more will be made. I'm 27 so I missed the first go-around of Doom and Quake but Boltgun makes me want to try those too. Great review sir :)

Chris Knight said...

Hi Lee :-) It really was quite something when Doom first came out. Universities had to shut down the game's access to the on-campus networks, deathmatch was such a resource hog. Quake wasn't any better. I was mostly a single-player type of guy who was really enjoying the add-on content that modders were coming up with. One guy had a WAD that replaced Doom's cacodemon with the floating head of Bill Clinton and instead of spewing out fireballs it was the words "TAX" and "SPEND". Another WAD replaced many of the original Doom sounds with clips from the movie Pulp Fiction. Definitely shows how much of the period those games were :-P Thanks for the kind words and I agree, I too want more Boltgun!

Chris Knight said...

This game is TOUGH!!! Earlier today I came to the fight with the Lord of Change. A demon that if you know anything about Chaos from Warhammer 40,000, is one of the direst threats that can come from that tormented dimension. Entire squads of Space Marines get wiped out by just one of these things. In Boltgun you are controlling a Marine all by his lonesome. I could NOT beat this guy, after trying at least eight or nine times. Someone told me how to turn on invulnerability. That didn't seem honest, me being an Eagle Scout and all, so I kept at it while staying vulnerable. It took six more times (and some Google-ing) before I destroyed the Lord of Change. Auroch, NEVER do this to us again!!! This was harder to do than the rocket sled level of Battletoads... and that was 32 years ago!!

Chris Knight said...

Well, I finally finished the game. On low difficulty but that was PLENTY hard enough. Anyone who completes it on harder settings is a better gamer than I.

That was a very satisfying experience. I really hope that Auroch and everyone else involved with making Boltgun gets to come back and work on a sequel. I would absolutely get it the day it's released :-)