If you’ve ever dipped a toe into the world of Warhammer 40, 000 you probably know that “in the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.” This is more than a slogan, but a design philosophy—virtually every associated piece of media has been a dark and gritty affair. Until now, at least, with the arrival of Warhammer 40,000: Shootas, Blood & Teef.
Developed by Rogueside, Shootas, Blood & Teef is a run-and-gun action game focused upon Warhammer 40,000’s Orks. You’ll rip through 2D side-scrolling levels set to a blistering metal soundtrack, mowing down everyone in your path from various factions—Imperial Guards, Tyranids, and even rival Orks—with an arsenal of bombastic weapons.
What immediately set Shootas, Blood & Teef apart for me was its unique aesthetic. This sort of cartoony, Castle Crashers-esque look really works, especially for the Orks. It’s nice to see a total tonal shift for the larger WH40k franchise, especially when it enhances the arcadey gameplay.
Through this animated grimdark world you’ll progress through alternatingly linear or nonlinear paths to encounters like “kill ‘em all” gauntlets or massive, multi-phase boss fights. Your Ork avatar has four possible classes with unique abilities, as well as that plethora of big weapons. Though keyboard and mouse is an option, I preferred the controller approach, where the left side handles running and the right side handles gunning—left trigger to jump and left stick to move, right trigger to shoot and right stick to aim.
This approach is somewhat inelegant; the inherent clumsiness of the aiming system led me to several avoidable deaths. If you know how the Orks operate, that’s actually quite fitting and authentic, but still frustrating.
“What immediately set Shootas, Blood & Teef apart for me was its unique aesthetic.”
Frustration can be a key element of Shootas, Blood & Teef—frustration at the randomness of healing, or sporadic distribution of checkpoints, for instance. True to that arcadey style, it’s not uncommon to die even on normal difficulty, especially in boss bottles (or if getting careless with a rocket launcher—again, on-brand for Orks). But many of those resets could be preventable with better balancing.
To heal yourself, you must run into a squig, wriggling little red beasts that spawn around the map sporadically. Every time I died after putting up a valiant effort and waiting for one to spawn, I would reliably see a plethora of squigs popping up after I’d died and returned to that same spot. Then the next attempt would go much smoother.
Similarly, checkpoints in Shootas, Blood & Teef can be spread out at unbalanced intervals, but when you do come across them, you have the chance to purchase new weapons or switch out your kit. The weapons available check most of the boxes for classic Ork tools, and your choices can have a considerable impact on gameplay.
“Despite the bloody fun of that campaign mode, and the cartoonish aesthetic, Shootas, Blood & Teef may not be the most accessible option for a total Warhammer 40,000 newcomer.”
Between these and the unique class features, combat manages to stay fresh and exciting despite the foibles. My preferred class, for instance, swapped melee attacks for an exploding harpoon. Better yet, there’s a classic multiplayer mode where you can battle other players, local or online, for a diversion from the campaign mode.
Despite the bloody fun of that campaign mode, and the cartoonish aesthetic, Shootas, Blood & Teef may not be the most accessible option for a total Warhammer 40,000 newcomer. Rogueside embraced everything that makes Orks what they are, and that also means they embraced an overdone cockney accent that would make Dick Van Dyke’s performance in Mary Poppins look nuanced.
If you haven’t had some kind of introduction to Ork culture and mannerisms before touching this one, you might need some kind of phrase dictionary to make sense of what your plucky protagonist is saying in and out of cutscenes. This isn’t lofty storytelling by any measure—after all, you’re essentially on a quest for vengeance because your boss stole your hat—but without pre-existing context, I could see this being a pretty annoying feature. How many times can you hear these growly cockney voices screaming “more dakka” and “Waaagh!” before you wrench off your headphones?
If you have that context, Shootas, Blood & Teef is a lot of fun for its light price tag; if you own several thousand points worth of Ork models for Warhammer 40,000, this is likely an essential play. Though it’s been many years since I last downed a bombardment of an Ork army on the tabletop, I did find this a charming, yet brutal, blast down memory lane. While I wait for a hypothetical Space Marine 2, it’s nice to see the franchise taken in a refreshingly different visual direction.