Warhammer 40K: Darktide review

by on January 1, 2023
Reviewed On
Release Date

December 5, 2022


After multiple dalliances with various genres and subgenres, Warhammer 40K: Darktide feels like something of a homecoming for the universe, at least as far as games go. You can have all the top-down RPGs, side-scrolling Ork-em-ups, and deep tactical strategy games you can eat, but there’s something about this insanely violent, almost grotesquely satirical universe that just looks more natural when viewed through the lens of a balls-out action game.

Developer Fatshark has pedigree with the brand, too, having given us both Vermintide games, arguably the best Left 4 Dead-alikes on the market and some of the finest Warhammer games around. Of course, they’re set in the fantasy version of the universe, but it’s no less grim and bleak.

The 40K version is set in a far distant future where there is, apparently, only war. No one’s making loo roll or hair gel here, no sir. There’s only war. War and skulls. Everything has skulls on it, until someone shoots them off. But as the setting for a Horde-based squad shooter, it’s more or less perfect. In this place you don’t care who’s building things or smearing engine grease everywhere, you only care about shooting things and cutting things in half with a chainsword.

Warhammer 40K: Darktide

In Warhammer 40K: Darktide, you play a Reject, a prisoner caught up in a riot who helps out a guard and thus becomes a gun for hire, expendable but cheap, paid in money with which to buy outfits and not a lot else. The character creator spends more time on the backstories than the faces, allowing you to tweak a number of background details that create your character’s personality. This determines how they respond to other player characters, which call-outs they use, and the accent they speak in. It will always be some regional British drawl, overdone to the point of parody, but that’s kind of essential for the universe. It’s all so relentlessly bleak and British you can’t help but smile.

And this is perhaps Darktide’s greatest strength. The atmosphere is so thick you could beat someone to death with it. The visuals are genuinely impressive, environments drip with oily grime, grey steam billows from broken pipes, emergency lights flash red and green as distant sirens reverberate through the rusted tin walls. It’s a world of scum and villainy, simultaneously incredibly ugly and oddly beautiful in its dedication to the grimness of its setting.

More than that, though, the call-outs bounce off the surroundings, gunfire rings through the sweaty corridors, those alarms are drowned by the screams and roars of the approaching hordes. There’s nothing quite as unsettling here as Vermintide’s Skaven, but the enemies (and their special brethren) do a decent job of keeping you on your toes.


There are four class to choose from: the Ogryn, a hulking gunner who looks like he should be tanking for days but who exists to lay down sustained fields of DPS on anything that comes within range; the Psyker, which is 40K’s version of a wizard class, able to literally pop heads with an effort of will. Watch out though: there’s an overheat mechanic on the skill that will kill you if you’re careless. Then there’s the Zealot Preacher, a religious type that can bring a flamer to a gunfight and buff the squad. Finally, the Veteran Sharpshooter is the closest to a pure shooter class, built to mow through crowds from a safe distance.

Each class has a melee and ranged weapon, and getting stuck into the fray is just as viable a tactic as shooting from comparative safety. Indeed, the melee combat is so brutally satisfying that I often stowed my gun and waded in with a nice big sword for the sheer bloody hell of it. Also, it’s not for nothing that the melee is just more reliable. The shooting, while impactful and fun, can feel imprecise, and I was constantly running out of ammo anyway.

Warhammer 40K

Regardless of your choice of class, you only progress by selecting perks every five levels. You’ll get a choice of several each time, and without consulting some kind of guide it will be hard to know which is best for a given situation. It’s a progression system in need of an overhaul, to be honest, as is the reward system. This is based almost entirely on cosmetics, which is fine, but the options aren’t exactly mind-blowing and it sorely needs variety.

Speaking of which, the missions could do with some diversity, too. Each archetype is fun. There are no missions I don’t want to play; the issue is that there are only 7 variations, and even with five difficulty levels it’s not enough – especially as the fifth difficulty might as well be called “impossible”. If you’re playing solo with bots, don’t go above level 2 unless you’re really, really bloody good. Don’t touch level 5 unless you’re playing with three mates who would die for you in real life.

Warhammer 40K: Darktide

Warhammer 40K: Darktide is a solid shooter experience with friends. With strangers it’s fun, but not quite the same. With bots it’s an afternoon time killer that you’ll play until you’re sick of watching your character bleed out then sit waiting for a “rescue”, which is the resurrection mechanic in Darktide. It’s a good-looking game that has already been heavily updated in the short time since launch, which at least speaks volumes to Fatshark’s dedication. The multiple audio and visual bugs that pop up are slowly being eradicated too, which is always encouraging to see.

If it has the legs to go the distance, Warhammer 40K: Darktide will get better and better with time. As it stands it’s an enjoyable romp through an almost endearingly macabre world that’s much, much better with other people. Without a doubt, fans of the universe will love every blood-soaked minute.


Incredible atmosphere
Combat feels impactful
Some great environments


Buggy at times
Not a lot of variety
Uneven difficulty levels

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

If it goes the distance, Warhammer 40K: Darktide will get better with time. As it stands it's an enjoyable romp through an almost endearingly macabre world.