PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
September 15, 2022
Level Infinite, Funcom
I’m a big fan of metal. I’m a big fan of video games. I’m also a big fan of shooting demons and ripping them apart. Metal: Hellsinger combines all these qualities into one tight package I never knew I needed. Clearly, people like me were on the minds of developers The Outsiders while concepting Metal: Hellsinger. Look at it from one angle and it appears as just another demon-blasting shooter romp, but look from another angle and Metal: Hellsinger is a creative, engaging, arcadey experience that gripped me from start to finish. In Metal: Hellsinger you play as The Unknown, a nameless protagonist hellbent on dismantling the overlord demons of Hell, and are joined by the talking Skull of Paz (voiced by Troy Baker), who serves as narrator and guide through the game’s lore.
The game’s FPS mechanics truly are lifted straight out of the DOOM and Wolfenstein playbook; smooth movement and fluid animations glide the player through shredding down demons. Progressing through the game unlocks new weapons and perks for The Unknown, and scales up your battle options as the difficulty gradually scales.
Each weapon has a unique Ultimate Ability, and these vary from an explosive, widespread shotgun blast to a pistol-wielding demonic apparition showing up to assist you temporarily. However, where the game comes to life is in its rhythm implementations. Damaging an enemy in time with the beat will enable you to Slaughter the demon; an execution-style animation that rips them apart. Reloading in time with the beat will power up your weapon and get you closer to that sweet nasty ultimate ability.
“Where Metal: Hellsinger flexes its uniqueness is in its timing-based-multiplier system and arcade vibes.”
The game itself is really simple: point and shoot. See a demon? Pull the trigger. See a power-up? Pick it up. See a new weapon? Grab it and go. Where Metal: Hellsinger flexes its uniqueness is in its timing-based-multiplier system and arcade vibes. As you nail shots on the beat with the music, you fill in a multiplier meter that goes up 4-8-16 (like most standard music measures).
Therein lies my favourite thing about Metal: Hellsinger: the way the music reacts to your performance through gameplay. As that multiplier increases, layers are added to the level’s soundtrack until you are blasting away at a 16x multiplier while a monstrous heavy metal track is thundering through your speakers, complete with vocals, guitar solos, and insane drums; building the intensity sonically while the chaos builds gameplay-wise. The perfect blend of two of my great loves.
Speaking of the soundtrack, all the music is originally composed for Metal: Hellsinger and crafted in a way to adapt to your performance during play. Not one section feels incomplete or lacking regardless of what level of multiplier you’re on; lower multipliers have a droney, drum & bass feel, whereas higher multipliers are a full-on destructive symphony of riffs, blast beats, and harsh vocals.
Each level of Hell (which are the game’s stages) features a different track and vocalist, leading to a variety of sounds and tones across the metal genre. The soundtrack also features some truly legendary performers, such as Matt Heafy (Trivium), Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), and Tatiana Shmayluk (Jinjer). I have a big ol’ crush on Matt Heafy so his inclusion certainly piqued my interest. They even performed some of the game’s soundtrack live at Gamescom, which I would have traded in several bodily organs to be able to witness.
While coming from a lesser-known developer, the game’s performance and visuals really hold up. Some of the cutscenes and story-board style sections make the game feel a bit mid-2010s at times, but in the moment-to-moment gameplay, Metal: Hellsinger can stand toe-to-toe with some of the bigger, AAA shooters. The hells are appropriately dank, demonic, and threatening, and many levels would sit right at home in DOOM (2016) or DOOM Eternal. Towards the end of the game, however, the assets and rooms start feeling all too familiar, so maybe some variety or unique items scattered around hell could have helped keep things fresh.
“…visually sharp and buttery smooth; a real treat for shooter fans.”
The game’s performance on PC is quite spectacular and left me very impressed considering everything happening on-screen all the time. It rarely hitched, maintaining a sturdy framerate and the highest quality visuals. From the pre-rendered cutscenes to the comic book style sections, Metal: Hellsinger is visually sharp and buttery smooth; a real treat for shooter fans.
Beyond just running through the campaign, there are side missions and challenges to flesh out your arsenal and combat options, increase your multiplier bonuses, and unlock unique perks for your character. There’s a lot of replayability and optional content to expand your playtime with Metal: Hellsinger.
My criticisms of the game are few, but to be nitpicky, I found the game’s narrative pretty stock-standard stuff, and the option to rely on the comic book storyboard presentation style for all the story beats fell flat for me; I wasn’t engaged, and would have preferred to see these events unfold in the rich, visceral world that the game exists in rather than drab, bland static frames.
- Fast, fluid first-person shooter with great rhythm implementation
- Great visual style that rivals AAA bangers
- Rippin' soundtrack featuring some of metal's most prolific performers
- Narrative is bland at times, and the presentation choices were poor
- Recycled assets and repetitive stages become noticeable as the game progresses
Metal: Hellsinger aims to be a full-featured first-person shooter as well as an engaging rhythm game, and I am so glad it delivers on its ambition rather than falling flat. Fun, frantic combat paired with a crushingly heavy, star-studded soundtrack makes Metal: Hellsinger one of the most unexpectedly enjoyable games I have played this year, and I urge anyone with a passing interest in metal or shooters to give this a spin.