When you step foot into Metal: Hellsinger, you’ll notice two things: an in-your-face metal soundtrack, and a pulsing crosshair that beats along to the music. A first-person shooter (FPS), Metal: Hellsinger takes the best thing about Doom – killing demons to metal music – and makes it the entire game: to get the most out of your hellish arsenal of weapons, you’ll need to shoot, slice or stab to the beat of whichever song is playing in each level.
This presents a challenge in its own right. When you’re synced up to a track’s rhythm, you’ll feel unstoppable, and only the toughest of demons will be able to survive more than a couple of seconds under fire. Yet falling out of rhythm can prove lethal: if a tense shootout or near-miss with a bottomless pit distracts you enough to break rhythm, you’ll spend frantic seconds firing off-key and doing very little damage as your arcade-style point multiplier dwindles. That multiplier, labelled fury, is what brings Metal: Hellsinger‘s concept to life. Reaching 16x fury doesn’t just help your odds of landing a good spot on the leaderboard, it turns each level’s unique song up to 11 by letting the vocals kick in. If you hear someone roaring over a wall of angry guitars it means you’re doing a damn good job, and getting lost in the subsequent haze of metal and murder is intoxicating.
All of this is meant to feed into the idea that you’re an unstoppable force, feared even by the devil, and developer The Outsiders delivers a masterclass in empowering players. There aren’t a huge amount of weapons available, but each feels gratifying and deadly to use. Two weapons in particular – a shotgun named Persephone and a set of dual-wielded revolvers called The Hounds – will delight Doom fans with their brutish strength, exhilarating to the point where it’s almost impossible to switch them out for anything else.
The success of Metal: Hellsinger‘s rhythm-based violence owes its thanks to a star-studded cast of metal artists working with composer-duo Two Feathers. The roar of Lamb Of God‘s Randy Blythe brings smoke and grit to even the deepest level of hell, and getting to hear the commanding voice of Arch-Enemy‘s Alissa White-Gluz will provide plenty of motivation to keep your fury bar full. A personal highlight was ‘This Devastation’ featuring Trivium‘s Matt Heafy, which made fighting through the catacombs of hell an experience that immediately demanded several replays.
On the topic of Hellsinger‘s locales, The Outsiders flexes its creative muscles to avoid making every level looking like your stereotypically vision of hell. Yes, there is plenty of traditional fire and brimstone, but each area has its own unique character: Acheron is ultra-industrialised and features a memorable shootout in a collapsed car tunnel, while Yhelm sees you fighting under a gorgeous open sky and silver moon. While each level looks unique, it can sometimes feel a bit same-y toward the end as nearly every boss in the game shares the same model. Admittedly they’re all aspects of the same person, and have their own set of abilities to throw at players, but it feels like a wasted opportunity to show off the visual creativity that’s on display elsewhere in the game.
How much you get out of Metal: Hellsinger depends on your enjoyment of arcade games. Gunning through Hellsinger‘s campaign took three hours on normal difficulty, but it’s a game that encourages replayability. By going back to complete certain challenges (E.G. kill 25 demons with finisher moves, no healing), you can unlock powerful perks that can be equipped in your loadout. These perks range from gaining bonus fury from shots to ensuring your multiplier can’t follow below a certain tier, and while they’re not essential to getting through the campaign alive, they’re incredibly handy for anyone looking to make their mark on the leaderboard. Metal: Hellsinger is well-suited to its arcade-y score chasing system, and there were several levels in the review that I replayed several times because an impressive spot on the board seemed in sight.
However, anyone that’s not interested in high scores should take note that Metal: Hellsinger‘s story is over and done with in nine levels, and its finale doesn’t provide as much resolution as you would hope for. The story of Hellsinger is undeniably cool – the Red Judge has taken away the voice of your character, a demon named The Outsider, prompting her to tear through hell on a mission to confront the Judge and reclaim her voice. The Outsider‘s slaughter is narrated by Troy Baker as Paz, a talking skull whose Western drawl serves a dual purpose: providing context to Hellsinger‘s endless rampages and hyping up The Outsider. Combined with cutscenes at the start of each level, Paz’s companiable chatter is a neat storytelling device because it gives Hellsinger room to tell a larger tale without yanking players out of its constant thrills.
That being said, don’t get too invested in The Outsider‘s story: it’s not one that wraps up neatly. Without risking spoilers, the last 20 minutes or so of Hellsinger is more concerned with unfurling a bigger picture and setting up a sequel than it is resolving The Outsider’s story. Considering the rest of Hellsinger is so tightly-crafted and driven, this came as a disappointment – it would be hard to say no to a follow-up, but it shouldn’t have sacrificed a satisfying conclusion to set that up.
A disappointing finale could have sunk Hellsinger like a self-indulgent drum solo, but the rest of the game is so impressive that it fails to make a real dent. The rhythm-based gunplay is a mesmerising thrill throughout, and is brought to life with a soundtrack that metal fans will hail as one of the best in gaming. Getting swept up in Metal: Hellsinger‘s bloodlust is the easy part – the real challenge lies in getting its songs out of your head.
In a quiet year for shooters, Metal: Hellsinger takes centre stage. Though its story is a bit too quick in calling for an encore, an original and thrilling rhythm mechanic cements The Outsiders’ debut as a must-play for FPS fans. A joint celebration of metal and arcade shooters, Metal: Hellsinger – to put it simply – shreds.
- Tying rhythm to the usual shooter fare is a rush like no other
- A satisfying mix of hells to tear through, demons to kill, and weapons to wield
- A phenomenal soundtrack filled with metal icons
- Anyone who isn’t interested in topping leaderboards won’t find much replayability
- The story squanders a satisfying conclusion to set up a sequel