I have been eager to get my hands on Metal: Hellsinger for review since I played the demo for the game earlier this year. Developed by Swedish studio The Outsiders, Metal: Hellsinger is essentially a Doom clone with a fascinating twist on the classic Doom gameplay loop. In Metal: Hellsinger, players are encouraged to fire their weapons in time with the heavy metal soundtrack which scores the game.
This mechanic brings with it palpable energy, which is consistently felt while playing Metal: Hellsinger. Whilst the player is still able to fire off of the beat, far more significant damage can be done if you can nail those shots in time. This all results in certain moments of the game feeling very similar to Baby Driver.
The main issue with the game is that there simply isn’t enough of it. After the credits rolled after only 4 hours, I was left wanting more. To a certain extent, I feel as though I played the demo for this thing back in June of this year, then I waited three months to play a longer demo. I still feel like I have yet to experience this full title in all of its glory, even after completing it.
Metal: Hellsinger is available to purchase on console and PC on 16/09/22.
This is a spoiler-free review.
Story: Cool but Unremarkable
When I was playing through Metal: Hellsinger for review, one of the major things which struck me was just how little voice acting is actually present in the game. One reason for this is due to the soundtrack taking centre stage in terms of audio. However, the other reason is tied into the game’s plot.
Players take control of The Unknown; a demonic female creature who has had her voice taken from her by The Red Judge, (A.K.A. Lucifer). She is accompanied by a talking skull possessing the smooth, Southern dulcet tones of Troy Baker. Baker carries the brunt of the game’s voice acting and brings a certain charm to the role as he narrates the player’s journey through hell.
Other than the skull, the only other speaking character of note is the Red Judge. The Judge projects several ‘Aspects,’ which make up the game’s boss fights. It is in these sequences where much of the voice acting takes place. Unfortunately these sequences feel very rinse and repeat, although the voice actress does a great job in the role.
Whilst it lacks creatively, the only benefit of using the same character in every boss fight is that an antagonistic relationship is allowed to form between the game’s hero and its villain. The only problem with this is that only one of them can speak, therefore it winds up feeling like somewhat of a one-sided relationship.
The story itself is fairly rudimentary and is also chock-full full of tropes. It uses these tropes to tell the story with a hint of a wink and nod, almost acknowledging the innate silliness of the story being told. The plot is functioning in that it gives your character a reason to fight from A to B, however it is pretty unremarkable beyond that.
Metal: Hellsinger is not a story-based game. Do not go into this title expecting any sort of a rich narrative experience, because that is not what makes this game great. Metal: Hellsinger instead decides to focus on making its gameplay loop fun and engaging. Therefore, the story elements feel somewhat underdeveloped and throwaway.
Gameplay: Where the Real Meat Lies
Whilst playing Metal: Hellsinger for review, the gameplay is where it really shone. Do you know that feeling when you are playing a nondescript game and something happens to take place in time with the drum beats on the game’s soundtrack? It may be reloading a weapon, firing a gun or driving a car off of a huge ramp.
Metal: Hellsinger takes that feeling, increases it tenfold and capatilises on it. Not once during the game’s four hour campaign did I get fed up of killing enemy demons in time to a sick metal soundtrack. Pulling off deadly combos in the midst of head-banging is a feeling of elation which I never thought I would be writing about.
I also loved the way that the song slowly builds as you progress through the level and build your combo. Each level begins with a stripped back drumbeat. This increases in intensity as you begin fighting waves of enemies before an electric guitar and bass eventually kick in. Finally, when you max out your combo, the vocals are introduced and the entire composition is completed.
This build-up of both musicality and gameplay into a glorious crescendo is amazing to witness and be a part of. No matter how many hours you spend with this game, that aspect of it never gets old. It provides for some of the most stylish and satisfying gameplay that I have experienced in any title this year.
The consistency of this feeling kept throughout the game is very impressive. The determination to keep this feeling of elation going led to me falling into a near meditative state at times. There were several moments when playing Metal: Hellsinger for review, where I found myself entering what I can only describe as a trance of perfect timing.
With all of that said, there are some downsides to Metal: Hellsinger’s gameplay. The first of these downsides is the game’s repetition. Every level plays out in almost the exact same way. The player enters the level to fight a few low level enemies. The enemies gradually become harder to kill as the level progresses before the player must survive a boss battle to conclude the level.
Even the bosses who reside at the end of each level are essentially clones of one another. They all look the exact same barring a slight to the shapes of their respective heads. However, they all use attacks which are extremely similar and so the process of fighting them end up feeling pretty rinse and repeat after the first couple.
Another thing which does not help with the game’s repetitive nature is the disappointing weapon choice. Besides the skull and the sword which function as the game’s starting weapons, only 4 other weapons are made available to choose from. This means that whilst the game allows you to choose your own loadout at the beginning of each level, those loadouts all and up looking essentially the same.
The final major issue that I had with Metal: Hellsinger’s gameplay when playing it for review was that there is simply not enough of it. After 4 hours of gameplay, players are just settling into the gameplay systems implemented by the developers. To abruptly see credits appear when it felt like things were just kicking into gear was a real buzzkill.
Audio and Graphics: Essential Listening
Obviously the importance of audio in a game like this is paramount. The audio quite literally carries the player through the experience of Metal: Hellsinger. Thankfully the audio is on point throughout the entirety of the game. The songs provide a rich backdrop to each level and make players want to build their combos to unleash the entire track.
What I would be curious about is whether other musical genres could be incorporated into the game. Obviously the heavy metal genre ties well into the game’s demonic visuals, but to see those songs swapped out for something like rap music would be fascinating.
It could potentially turn the game into something along the lines of Guitar Hero. Not only would it be interesting to experiment with other genres, but if new song packs were released as DLC, it could add to the game’s long term sustainability.
The audio outside of the songs is also great. The gunshot audio is interesting as a different sound emits from the guns depending on whether they are fired on the beat or not. These sort of sounds along with the squeals of dying demons really help to sell the hellish aesthetic of the game.
Speaking of the hellish aesthetic in Metal: Hellsinger, this is a nice game to look at. The art design was clearly inspired by DOOM in a big way. With that said though, it uses the aesthetic well in merging the look of the title with the musical genre which the game is essentially built around.
This game was reviewed on PC, with a review key provided by Funcom.