Metal: Hellsinger has one mission: deliver demise-Quality FPS action set to a heavy metal soundtrack featuring some of the biggest names in the genre. I’m happy to report that it works with flying colours.
This is the complete package, with satisfying gameplay, fantastic music, non-stop action, and a story that hits familiar beats but is both well told and well acted. There is also no filler — Metal: Hellsinger knows exactly how much game it takes to get his point across and doesn’t add anything to the experience.
Metal: Hellsinger Review — One Helluva’ Tune
You can’t talk about it Metal: Hellsinger‘s gameplay without talking about its music. The two are inseparable. As a rhythm shooter, your performance and combat effectiveness are directly related to how well you shoot to the beat of each level’s unique track. Thankfully, none of the early songs are particularly fast or difficult to sync up your recordings, with the tutorial level being particularly forgiving.
That doesn’t mean the tutorial soundtrack is missing, though it’s one of the shortest songs in the game, befitting the level’s brevity. Everything you learn in that first simple experience carries over to the rest of Metal: Hellsinger. Slaying to the beat, as the game’s marketing calls it, is essential, and there are both audio and visual cues to help you shoot to the music.
The percussion is more pronounced to rise above the noise of gunfire and demons exploding. The crosshairs also occupy a large portion of the center of the screen, ensuring shot markers are easy to see in even the most hectic of scenarios.
As you progress through the game, the HUD becomes less and less of a factor as you become more accustomed to the combination of gunplay and music.
difficulty in Metal: Hellsinger up quickly and follows the music getting heavier: it gets faster. The first two levels – the Tutorial and Voke – are relatively casual songs compared to the high-speed shred-fests of the mid- and late-game.
Each level has a short learning curve as you get used to the new beat, but the precise controls and fun shooting mechanics will make you want to get into the music. The shifting of the soundtrack when you reach a boss can be a little unnerving after about 20 minutes of learning a new rhythm, but never enough to cost you anything.
All of these factors come together when you’re in the middle of the action, exploding and dismembering demons with the weapons on offer. You start out with nothing more than a sword and a particularly talkative, flame-breathing skull. In the first four levels you add a shotgun, two revolvers, a rocket launching crossbow and a pair of infernal boomerangs that are deadlier than you think.
Every weapon on offer is incredibly effective when used properly. Still, the dual turrets are by far the most consistent due to their long-range damage and ultimate ability that summons a second instance of the player character to deal damage on your behalf. Paired with the shotgun as a backup, I rarely found the need to use the crossbow or boomerangs except to add some variety to my gear.
What was never questioned was my desire to be at the highest bonus level. Metal: Hellsinger is more than just a shooter after all. It is a arcade style Shooter with scores and multipliers and buffs. The higher your score multiplier (called Fury) the more music you can hear, and at max Fury (16x) you not only earn points but you can hear the chant as well. Each enemy you shoot and kill on the beat increases your Rage, but taking hits decreases it, so staying aggressive, accurate, and deadly is of paramount importance.
The dynamic music usually works as intended, with the melody increasing in complexity and intensity the better you do it. However, as you switch between Fury levels, the music can get a little muddled, and it quickly goes from kickass to slightly botched. This can often happen in boss fights, especially a first encounter that turns otherwise amazing fights into a mangled mess. Not dissimilar to the encounter at this point, actually, but chilling nonetheless.
There are also challenge rooms called Torments, which offer selectable and progressively stronger buffs that make getting high scores even easier. These torment levels won’t add more than a few hours to your playtime, but they get pretty challenging and don’t leave much room for error.
Hell is a succession of arenas
Metal: Hellsingers The story is told primarily through hand-drawn cutscenes, with plenty of acting from your friend Paz, the talkative skull. The levels themselves add little to the narrative, existing primarily as a well-realized and aesthetically interesting series of arenas for you and the demons to battle. Without Paz’s dialogue, expertly voiced by Troy Baker, each level could be a characterless collection of demon-infested rooms and serve the same purpose.
That’s not to say the attitude isn’t appreciated. Hell has long been associated with metal music and it would be extremely confusing to have a long line of generic arenas set to this game’s fantastic soundtrack. In other words, while the levels themselves are uninteresting from a layout perspective, when combined with the rest of the game’s aesthetic and tone, they work exactly as they’re supposed to.
The story essentially follows the same continuous line. You are the unknown, a particularly angry and persistent damned soul in Hell who had her voice stolen by the Red Judge (voiced by Jennifer Hale) eons ago.
After an extended stay in an extradimensional prison, she forces her way out with the help of Paz, who calls himself the Pulse of the Universe. You then spend the next four or so hours of gameplay carving a path of destruction through increasingly hostile levels of Hell, defeating aspects of the judge in order to kill the devil himself.
The story is well done, but the overarching narrative relies on more than a few clichés and is content to tell you what’s happening rather than letting you experience it. There are a few twists and turns, but you as the player have almost no say in the cutscenes, and they mostly serve as window displays that tie each level together. There are also some plot holes that the game tries to wave away, but they’re all the more noticeable for that.
All in all, the story isn’t anything offensive Metal: Hellsinger, and there are some cool surprises along the way. While it was frustrating to see that it relied so much on old tropes, I was invested enough in the plight of the unknown, especially since she’s such a cool character reminiscent of sinking 2016‘s Doom Slayer. She’s more of a force of nature than a character at times, but has enough emotional presence to engage in a way that made me want to see her succeed.
Metal: Hellsinger Review – The Bottom Line
- One of the best soundtracks of the decade.
- Fantastic gunplay and music integration.
- Satisfying fights no matter what you kill.
- A tropical story that tells more than is shown.
- A small selection of weapons, some more fun than effective.
Metal: Hellsinger no longer than welcome. It knows exactly what it wants to be and can do it in no more than five hours. It’s the perfect length, the music is just perfect, the gunplay is terrific despite the limited weapon selection, and each level is entertaining enough to play over and over again.
The variety of enemies is surprisingly wide for such a tightly structured experience, with each mob requiring a different approach and each boss reinterpreting established mechanics. The enemies in the later game are some of the toughest challenges, but if you face them you’ll have enough mastery that it won’t take long to overcome.
Metal: Hellsingers The only real failing is technically its narrative, but that’s not even a failing, it’s a secondary concern for the game it aspires to be. I wish it had taken a few more risks and been a bit more immersive, but like the rest of the game it does exactly what it says and then comes out of the demon slaying.
In total, Metal: Hellsinger is a short, sweet and immensely enjoyable experience that is worth every second of your time. It has more than earned its purchase price. I can’t wait to see what the team at The Outsiders do next because watching this outing they have one hell of a future ahead of them.
[Note: Funcom provided the copy of Metal: Hellsinger used for this review.]