Rhythm games often fill me with dread. Staying on beat in even casual situations proves difficult, so adding in some more executive functions quickly acquaints me with a Game Over. For these reasons, Metal: Hellsinger should have made me run a mile, but its heavy metal soundtrack was just too enticing to resist. Featuring the likes of Trivium’s Matt Heafy and Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe in its completely original soundtrack, Metal: Hellsinger presents itself as more than just a game but as a compilation album with a unique way to listen.
At its core, Metal: Hellsinger is a first-person rhythm shooter. Players take on the role of The Unknown, a human-demon hybrid who has found herself in the depths of the underworld. Her only way to escape is through hordes of demons, and through the ruler of the Hells — the Red Judge. Its unique hook is that of its soundtrack, which encourages players to stay on beat to deal damage to a variety of enemies. The more you match your attacks with the beat, the more damage you do, and the Fury Meter (multiplier for damage and score) increases. The higher the multiplier, the more intense the music. At 16x, the vocals and full music arrangement kick in and the action enters its full swing. It becomes so easy to fall into the rhythm of each song, and that’s a testament to the soundtrack.
But issues arise if your rhythm isn’t quite up to scratch. You might break your hit streaks often, meaning you’ll lose the intensity of the music the worse you perform. Play too inadequately and you might never hear the vocals kick in at all, but to have the full arrangement cut out midway through hurts more than any attack you pull off in-game.
Composed by band Two Feathers, who previously worked on League of Legends and Aragami, the songs in Metal: Hellsinger are impressively crafted to not only supply the base for your destruction but to be enjoyable in their own right. No sacrifice of style in favor of function — it all works together perfectly.
The game features eight main campaign levels in total (called Hells) each with its own music track performed by a prominent metal singer. The first few Hells introduce you to the game’s array of weapons: a sword, shotgun, twin pistols, and a sentient skull to name a few. The latter, named Paz, also serves as a sidekick/narrator throughout the story which, while important, doesn’t bog you down with unnecessary protagonist dialogue. Metal: Hellsinger knows the player is there for the action and music and is pushed along by a simple, but well-executed narrative. From Paz’s perspective, he details The Unknown’s journey and offers some background to each of the Hells. His general dialogue never feels too forced either; no painful banter, just a ‘well done, move along’ in the midst of the levels, and some general exposition where it counts.
Players have three difficulty levels to choose from: Lamb, Goat, and Beast. There are no repercussions for switching between the three, simply setting the challenge level to whatever you feel comfortable with. Lamb gives players three resurrections to continue the fight upon death, at the cost of a minor deduction to the overall score. Goat reduces this down to two. Get into a decent enough rhythm with the gameplay and you’ll soon find yourself not needing a single resurrection, with the help of special “Slaughter” moves, performed by bringing an enemy close to death. These Slaughter moves operate as a finishing move with the added bonus of healing the player. Different enemy types have varying levels of health, meaning players need to learn to use all of the available arsenals effectively to bring the enemies down to the right threshold. Paz is the most useful weapon here, firing weak but steady shots at enemies to gradually bring their health down to activate a Slaughter move.
Working through everything the game has to offer at a reasonably casual pace takes roughly 10 hours, at most. The main campaign is short, with each level padded out by some additional challenges to take on after completion. And while Metal: Hellsinger is very ‘pick up and play,’ there’s little to bring players back to it after the credits roll other than, perhaps, to experience its soundtrack again. But as it is, Metal: Hellsinger achieves its goal. A vibrant, fun shooter that knows how to pull you into its tempo.
Metal: Hellsinger, developed by The Outsiders and published by Funcom, launches on Sept. 15 on Windows PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
DBLTAP was provided with a copy of Metal: Hellsinger for review by its publisher, Funcom.