Metal: Hellsinger is rad. This mashup of DOOM and rhythm game makes for engaging, tense, frenetic combat set to a roaring original soundtrack. Even though it doesn’t manage to stick around long enough, it should not be missed by shooter or metal fans alike.
You take on the role of The Unknown as you battle your way through 8 levels of Hell to confront the Red Judge, Ruler of Hell, and take back your voice. Along the way, you find your trusty skull companion and grisly voiced narrator of this tale, Paz. Paz is your guide to the underworld and a secondary weapon that can build your combo multiplier even outside combat.
Combat in Metal: Hellsinger is a rhythmic ballet of bullets, sword slashes, and double jumps. Bordering your crosshair is a sort of beat marker. Think of it as the hollow arrows at the top of your screen from DDR. Beats constantly move in from the sides of the screen and pass through the beat markers. If you perform actions like shooting, dodging, and reloading on beat you earn Fury.
Fury is your combat multiplier from 1-16x, and keeping it high is instrumental in Metal: Hellsinger. At 16x, you deal the most damage, gain the highest score for your actions, and, best of all, the full arrangement of each of the 15 original songs kicks in.
The combat took a few minutes to adjust to.
Kicking the twitch shooter habit of pulling the trigger as fast as possible at each enemy you can put your sights on is tough, but once you do, I’d be hard-pressed to find a better combat system so far this year. Like Neon White before it, Metal: Hellsinger takes the simple act of firing your gun and turns it into something novel. The tutorial quickly teaches you the rhythm of swinging your skull-adorned blade and firing your weapons at the proper BPM, and soon after, I found myself often in a flow state as I dashed around the map doling out pain and rocking out.
Taking another cue from the DOOM reboot, enemies can be put into a weakened state where they glow orange and are open to a Slaughter. Slaughter kills grant you health and adds to your score bonus. In true Metal: Hellsinger fashion, Slaughter kills must be performed on beat as well. You’ll start to find a rhythm in what weapons open certain enemies to Slaughter and soon be Slaughtering enemies with a bassy thud like it’s second nature.
As you progress through the 8 Hells, you find multiple demonic weapons you can equip between levels.
A personal favorite of mine was the shotgun, Persephone, you get early on. It rips enemies to shreds and was my favorite weapon to use the active reload system.
The active reload system engages when you tap the reload button on beat and The Unknown speeds up her reload to match. It is so satisfying, and because it matches the beat of the song playing, it adds to the kinetic feeling of the game. Although I stuck with my two favorite weapons throughout most of the campaign, each weapon feels fun to use. I saw score chasers using specific weapons on specific Hells to maximize firepower.
Each weapon has a unique ultimate ability to unleash upon your enemies. I especially loved that each weapon had its ultimate meter allowing you to bank ultimates across your arsenal and use them consecutively if you so chose.
This would be for nothing if the audio weren’t on point.
Luckily, everything from the voice acting to the music to the sound effects are top-notch and do a great job immersing you in the world. Each weapon has unique audio cues for when you are attacking on or offbeat, and chaining perfect hits together on the beat of the thumping metal soundtrack brought a smile to my face.
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Speaking of that soundtrack, The Outsiders have partnered with some real heavy hitters in the industry to lend their vocal talent to the game. Industry veterans such as Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy, Randy Blythe from Lamb of God, and my favorite, Serj Tankian from System of a Down.
Each track is composed by Two Feathers, with the vocal talent being brought in for each.
Some songs are tied to the eight levels of Hell, while others only kick in during menus or boss themes. What makes this unique is the adaptive nature of each song. As you start a level with a 1x Fury multiplier, the music is subtle, and the full arrangement of instruments isn’t present.
As you start to kick some ass and raise your Fury multiplier, the music gets more intense until, finally, the vocals slam in at 16x! I constantly was trying to keep my multiplier at 16x, not because I wanted to see my score on the leaderboards, but because I wanted to hear the song in its full glory hammering home that I was doing well. Luckily, during most of my boss battles, the full music was present no matter where my multiplier was at, which was a welcome change of pace as it kept the momentum high even in the most brutal battles of the game.
It’s wild how music influences everything in the game, not only what the player is doing but what the enemies and world are doing. Enemies move and dodge on beat while powerups littered around the world spin 90 degrees with each beat. It all adds up to a world that feels like the rhythm is pumping through it.
Metal: Hellsinger’s Story – An Unholy Quest to Regain Your Voice
The story of Metal: Hellsinger is told through gorgeous visual novel-style cutscenes, narrated by your buddy Paz, who slowly reveals more to this twisted tale as you progress.
The Outsiders craft a story that, while taking a backseat to the music and shooting, takes a rather fresh approach to the relationship between Heaven and Hell. I was genuinely invested in seeing The Unknown get her voice back and rain down Hell, no pun intended, upon the Red Judge and her legions of demons. The ending leaves much up for interpretation on where the series may go, but I sure hope to visit the Hellsinger again in the future.
More tidbits of lore can be found in the 21 Torments that are unlocked after each level of Hell. These Torments almost always revolve around killing a certain number of enemies in a time limit.
They present unique gameplay challenges, such as only Slaughters counting towards your kill count. Paz gives a unique backstory for each Torment, and they are worthwhile to play as they are the only way to unlock sigils. Sigils in Metal: Hellsinger are extra perks that can be equipped before entering a Hell. They can give you additional fury for attacking on beat, or your guns won’t consume ammo for the first couple of shots after you switch to them.
Combining any 2 of these makes for fun customization to your play style.
I thoroughly enjoyed my roughly 5 hours with Metal: Hellsinger. My palms were constantly sweaty as I tried to keep my 16x multiplier up to keep jamming out to its incredible soundtrack.
The combat was crunchy and responsive, and the art design of every demon and Hell was lovingly crafted. I do wish there were more variety in the bosses, and although leaderboard chasers will get more mileage out of its challenge modes, I wish there was a bit more content in its campaign.
Those are my only knocks against the game, which is a pretty good sign if you ask me. I’m incredibly excited to see where The Outsiders takes Metal: Hellsinger in the future.
In the meantime, time to download that OST on Spotify. Rock on!