Find your voice with this metal-shredding, rip-roaring, head-banging thrill ride as Metal: Hellsinger comes swinging in to raise all out of hell!
For fans of metal music and demon slaying, The Outsider’s new rhythm shooter is about as perfect a game as you might find. Few other games have captured the immensely pleasurable sense of “cool” that Metal: Hellsinger does both in its overarching style and in its little personal moments that will come entirely uniquely to each and every player. It’s an all-round tour de force of delightfully devilish design, gleeful gameplay, and of course magnificent metal musical mastery.
Raise up those devil horns, begin the head-banging, and give tribute to the almighty Hellsinger, because this is one song you don’t want to miss.
The first thing to know in this review is that Metal: Hellsinger is excellent. The second thing to know is that I am utterly atrocious at it. I offer that caveat because regardless of my awful ear for a beat, the game is still very fun to play and can very much still be enjoyed – you just however might look on in jealousy at those high scoreboard players who can seemingly pull off incredible stunts in perfect sync to the beat.
In Metal: Hellsinger you play as The Unknown, a part-human, part-demon who has had her voice stolen by The Red Judge, Hell’s almighty ruler. Now with her trusty talking skull head sidekick Paz (voiced by Troy Baker) The Unknown is on a murderous trail of vengeance to take back what is hers and dole out a few punishments along the way.
Paz has helped the Unknown to re-find her voice, and now her ultimate ability is aiding her in her revenge spree through the many realms of The Infernal Planes. It just so happens that The Unknown’s favoured song is metal music, meaning as you play you’ll be doing everything to the beat of original metal songs composed by the Two Feathers and performed by some of the biggest names in metal – Alissa White Gluz of Arch Enemy, Randy Blythe of Lamb of God, Serj Tankian of System of a Down, and many more.
But, importantly, the soundtrack is more than just a nice flavouring, it is a fundamental part to the gameplay too. Saved from being another Doom clone, Metal: Hellsinger combines the fast-moving fps with rhythm matching for an altogether unique and exceptionally cool experience.
Timing your shots, dashes, and finishers to the beat increases your score multiplier and damage, and each time your multiplier increases another layer of the song will also be added. At x1 multiplier, for example, you’ll just have a basic beat, and by x2 and x4 you’ll get guitar riffs and bass lines layered in, before the ultimate reward of the song’s vocals lay in wait at x16. It means that the better you are doing the way cooler an experience you will have as the soundtrack so perfectly layers over all the demon killing chaos.
Each action and weapon also has a different way of interacting with the beat. For example, the shotgun times out differently with each shot (shot -> gun cocks on the off-beat -> shot -> gun cocks on the off-beat) to the more straightforward double handcannons which fire in a simpler 1-2 1-2 1-2 beat. Each weapon possessing its own style is great and offers a variety of playstyles in every level – something that seems fundamental to the entire experience of Metal: Hellsinger as it very much comes designed in an arcade style to be replayed again and again for higher scores.
Each weapon also has an ultimate ability which charges with every successful shot, and racking up a streak of successful shots will also eventually activate “hit boons” which add special modifiers to specific actions. For example one boon will add an aoe explosion to finishers. Finishers themselves are required to be done on beat when an enemy is stunned, the reward for which is both a Doom (2016) style execution and a health boost.
Even dashing done on beat comes with its own bonus as a successful synced dash immediately allows another to a max of 3 for a dash combo. There are a bunch of these combos available in the game, it’s just a matter of experimentation and skill, and when implemented makes for immensely cool sequences that come personal to every player. There is no better satisfaction than having a kill perfectly time out to the music to kick the vocals into overdrive while you then jump, dash, and execute another behemoth with the backing of Alissa White Gluz’ dulcet tones.
Metal: Hellsinger sings in these small uniquely made moments of cool, but its excellent story and all-round gratifying gameplay is what makes it a truly devilish work to keep coming back to. You’ll fist pump through cutscenes (each gripping in its writing, wonderfully done in a hand drawn art style, and well narrated by Baker) and grin through firefights before screaming for more as those final credits come down.
Find Your Voice
Metal: Hellsinger plays out in eight levels, each attributed to a different realm of hell and each holding a boss fight with an “Aspect” of The Red Judge. The realms are all different enough to provide a nice variation in environments while also having their own distinct song (and therefore beat) to all feel unique from each other. You go from great caverns to hellish cliff sides, to metal works and drippy cave systems, icy arenas and more.
Like any Doom type game you also have a mix of demonic enemies coming in variations of difficulty – i.e. easy fodder imps, a generic projectile soldier, tougher elite and behemoth types etc. The demons themselves are all wonderfully designed (and well worth checking out for full detail in the codex), each offering a variety of strategies to fight, however through the eight levels there perhaps aren’t just quite enough enemy types to have fights not feeling a little samey after a while. Of course the tightness and the satisfaction of the rhythm aspect of the game itself does do a lot to solve this problem – it rarely gets tiring to feed on those sweet rhythm kills.
The shooting feels good, holds good feedback on each weapon and feels punchy especially when making perfect shots. Kills also all feel very satisfying too with the game throwing up big point messages on a final blow while also being well sound designed to feel more vivid.
One of my few complaints is about boss fights. Each Aspect does have their own style, but they are still more or less the same boss with the same design and points to shoot up until the very final boss (which is a great final fight). They do throw up a slight mix of mechanics, but it is a little disappointing that each boss isn’t some entirely unique and disgusting demon beast that could only be dreamed up in the lowest layers of hell. Once you have fought one Aspect you have kind of fought them all.
But the rhythmic combat and the “cool” factor that this gameplay system and world inherently throws up far overcomes any minor gripes. Metal: Hellsinger is a gripping experience with plenty of thrills along the way. For sheer pleasure and satisfaction it really doesn’t get much better than this, and the game most certainly knows it, always throwing its most devilish grin at you in every scene, every combat sequence, every line reading, every beautiful beat hit and demon decimated. I can only sing its praises loud as hell.
Final Score: 8/10