Metal: Hellsinger has had a lot of hype behind it, and after playing its demo released this summer before its full release later in the 2022 it is very clear to see why. The hell shooter metal rhythm game is as unique a game concept as I have seen for quite some time, even if its constituent parts are all borrowed from other instantly recognisable IPs, and the execution is simply sublime too in this brief but extremely enjoyable demo preview.
The best way to describe Metal: Hellsinger is Doom (2016) mashed with Guitar Hero (or any other similar rhythm title) but instead of playing notes on a guitar to an audience your instrument instead is a gun fired in time to the beat of metal music, and your stage is the depths of hell where demons are attacking en masse. While the soundtrack shreds with various original metal pieces created and inspired by some of the biggest and exciting names in the genre you act as its conductor, helping to keep the rhythm to the song and building it up piece by piece by stringing together successful rhythm combos until you’ve got a full metal song underscoring your gory hellish delights.
While I had my doubts about the concept initially (simply because I have terrible rhythm and the idea of focusing on trying to keep a beat while also not dying is, funnily enough, my hell) this is a game that needs to be tried to be believed. The execution on this is incredible, the entire joyride of running through hell to an epic metal score influenced by you is one of unquestionable thrill, dazzling and epic from moment to moment, and as much fun as can be had from any shooter in years. With Metal: Hellsinger’s awesome ingenuity and rip-roaring-rhythm the question is begged: why isn’t this simply how every game is?
Slay to the Beat
Metal: Hellsinger, on the face of it does look and play a lot like the Doom reboot—you fight demons through hellish realms with an arsenal of weapons, enemies get stunned and can be executed to prompt an immensely brutal animation, and you can jump and move extremely quickly around the level—but once you get into the rhythm aspect of it a whole new ingenious game reveals itself.
A metal beat is always playing, and if you time your attacks with that beat you will do increased damage to enemies and build up a combo meter. You can do that by ear if you’re particularly music minded, or you can use the on-screen arrows that move into line with your aim reticle denoting when the beat lands as it crosses (I think there is an option to remove this if you do just want to purely use the beat itself). Not attacking to the beat will be hugely ineffective, so you better tune that ear quickly.
The soundtrack’s beat dictates just about everything in the game—and I mean everything. While your weapons are designed to fire in sync with it, so too do the enemies attack on beat—a detail which wasn’t immediately obvious but is one I love. You also have a dash ability to help you dodge and cover ground quickly, and doing this on beat will also aid your combo and allow you to string quicker dashes together. Executions also need to be done on beat; like Doom enemies can be stunned after so much damage allowing you to perform a brutal execution for an instant kill and some health back.
Your weapons are also mechanically at the whim of the beat too. Each weapon of course has its own fire rate meaning they have to be approached slightly differently to each other. For example while the basic pistol can just fire at a steady 1-2,1-2,1-2, the shotgun needs to be cocked between shots meaning it tends to skip a beat and fire on the first and third beat. This, however, can also change again depending on the beat; when the song changes so too will the beat and therefore so too will how a weapons fire rate fits into it. It makes fights feel entirely unique from each other since you’ll potentially find that some guns work better for you with some beats than others. I had a terrible time trying to use the shotgun in one fight, for example, because I just could not get into step with the timing, but on the next song the rhythm worked far better for me.
Weapons can be reloaded on beat too for a quicker “active reload” akin to Gears of War, and they all each come with a secondary special ability too which can be built up by keeping to the beat. These specials are powerful tools that will either perform a high damage or an AOE attack, or, like the sword does, temporarily change the beat to a high tempo solo to allow you to unleash frantic fury.
With every successful attack on beat you are also contributing to your combo score which goes up in multipliers of 2 to a maximum of 16. The really cool thing about each of these combo multipliers is that as they sync with the song too, increasing the intensity of the song as your combo goes up. For example, at your basic x1 multiplier you’ll pretty much just have a drum beat and nothing more to play to. Once you hit x2 and x4 a new layer will be added to the song—rhythm guitar kicks in. At x8 the melody jumps in, and then once your combo is at its max (x16) the vocals kick in too leaving you with an immense soundtrack to kill to. Taking damage or breaking the combo by other means will strip away these musical layers so you better do your utmost if you want to keep the music going at its fullest.
Metal: Hellsinger has an immense original soundtrack performed by some of the biggest names in metal (vocals include Matt Heafy, Alissa White-Gluz, Randy Blythe, Tatiana Shmayluk and more), so getting your combo score up to max is a huge reward in itself while also just making the whole damn experience much cooler too. It is incredibly satisfying and frankly awesome to keep on slaying to an ever-ramping soundtrack, the franticness of both the combat and the ramping soundtrack making for an unbelievable game experience that just exudes cool. Getting to that x16 and having one of metal’s icons screech through spine chilling vocals as you continue your battle through hell is unbelievably satisfying; an experience so fun that it is its own reward without the need for any of the junky dopamine boosting enticements that pervade so many other games. This is fun and cool for fun and cool’s sake.
I could go on and on about how simply gratifying and cool Metal: Hellsinger is but really the best thing now is to just go experience it for itself. It has a little bit of a learning curve to get used to balancing attack with the beat, but once you have got yourself in, then few games will come close exuding such an immensely satisfying and all-round cool experience; when Metal: Hellsinger all pulls together it is a thrilling delight, one which I cannot get enough of. The audio design, the tightness of the gameplay, the aura of cool around the rhythmic slaying, the aesthetic of the whole damn hell experience—even if you’re not a metal fan you’ll soon find yourself screeching out your vocal cords with devilish glee as you plug yet another demon to the rip-roaring, shredding, metal-ific beat.