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August 2022

Metal: Hellsinger

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Funcom
Developer: The Outsiders
Release Date: Sept. 15, 2022

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'Metal: Hellsinger'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on June 9, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Metal: Hellsinger is a rhythm FPS, brimming with diabolical enemies, powerful weapons, and metal music. Set out on an infernal journey in order to achieve the purest of goals: Vengeance.

After I completed the single available level in the preview build of Metal: Hellsinger, I realized that this game is likely going to feature highly on my "Game of the Year" nominations. At a glance, the title looks like an incredibly derivative shooter; "Oh boy, another Doom­-style shooter with a metal soundtrack," you might tell yourself. The key to what makes Hellsinger so great is the fact that it is a rhythm game. The combination of these elements makes for a transcendent experience, and it's been a long time since I've had this much fun with a preview.

The basic premise is that you play as The Unknown, a demonic-looking protagonist with tattered wings and a talent for tearing his way across Hell. You're after the Red Judge, the ruler of the Hells, who has stolen your voice. Across the eight levels, you'll build your arsenal and take down all manner of foes, such as weaker "marionette" grunts, dangerous Stalker enemies that move quickly, and a few other types of foes. To enact your vengeance, you'll have access to a variety of weapons; by the end of the preview's level, The Unknown was armed with a sword, a skull that shoots fireballs, a pair of pistols, and a shotgun.

Where the game is truly special just how much musicality it adds into the underlying shooter mechanics. On each side of the crosshair, you see "beats" coming toward the center, and shooting or slashing an enemy on the beat builds your score multiplier. Reload on the beat, and you'll get a beat coming in that is yellow; hit reload again timed to that beat, and you'll keep the multiplier alive and reload faster.

This ties into the animations, such as the one used to finish off a staggered enemy. One of the better ways to regain health is to bring an enemy close to death, which staggers them, and then finish them off. For most enemies, you'll press E on the beat, causing The Unknown to dash to them, pull out his sword, hold it for a moment, and then swing it timed to the next beat of the music.

A Swedish duo named Two Feathers composed the metal music in the game, and the music tracks start off relatively simple at lower score modifiers. Build it up to higher levels, and more layers of the track get added, such as an additional harmonizing guitar track. Max it out at 16x, and the track's vocalist can be heard, which features a slew of big names from the metal world who have lent their talents to the original tracks. The Stygia level from the preview featured Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy, while other vocalists include Randy Blythe from Lamb of God, James Dorton from Black Crown Initiate, Matt Heafy from Trivium, Dennis Lyxzén from Refused and INVSN, Tatiana Shmailyuk from Jinjer, Mikael Stanne from Dark Tranquillity, Björn Strid from Soilwork, and Serj Tankian from System of a Down.

It is hard to overstate how awesome the game pulls this off. It's not as though the vocalist kicks in right as you hit 16x and you hear only half a word, as it smartly waits until the next measure to weave them more gracefully into the music, though instrumental changes are generally immediate. By doing everything on the beat, it makes every firefight have great little musical moments; in something like Doom, you will occasionally do something cool timed to the music, and it'll make you happy. In Metal: Hellsinger, it's an entire game designed around being a pipeline for those cool moments, and somehow, that doesn't get old.

Each weapon has a bar that fills up as you use it to slay enemies, and once the bar is filled, you can perform that weapon's special attack. The shotgun's special attack is a massive blast that does a ton of damage at once, while the pistols' special lets you put down a ghostly specter that shoots beams at nearby enemies to damage them. Beyond the special abilities, the weapons have their own nuances, such as how the skull makes it easier to stagger enemies to regain health or how timing three sword slashes in a row on the beat results in the third slash being more powerful.

All of these elements come to a head with a boss fight, which features a different metal track with a higher tempo but the same vocalist in the rest of the level. The increase in tempo also increases the difficulty of the musicality, while the boss and its waves of projectiles also ramp up the difficulty of the shooter mechanics. You must adjust to the new timing of the music and then adapt it to your strategy to kill the boss, and it is another occasion that showcases how well the music and rhythm have been woven into as many parts of the game as possible.

The tutorial and included level for Metal: Hellsinger can be completed in about 15 minutes if you know what you're doing, and it only scratches the surface of the weapons and levels that will be in the game upon release. It also left a sufficiently good impression on me; if the released title is just more of the same, it's downright likely that Metal: Hellsinger is going to be one of my favorite games of the year. It's an entire experience that revolves around those moments of synergy between music and gameplay that occasionally occur in a shooter, and I can't wait to play through the whole thing.

Previewed on: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, 32 GB RAM, NVidia RTX 3080

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