Throughout my time in Metal: Hellsinger, I can only describe my general feeling as overwhelmed with awe. There wasn't a single dull moment when making my way through demon-filled biomes of Hell and better still it is soundtracked by what will surely be a multi-award-winning composition of original tracks from Two Feathers and the incredible cast of artists that joined them.
It struck me quite early on that, as a complete project, Metal: Hellsinger was something very special. The demo that was released earlier this year gave a good account of what to expect, but nothing could prepare me for just how incredible the game would be.
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A Fever Dream in Hell
For anyone who is still unaware of what Metal: Hellsinger is or cannot imagine how it would play, there are a few comparisons to make. It's like a mix of Crypt of the Necrodancer, BPM: Bullets Per Minute and Doom.
Despite there being clear inspirations from other games and genres, Metal: Hellsinger does feel like an entirely unique experience from start to finish. Better yet, it's compact and easy to digest meaning there's no fatigue whatsoever as the game goes on.
You take on the role of Unknown, a mysterious protagonist who has their voice stolen by the Red Judge. They were then locked away in hell with no hope for escape. Then along comes Paz, the disembodied skull of a demon who wishes to help the Unknown break free and claim back her voice.
The story is simple but well presented through beautiful artistic cutscenes. Paz acts as the narrator for the story too and does a brilliant job of building up the anticipation for each level. Overall the story is strong and does everything it can to elevate the small sections between gameplay. A lot of effort has gone into creating a cohesive and fun narrative despite gameplay being where the game excels.
Don't. Stop. Shooting.
Speaking of gameplay, Metal: Hellsinger has probably ruined every other gaming experience I'll have for some time because there will be no topping the package that it offers. Combat is some of the most fluid and satisfying I've ever seen and the rhythm/musical element is just the icing on the cake.
Each level takes you through a different level of hell and no level is longer than around 20 minutes depending on how well you cope with the enemies. Playing in the background of each level is an originally composed metal track and you may initially wonder why it's just instrumental.
Well, the game soon teaches you that action is key to Metal: Hellsinger for a reason and you actually have to build up a combo meter, known as Fury, by landing well-timed attacks on enemies. Once you reach 16x, the best score multiplier possible, the vocals of the track kick in.
No matter how far into the game I got, the satisfaction of hitting that 16x multiplier level and the insane vocals kicking in for a song never got old. It's one of the craziest incentives for performing well in a game and it works wonderfully.
This is also the reason that no level is particularly long. They are all composed of arenas where you engage in combat with waves of demon enemies. Once all are defeated, you destroy the hell gate and proceed to the next area. This repeats until you reach the boss fight for that level. Boss fights are good but not up to the same standard as the rest of Metal: Hellsinger. You will encounter the same boss with varying mechanics right up until you take on the main antagonist, the Red Judge.
While the fights are repetitive, the varied arenas, attack patterns and music that plays during each still means they are just complete chaotic fun to complete.
In The Depths of Hell... There is Content
When you're progressing through the story you will unlock new weapons and some a very interesting to use but not all of them seem to have a payoff in the risk/reward sense.
I stuck to the twin revolvers for almost my entire playthrough only changing to use Paz's skull as a way to maintain combos between battle arenas. Once a level is complete, you can also head back in and complete one of three challenges. These will unlock boons which offer a range of buffs and little skill tweaks. These can then be applied in the loadout for your mission going forward to help with your leaderboard chasing.
Ah, that's right, I almost forgot to mention that Metal: Hellsinger is also essentially a leaderboard chase game too! You get an arcade-style scoring screen at the end of each level that details how long you spent at maximum fury, how much damage you dealt and took and what your overall score is.
You can resurrect on certain difficulties and take a points penalty for doing so (luckily no souls-style crushing deaths here). I'm enjoying seeing my name quite high on the leaderboard for now but fear once the game releases that will certainly not be the case. Just imagining the level of skill that will be on show when people try and pull off speedruns or no-damage completions of Metal: Hellsinger is something I'm looking forward to seeing.
The difficulty has an effect on the scoring system too but not so much as to punish those who choose to play on easier settings. The main change between the lowest and highest of the three options is that your timing will matter more and landing perfect hits or shots will result in a bigger damage boost as well as increase your score quicker too!
All-in-all, for a game that I would consider to be a smaller release and certainly far away from AAA in size, Metal: Hellsinger really brings the content and creates a game that is super replayable. I'm already finding myself revisiting levels to improve scores and make sure that I can enjoy that soundtrack for all that it's worth.
I'm also using varying loadouts and trying new weapons just to see exactly how they change the game. My desire to keep revisiting this game and play more speaks volumes in a world of live-service grinds and battle royale quick fixes.
Metal: Hellsinger is an unreal game that feels like The Outsiders took my wildest dreams and made them a reality. It's an absolute must-play and hopefully, it isn't the last we've seen of this IP.
We reviewed Metal: Hellsinger on PC with a code provided by the developer.
The game will be released on Thursday, 15 September on Xbox Series X/S, PS5 and PC. Early Access is available from Tuesday, 12 September if you pre-order the game.