Descents to hell aren’t supposed to be pleasant. After all, between the lava and the tormented souls running around the place, it seems like it’d be hard to get a moment’s peace.
This is certainly the case in the hellscape which forms the setting for Metal Hellsinger, an upcoming game from Swedish studio The Outsiders.
During my time with the heavy metal-inspired FPS, the looming towers and foreboding shadows of Hades served mainly as the imposing backdrop to a titanic struggle between one man and his inability to click on cue.
Metal Hellsinger Preview: Runnin’ With the Devil and Raging Against the Obscene Difficulty Curve
First of all, I feel it’s best to address that the intense conflict that occurred between me and the game towards the end of the showcase level I had access to wasn’t necessarily Metal Hellsinger’s fault. You see, the game pulls no punches about being designed for a primary audience who lie at the centre of the Venn diagram between metalheads and very skilled FPS players.
While, as an RPG lover, I can respect a game for striving to serve the desires of a niche audience, the lack of an option to lower the difficulty just a little bit left me a little frustrated by the end. You see, the key to Metal Hellsinger is its FPS gameplay, which requires you to seek and destroy a variety of enemies using a range of weaponry in order to progress through the world.
The unique twist to this simple formula comes via the game’s titular heavy metal soundtrack, featuring work from the likes of Trivium’s Matt Heafy, Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz and System of a Down’s Serj Tankian, with every shotgun blast and pistol shot scoring you more points and providing more fuel to your multiplier’s battery if they’re timed to the beat of the song that’s playing.
In practice, this can lead to some incredibly satisfying sequences of slaughter when you’re fighting fire with fire, the multiplier hits 16 and the lyrics of the backing track you’ve been gradually building up start to kick in as you kick bottom. Sadly, these moments were few and far between for me, as enemy strikes and off-beat clicks regularly intervened to stunt my progress.
The net result of this, plus the fact that some enemies (stalkers and behemoths in particular) can bleed away most of your health in one hit, was that I died a lot. This wasn’t the end of the world, with the game giving you two ‘resurrections’ that will bring you back to life exactly where you died, albeit having sacrificed a chunk of your score, before you’re forced to restart the level from scratch.
Though, I found that this wasn’t quite enough to get me where I needed to go, with the penultimate sequence of the final boss fight proving impossible despite multiple attempts. Sure, if I were to spend a week solid relentlessly trying over and over again, getting good as the Dark Souls crowd would say, I could probably luck my way into beating this particular bit, but even if I did, none of the time I spent doing so would have been that fun to me.
Janie's Got a Decent Looking Gun
Moving beyond the hard realities of the gameplay itself, as alluded to earlier, the majority of the furniture that surrounds you as you blast your way through hordes of enemies is very impressive.
The weapons available in the demo perform very well and look quite cool, with the shotgun (named Persephone) and the twin pistols (named The Hounds) both possessing skull motifs and beginning to glow as you power up their ultimate attacks. If I wanted to get into nitpick territory, I could say that the lack of any guitar-shaped guns was a little disappointing given the game’s theming, but there could easily be one of these lurking further on in the full version.
The same could arguably be said of the models used by the majority of enemies that you’ll be fighting, which are imposing enough, but do lack a little bit of heavy metal flavour to make them stand out as unique, in my estimation. The big boss itself, which took the form of a floating skull with wings and served as the master of puppets to all of the other enemies, is the exception to this comment, with its appearance, despite being a little cartoony, looking exactly like the kind of thing you’d see in a Tenacious D music video.
The Symphony of Destruction
Speaking of music, the soundtrack to my Metal Hellsinger experience was pretty good, with Alissa White-Gluz being the star of choice for the song associated with the level I played. Despite my struggles, the sections of the piece that I was able to hear at full strength were a pleasant listen, even if the riff didn’t quite have the killer kick to it that the best work of bands like Rammstein and Metallica does.
Then again, maybe my desire for more old school sounding tunes and genuine surprise at the absence of a Jack Black cameo or tribute betrays me as not being as much of a hardcore metalhead as I thought. There is one thing I am sure of though is that, based on my short time with it, I can only really recommend Metal Hellsinger to those who count themselves among the hardened FPS crowd.
Unfortunately, for the rest of us mere mortals, this particular descent to hell will mainly offer a lot of fades to black that’ll give you whiplash lasting all nightmare long and leave you feeling a bit like king nothing more often than they’ll have you salivating to play more as though nothing else matters, a verdict which is sad, but true.