In the gaming space, you constantly come across new ideas that make you wonder "why has no one done this before?" I felt this two years ago when I first played BPM. But after trying out Metal: Hellsinger, I was left asking "why has no one done it this good before?" Coincidentally releasing exactly two years after the former game, it is possibly the best a rhythm FPS has ever felt.
Sitting on the periphery of the genre, I've always been a fan of metal and heavy music from the outside, enjoying it from the comfort of my headphones without engaging in a scene. Metal: Hellsinger welcomed me into the fold without the slightest pretence. It doesn't matter if you like the music, it just matters if you can bop your head in time to it.
Every choice in Metal: Hellsinger feels like one designed to make you feel cool as you shoot. Everything steps out of your way and just lets you get on with it. Even cutscenes last no more than a minute or two every time.
Images and Words
In this all-out pursuit of fun, Metal: Hellsinger's story takes a backseat to everything else. It tells the story of a beast in hell called The Unknown. After having their voice stolen, the devil traps them in one of the many layers of hell, with no route out. Literally hellbent on getting up above and causing havoc, your challenge is to get her out, killing as many demons on your way.
This story is barebones - just enough to keep you moving but not enough to really care about. The story is often treated almost like an obstacle, you have to wait out to get to the killing. This isn't necessarily a horrible choice but leaves you feeling uninvested in actually finishing the game. If you want to keep playing, the gameplay really has to click.
Luckily, the gameplay is fantastic. Taking a little bit of Guitar Hero and a dash from classic shooters, you have to shoot, swipe, and perform special moves in rhythm with the music. Though The Unknown has lost their voice, the world of hell has a pulse that the game's metal-infused soundtrack taps into.
The Number of the Beast
You initially start with just a blade, until you find a skull, played by the game's narrator. This skull can shoot, giving you access to both melee and ranged weaponry. From here, you only go on to unlock more weapons like two pistols, a shotgun and more. You have a small equipment screen before each level, letting you pick whichever weapons will get you the highest streak.
Metal: Hellsinger is made incredibly replayable through its streak system. As you continue to do actions in rhythm, a meter grows from nothing to 4x to 8x then, finally, 16x. Each new multiplier gives you a little bit of the track, slowly building as your own confidence does. Once you hit 16x, the vocals of the track kick in and everything gets heavier. You essentially earn a new voice when you are at your strongest. This throughline between the narrative and gameplay is one of the game's more clever ways of tying the two together.
Unfortunately, as you continue to make your way through hell - slaying demons and moving to the music - everything starts to feel a little familiar. There are only a handful of central enemy types and a few of the bosses are almost identical to each other. This is disappointing and lets down some of how thoughtful the game is, mechanically. Though I want to keep playing, I see little reason to test out new areas when the last one feels the same.
Reign in Blood
After you've beaten each level, you can access new challenges to take on and the leaderboards to comb through. This gives you a lot to mess around with when you've run out of story to go through. They don't shake up the game enough to feel unique but add just enough to keep you exploring.
For many, the reason they swap between one level to another will be the game's music. With artists like Serj Tankian from System of a Down, Matt Heafy from Trivium and tonnes more, there's quite a lot to like here. Tonally, the game doesn't mess around too much. A lot of the game's soundtrack is built on a very specific style of classic heavy metal which feels both relentless and endlessly listenable. It doesn't tend to genre-hop massively but this isn't a bad thing. With Metal: Hellsinger, you know exactly what you will get.
I played the demo for Metal: Hellsinger a few months ago and I wasn't surprised by the end product. It was more fleshed out and tighter but the base experience remains the same. I plug my headphones in, hook up my mouse, and get lost like I did back then.
A copy of Metal: Hellsinger was provided by the publisher.