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April 2024

Metal: Hellsinger

Platform(s): Meta Quest 2, Meta Quest 3, 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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PC Review - 'Metal: Hellsinger'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Sept. 12, 2022 @ 7:00 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.

It isn't the first rhythm-based shooter to exist, but Metal: Hellsinger is an unforgettable new entry into the genre. After being impressed by the preview build of the game earlier this year, I was curious to see if it could keep that level of polish across its entire run. Now that I've ripped through its entirety, the game is exactly what I'd hoped it would be. It's a fantastic game that incorporates rhythm throughout the experience, and its incredible control combines to form an experience that I absolutely enjoyed and won't soon forget.

In the game, you play as the Unknown, a humanoid with a demonic appearance who has been cast down into Hell. She's lost her memories and her voice, and she is hell-bent on fighting her way through all the minions that the Red Judge can amass to get it all back. To protect each realm of Hell, the Red Judge has created an aspect of herself, each of which is unique and serves as the realm's protector. As the Unknown, it is up to you to fight through each successive realm of Hell and defeat the aspect of the Red Judge found within.

Troy Baker voices Paz, a skull that serves as both a weapon and the game's narrator. You see, Paz has been around for a while, and although he has also lost memories of who or what he was prior to being cast down to Hell, all he knows is that he needs to help the Unknown. On the opposite end, you have Jennifer Hale voicing the Red Judge, the menacing skeletal figure that barely views the Unknown as a threat, and then later wages war against her to maintain control over Hell.

Beyond these two, there aren't any other voices; beyond the silent protagonist of the Unknown, there are only these three characters in the game. The plot is mostly delivered in cut scenes, many of which are shown at the start of each level. The narrative revolves around the three characters as their war rages on and they collectively learn about who they were prior to losing their memories. It's streamlined in that it delivers enough details to keep things interesting and provide context about the Unknown's journey. The game wields its minimalist plot so well that by the end, it not only reaches a solid conclusion, but it also sets up things for the story to continue.

You almost always have the same two base weapons to carve your way through the realms: a sword called "Terminus" and Paz, who can shoot weak fireballs at very long range. Almost immediately in the first level, you find "Persephone," a pump-action shotgun. In successive levels, you find the twin pistols called "The Hounds," which are one of the longest-ranged options you'll have; the explosive crossbow "Vulcan," which does area damage; and the "Hellcrow," which is a pair of hand scythes that are thrown and return like a boomerang. Once you've completed a level and unlocked the weapon within, you can use it as part of your loadout in any level, and you can take two such weapons with you in addition to the sword and Paz.

Each weapon literally has its own rhythm. The entire game revolves around the tempo of the level's song, from the timing of animations to how the flame of torches flickers to the beat. Next to the crosshair, you have pips that track inward toward it, which provides a very "music game" way to play to the beat. Shooting to the beat gives you more points and does more damage to enemies, and connecting those shots helps build your score multiplier. Being more consistently on the beat also builds up the ultimate meter for the equipped weapon, each with its own separate bars.

Metal: Hellsinger isn't just the shooting, though. Wounded enemies start flashing orange like the modern Doom games, and just as similarly, the Unknown can swoop toward them to slaughter them and gain points. This can also only be done on the beat, and doing so returns some health to the Unknown. When reloading, one of the crosshair pips turns yellow, and pressing the reload button again on this pip reloads the weapon faster. The shotgun can shoot every other beat, the pistols can shoot on every beat, and every weapon has its own song to sing while you're using it. It makes the noises of combat weave into the song, and racking a shotgun to the beat is almost as cool as firing it.

Ultimates are specific to each weapon. The shotgun delivers a massive blast, the pistols create a spirit version of the Unknown that does steady damage to the nearest enemy, and the Hellcrow summons a swarm (a murder?) of Hellcrows to circle around you and finely dice anything in a specific radius. The sword ultimate has you spam sword swings incredibly fast to a syncopated beat of its own. Using ultimates at the right time to take down stronger enemies can be key to keeping a solid hit streak intact.

Hit streaks aren't just a bragging right for score purposes, but as you progress, having a hit multiplier of certain levels also grants boons for as long as you can maintain the streak. These benefits make you more powerful and more capable of building up a streak. Initially, any damage you take breaks your current streak, but there is a later boon that gives you a grace of a small number of hits.

Boons are unlocked by playing through a torment, three of which are unlocked after beating every level except the final one. These torments have their own goals, such as killing several enemies but you cannot heal at all, or completing a specific number of slaughters. These challenges have a time limit, but making progress toward the goal also adds a few precious seconds to the clock. Once completed, it unlocks a boon; in later levels, it upgrades an existing boon, and these boons can be used in any level going forward. I found myself completing all of them as soon as I unlocked them, if only to amp up those boons before going into the next realm.

Metal: Hellsinger has seven levels, and each one has a distinct style, if not always some hellish version. Each of the aspects, or end bosses, of the levels have a different arena to fight them in and unique attack patterns. The normal gameplay can be a touch chaotic, as you double-jump and dash around while avoiding attacks and landing shots of your own. Boss fights can become "bullet hell" games, where you dodge hundreds of projectiles at a time while dashing over lava. It is perhaps the one time that you won't want to be headbanging while playing the game. You can resurrect up to two times in a level to get you back on your feet, but it's at the expense of a portion of your current total score. At the default medium difficulty, I'd often need one resurrection on a boss I was learning, which feels about right.

A Swedish composer duo named Two Feathers composed the music in Metal: Hellsinger, and the music track of a level starts off relatively simple. As you build your score modifier to higher levels, more layers of the music 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 features 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 Tranquility, Björn Strid from Soilwork, and Serj Tankian from System of a Down.

I'm in love with Metal: Hellsinger. First and foremost, the mechanics feel precise, which is critical in a shooter and doubly so in a rhythm game. The music is its heart, and it is good to the point that the OST would be worth picking up on its own. The part that makes Metal: Hellsinger special is in how well it weaves the music, the themes, the action, and the unrelenting rhythm together. It's a non-stop barrage of, "you get to perform awesome things done to the beat of a fantastic metal soundtrack." I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game until the credits rolled, and it left me immediately wanting more.

Score: 9.8/10

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

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