Gaming and music is an age-old partnership that rarely fails to deliver. Who can forget the iconic tune of Super Mario Bros. or Sephiroth’s intimidating “One-Winged Angel” theme in Final Fantasy 7? It’s a beautiful combination that gives gamers plenty of memorable moments. Now, with Rock Band, Brütal Legend, and Doom delivering the awe-inspiring soundscape of rock in games, fans can headbang with controller in hand.
If there was a way to mix the rhythm combinations of Guitar Hero while blowing a demon’s head off with a shotgun, even better, right? Enter, Metal: Hellsinger. Developer The Outsiders have created a union between the fast-paced first-person shooter mechanics of Doom Eternal and thrown in the ability to “slay to the beat.” This isn’t the first of its kind, but when there are the iconic voices of Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), along with the excellent voice talent of Troy Baker, blasting in your ears, you can already tell this isn’t your average FPS based in hell.
I’m a big fan of blaring metallic beats while pumping lead into monsters, so I was thrilled Laptop Mag got the chance to play a hands-on demo of the thumping tunes and adrenaline-pumping action waiting to be unleashed in Metal: Hellsinger. The rhythm-based FPS will be available on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X and Series S later this year. It's important to note that the game is still a work in progress and is subject to change. But for a closer look at our initial thoughts so far, read on.
Metal: Hellsinger — Dancing with the devil
Following similar beats (metaphorically and literally) as rhythm-based hell shooter BPM: Bullets Per Minute, Hellsinger brings a symphony of intense guitar riffs and thrashing drums with each satisfying pull of our protagonist: The Unknown’s demonic triggers. There’s even an audio and visual calibration to get set up for wireless headphones and displays with high latency, making sure users get that satisfying shot on the beat. It’s the little things like this that show the developers want to make this a thrilling and fair experience.
Gameplay follows the same patterns as Doom (it was heavily inspired by it, after all). Slay every monster in sight with an array of special weapons, whether it's guns or a slick-looking skull sword. For example, flashing enemies can be “Slaughtered,” a one-hit kill like in Doom, albeit less cinematic. Slaughtered enemies drop health, and Doom players will be familiar with the routine this leads to; slaughtering lesser enemies to gain health fast when taking on a horde of foes. However, this also adds a bonus score.
Throughout Hellsinger, you’re constantly building a score by shooting to the beat. This can build fast if you stick to it long enough, with a multiplier, known as the Fury Meter, up to 16x for maximum score-gaining. This is a great mechanic for those looking to see their names on the leaderboard and for replayability, but for me, it’s the adaptive music. The better you play, the more intense a song will get, and the longer you groove without missing a beat, the longer the vocals stay in the song. And these songs will make you want to play better.
All the music in the Hellsinger is original, featuring the talents of some of the most recognizable voices in metal. Hearing Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz voice in the first level, all while shooting and dodging to the beat so I could keep the vocals going, is a delight. But music by the Two Feathers band is equally as satisfying to slay to.
Some of the best ways to keep that score is by using The Skull of Paz. This is The Unknown’s fitting skull buddy (voiced by Troy Baker), and he acts as the rhythm’s “pulse of the universe” and character’s voice. He shoots low-damage fireballs when first picked up, sort of like Doom’s pistol, allowing you to build your Fury meter and get easy Slaughter kills. However, I found the more I progressed, the less need there was to fill the Fury gauge — it was nearly always full.
Each level is split up into big stages where you must defeat all the enemies before passing through blocked gates. There isn’t too much to these stages, other than random multiplier pickups to raise your Fury gauge. Picking these up kept my gauge maxed out the majority of the time, meaning there wasn’t much point in constantly swapping weapons for different scenarios. This may be changed when difficulty options become available in the main game, as there aren't any in the demo.
Metal: Hellsinger — Tools of the trade
There’s a handful of hell-inspired weaponry I got my hands on throughout the demo, including the aforementioned Paz and skull-clad sword. This includes Persephone, a combat shotgun of sorts, and The Hounds, dual revolvers known as Cerberus and Orthrus. These were the main damage dealers, which meant I left the other two largely unused throughout my over two-hour playthrough.
Each weapon packs a punchy wallop, which is significant in a game filled with heavy metal. Even more so when you unleash their “Ultimate” ability with a right-click. Persephone unleashes a blast that annihilates anything in its path, while The Hounds create a static copy of The Unknown to deal damage. Ultimates can be used once enough energy is charged up from killing foes, but builds up relatively fast. I found they were handy in a bind, but I was using them more to build up my overall score.
So far, I didn’t find there to be enough enemy variation for weapons to be swapped out. On two playthroughs of the level in the demo, I played one mainly with Persephone and one with The Hounds, and didn’t find there was much difference between how I dealt with all the demons. Of course, the shotgun was better at close range, while the revolvers had better accuracy for mid-range battles. At the end of the day though, all that's needed is a dash to the right place and a well-timed headshot.
That’s an aspect I enjoyed about Hellsinger: accuracy is key. While shooting to the beat builds points and more intense music, you gain more points and deal bigger damage by nailing headshots. This brings more of a shooter aspect to it, rather than just obliterating enemies by sticking to the rhythm.
It doesn’t take long to get used to the tempo and start shooting with a groove, as Hellsinger isn’t too punishing. For now, it’s a game about gaining points through blasting enemies and keeping up a combo rather than difficulty, but this could change once the full game arrives. That said, the “Aspect” final boss of the stage I played had a few tricks up its sleeve, and one sly enemy that can teleport and snipe with green lightning can disrupt your flow if you’re not careful.
Metal: Hellsinger is expected to have around eight levels, which will see The Unknown travel across "Hells" to reach the Red Judge, the one who your voice. Our protagonist's journey may not be too long though, as the level I played didn't take long to finish. That's expected, but it puts into perspective how long the game will last. However, other levels may last longer, so only time will tell. Luckily, Hellsinger is a thrill to replay, especially if you're seeking a high score.
While I would love to have got my hands on a few more weapons and more of a reason to use them, what’s shown off in the demo I played is promising, especially if you’re a metal fan that enjoys slaying demons in style.
Metal: Hellsinger PC Performance
Metal: Hellsinger isn't the most graphically demanding game around, but its artistic style is a joy to look at. Plus, it means my visual experience was very smooth. I played Hellsinger on PC, with my Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2021) sporting an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, 32GB of RAM, and dual 1TB PCI m.2 SSDs. This is more than enough to handle the game’s requirements.
Speaking of, the minimum system requirements include an Intel Core i5-3454 or AMD equivalent CPU, AMD Radeon RX 550 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU, and 8GB of RAM. As for recommended requirements, be sure to have at least an AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or Intel Core i7-6700K CPU, AMD Radeon RX 5700 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU, and 8GB of RAM. Be sure to also have at least 12GB of available space.
Metal: Hellsinger — Outlook
Metal: Hellsinger is the rhythmic heavy metal shooter I've always wanted, and I can't get enough of "Stygia" featuring Arch Enemy's lead vocalist not only playing in the background while I leave gruesome demons full of holes but also becoming more intense the better I play. I enjoyed my time with the short demo and will have a lot more to say once we get our hand on the full game.
For now, I'm hoping the thrills of Hellsinger aren't too short-lived, as I can't wait to play levels starring System of a Down's Serj Tankian and more. I'm also excited to see the different difficulties set to arrive, and hopefully a few more enemies that will give me a reason to strategize how I use the weapons available.
Anyway, I'm off to conduct my way through a demonic, metal symphony, and guns are my baton.