One of my favorite things in any video game is when a player's actions and a developer's soundtrack sync into memorable moments that tattoo themselves on the brain. Plenty of games use this trick to the fullest, from the shotgun intro to 2016's DOOM to many of the cutscenes from Double Fine's underrated Brutal Legend. Metal: Hellsinger, a new single-player FPS from The Outsiders and Funcom, bases its entire campaign on playing to the beat. Various original songs sung by heavy metal superstars provide the Greek chorus for a grand tale of demon slaying and hellish redemption that should not be missed.
You play as The Unknown, a female devil on a mission to reclaim her voice from the overseer of all damnation. She's accompanied by Paz, a talking skull that seems to know more than he's letting on. The narrative reaches beyond its meager means, presenting a moving story with visual novel-style slideshows. The character designs are excellent, and I wish I could have seen some of these events in a more traditional cinematic. Even so, The Outsiders do the best with what they have and end up telling a tale that sticks with you long after the credits roll.
Hellsinger is a rhythm FPS, a relatively new subgenre that challenges players to shoot incoming bad guys in tune with a pulsing beat. While several other games have tried this unique combination, Hellsinger is the first to provide a blueprint for success. It's not the most protracted campaign, but each level feels unique, thanks to its accompanying track. The music intensifies as you improve your aim, with the lyrics only kicking in when you hit maximum efficiency. It brings the gameplay to the same energy level as a heavy metal concert and provides instantly replayable jaunts through hell.
The thing that makes Hellsinger rise above other attempts at this genre is that it leans heavily into being a shooter over a rhythm game. Anyone who's way into Rhythm Heaven may find something to like here, but Hellsinger speaks to the crowd who jumped back into the genre with DOOM and rode the wave of boomer shooters in its wake. It learns from the best in the genre while adding its innovative genre twist, and each half of the equation works out.
All the basics are here. Your primary weapons are a pair of revolvers and a powerful shotgun; they both feel exactly like you want them to. You eventually get a unique power weapon that speaks to the main character and adds something different to the arsenal. There's a menagerie of differently named demons, each with unique gimmicks and fighting styles. There's even a new twist on id Software's Glory Kills here, and it doesn't get in the way like some recent releases. The action is paced well because it's tied to a backing track, but every brutal slaying still feels super fast and instantly satisfying. Everything fits right into the symphony of violence you're committing around every corner.
Like its story content, Hellsinger cut some corners in its gameplay due to its modest scope. Each level ends with a unique boss fight, but the creature you fight is the same floating skull with a few minor visual changes. This makes sense for the story, but I wish there was some variety. The weapon selection is also tiny for a game like this, although I rarely wanted to move away from the basic lineup. Different players will gravitate to different weaponry thanks to how they interact with the rhythm of the music, so more weapons would have made the game more replayable.
Even if you aren't someone who chooses to return to these levels repeatedly, any fan of metal will surely listen to Metal: Hellsinger's soundtrack on repeat. Each track works great in-game thanks to lyrics that apply to Hellsinger's story, but the performances also fit excellently alongside the classics on a heavy metal playlist. Hellsinger also knows when to let the player dictate the song and when to kick things into high gear regardless of player skill. It speaks to a developer highly in tune with what works in a game's soundtrack, which is vital for making the whole rhythm FPS genre work.
Metal: Hellsinger Review | Final Thoughts
Metal: Hellsinger's most significant flaws come from its scope rather than its core mechanics. With some more money behind it to fund a longer story and in-engine cutscenes, the game could compete with any narrative FPS of the last few years. As it stands, this is a tantalizing first act that's still well worth your time. The Unknown's tale is prime for an encore, and I'll be waiting in the mosh pit.
TechRaptor reviewed Metal: Hellsinger on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.
- Powerful weapons and engaging opposition
- Heavy metal soundtrack that works both in and out of the game
- Simple narrative told extremely well
- Repetitive boss fights
- Visual novel cutscenes