Metal: Hellsinger Review

Richard Walker

DOOM, Quake, and their ilk pretty much had the shooting-demons-to-heavy-metal genre sewn up until Metal: Hellsinger came along. And while there is a rhythm of sorts to blasting your way through a game like DOOM, there literally is a rhythm-matching mechanic at work in Metal: Hellsinger, rewarding perfect timing with increased damage output. This is more than your average first-person shooter, then, demanding that you play in a different way – one you might not necessarily be used to. This is no mere gimmick crowbarred into the game, though - it’s an integral part of the experience.

Eat shotgun, demon scum!

As such, that’s something you’ll need to consider before going all-in with Metal: Hellsinger – if you lack the necessary rhythm and are none too keen on metal music, then you're going to struggle to see where the appeal lies. On a basic level, shooting hellspawn is obviously never not fun, and, should you master the ability to match the beat of the game's pumping metal soundtrack, there's immense gratification to be had in racking up a multiplier and a hit streak, activating ability-buffing 'boons' as you go.

But before we get into all that, there's a story for your consideration, in which you, as the Unknown, have had your voice stolen, and must confront the Red Judge in the bowels of Hell to take it back. At your side is projectile-spewing skull Paz, voiced, with a deep southern drawl, by Troy Baker, who also narrates Metal: Hellsinger's infernal yarn, spread across 'the eight Hells'. From Voke to Sheol, via realms like Stygia, Yhelm, Gehenna, and Nihil, you'll carve a gory path through the Judge's minions, and destroy one of her seven 'Aspects' in a boss battle at the end of each stage.

During the first few levels, you'll gradually accrue an arsenal of weaponry, starting with a powerful shotgun – ideal for close encounters – before you're equipped with dual-wielded pistols, a slow and hefty crossbow, and a pair of throwable crow-shaped blades. I discovered quite early on that the pistols worked best for matching the rhythm, while the shotgun paired well with it for crowd control. From that point, I saw little need to bother with Hellsinger's other weapons, although, you’ll likely find a different two-weapon loadout that seems to work for you.

Whichever weapons you find fit your playstyle, managing to successfully sustain a hit streak proves enormously challenging, as missing a shot or taking damage will reset it. But, then, there are few things quite as rewarding as finding a groove and hitting the rhythm during Metal: Hellsinger's combat – as your multiplier ascends, more of the soundtrack is layered in, until you max out at a 16x multiplier, and the vocals begin - and hit streaks soon become a secondary concern. Developer The Outsiders has done a fine job in making rhythm an essential part of Hellsinger, framing either side of your aiming reticule with a chevron-shaped window, which serves as a simple visual aid to accurately hit the beat, with a ‘good’ or ‘perfect’ message letting you know how well you’re keeping time.

Both shooting and reloading feed into the pounding rhythm, a jab of the reload button at the right time leading to a 'quick reload' that helps maintain your flow. Weakened enemies glow red when they're ripe for Hellsinger's equivalent of DOOM's glory kills, which also have to be executed to the rhythm – often, I'd find myself jabbing in the right stick in a vain attempt to tear an enemy apart, only to be tripped up by a lapse in timing. Suffice it to say that staying consistently on-beat is tricky, but when you do, and you're greeted with a procession of 'perfect' cues, Metal: Hellsinger comes into its own. Executions are the icing on the cake, granting a useful injection of health as a reward - especially helpful when you’ve no health-giving green crystals to shoot nearby.

You've got to love them dual pistols.

Upon completing a stage, you're presented with three different 'Torments' to tackle: time-limited challenges that, when completed, grant a helpful Sigil. These are perks essentially, and they introduce another facet to Metal: Hellsinger's fast and furious linear levels, as well as a welcome dose of replay value. Sigils can prove invaluable, especially at the higher 'Goat' and 'Beast' difficulties, where a streak-preserving power or a handful of free ammunition can mean the difference between life and death. It's at the higher difficulty levels that you also have fewer chances to resurrect and keep going to a level's end, so it makes sense to take advantage of whatever additional help you can get. Use up your resurrect chances, and it’s back to the beginning of the level with you.

While it can sometimes be overwhelmingly intense, and a lot of your enjoyment will ultimately hinge on whether or not you’re really into metal music, and whether you buy into the concept of a first-person shooter in which its rhythm-based component is integral, Metal: Hellsinger is nonetheless an ambitious and unusual game, which feels like a bit of a one-off. Even if it does share quite a lot of DNA with some of id Software's finest moments, Metal: Hellsinger’s 'DOOM-with-rhythm' is a killer premise, and if it sounds like your sort of thing, then you'll probably want to get on it pretty sharpish.

Metal: Hellsinger

A hardcore heavy-metal shooter boasting a side order of rhythm with its brutal ultra-violence, Metal: Hellsinger is good fun, but you'll probably get a lot more out of it if you actually enjoy the music.

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Feel free to add more to this score if you’re a big metal head. The soundtrack by Two Feathers and a series of metal artists, like System of a Down’s Serj Tankian, will undoubtedly delight fans of the genre.


A bit like a metal album cover brought to life, Hellsinger’s hand-painted cutscenes look cool, and its rendition of the eight Hells is suitably dark and grim, and there’s a decent variety of fiery environments to explore and demonic enemies to slay.


It may take you a little while to master shooting in time with Metal: Hellsinger’s rhythm, but once you get the hang of it, there’s a great deal of gratification to be had, as your multiplier rises and more of the music kicks in.


Eight stages of Hell, three Torments for seven of those levels, and plenty of loadout options to experiment with. You’ll probably rip through Metal: Hellsinger in about 4-5 hours, but there’s a fair old dose of replay value.


Much of the list is connected to merely completing the game, but there are a handful of objectives here that encourage different approaches. That said, there’s a trophy for completing one of the Hells without missing a single beat. What madness is this?

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