Rhythm shooters are one of the fastest growing takes on the FPS genre. It feels like everyone is making one these last few years but Metal Hellsinger is the one that has captured everyone’s attention and rightfully so. Its demo was played by more than one million people and I am happy to say that the kinetic rhythmic experience is just as good in the full game with a wider variety of weapons, environments, and songs to murder demons to.
As I made my way through each of the game’s levels I found Metal Hellsinger to just get more addicting, as it does a great job of varying up the weapons, enemies, and situations you find yourself in. Whether it is using the game’s thumping shotgun, Persephone, or watching demons shatter with a frozen blast from the Vulcan, each weapon has a wonderfully unique identity that fits Metal Hellsinger’s world.
And while they look cool in their own right, firing each of them feels incredibly satisfying as they all have powerful sound effects that really amplify the rewarding feeling of shooting to the beat. Similarly, the use of your sword to assassinate and slaughter enemies up close as they are torn to bits is just as great.
One of my biggest concerns from the demo was variety – would The Outsiders be able to make enough visually distinct and interesting levels to avoid the game being repetitive?
I’m happy to report the studio has. From snow-topped mountains to dark and gritty hallways of ancient castles, each level has its own look and throughout your journey through the various Hells new enemies are introduced too. These enemies not only look cool but have new attacks you need to learn, so you can avoid being hit and keep up your combo multiplier and hit streak to maximise your score at the end.
While the game’s initial roster of enemies early on allows you to get to grips with the game’s combat, deeper into the game’s main campaign you start to have to worry about area of effect attacks that slowly spread across an arena in time with a beat. In addition, you will need to keep track of enemies in the air as well as those on the ground as large winged creatures will fire toxic gas and lasers at you.
I would be lying if I said all of this wasn’t overwhelming, but the ability to replay levels and the relatively short length of each one doesn’t make this annoying or frustrating. It’s a game that promotes practice and mastery, and my second run through a level was almost always more successful than my first.
Extra bonus challenges can also be unlocked that test your skills. These include requiring you to kill demons with only melee slaughters, or murder in a variety of other creative ways like having to cope with your gun switching to another one each time you land a kill. They add another fun option for you to experience Metal Hellsinger’s gameplay.
These also feel like a nice and much-needed change from the core levels in Metal Hellsinger’s campaign as they allow you to play around with the toolset you are given in ways that you just aren’t able to do in the main campaign.
Three of these challenges are unlocked after you complete each main level and succeeding in the challenges rewards you with Sigils that can be equipped and provide small buffs like being able to take a few hits before you lose your multiplier or not fall below a certain level of that multiplier. These Sigils and challenges help add a sense of progression throughout the game beyond just unlocking new weapons as you go.
All of this is set against a story that, for the most part, does its job but sadly fades into being forgettable when placed alongside Metal Hellsinger’s excellent gameplay. Unremarkable writing and a story told almost exclusively through narration just led me to tune out after I finished each level and wait for the next one to start.
Towards the end of the game, the story reaches too far though and seeks to tie the game into a wider world beyond Hell and it just feels unnecessary, especially as the game has exclusively focused on Hell beforehand.
And that overreaching in the final moments amplifies the one stain on Metal Hellsinger’s experience and that is its last level. While all the other levels feel perfectly tuned in the sense that you can always feel and hear the beat of the song, so you are able to time your shots and stay on beat, the last level’s song simply is far too cluttered.
The beat you need to shoot to is unfortunately drowned out by either additional vocals or instruments. This makes it almost impossible to actually keep up a high multiplier or feel that immense satisfaction that permeates throughout the rest of the game.
In addition, the final boss falls into the tropes of ‘asking you to do something you haven’t done before in the game’ and ‘throwing way too much at you’ which makes it feel like you are facing all the demons and attacks that Hell can throw at you, rather than a carefully crafted sequence of fights and a final boss. And, with this being the final level, it ends the game on a really poor note that just soured the previous five hours of incredible shooting and music I had just experienced.
It really is disappointing and I have tried to go back and find the beat within this level, but I just can’t. The significant issues give off the impression that the gameplay was sacrificed so that this song could be included in the game as it is a grand and powerful closer to the game musically.
So, while most of the experience really excels in what it is trying to do, it feels like overambition just brings it down towards the end.
After its demo earlier this year, we already knew that Metal Hellsinger’s gameplay is exceptional. And, the entire symphony is just as captivating and blood-pumping as that one level in the demo was. It’s just a shame that the game ends off-beat with a poor final level and a story that reaches further than it needed to. But, despite those flaws, Metal Hellsinger still provides some of the best FPS action you will find anywhere this year.
Metal Hellsinger (PC)
Metal Hellsinger offers gripping, adrenaline-inducing combat that rewards precision and mastery, set to a fantastic soundtrack. But, a poor final level sours what is otherwise one of the best shooters you will play this year.