“Metal: Hellsinger will be a hit with metalheads thanks to its stunning soundtrack, but it lacks both a shooter and a rhythm game.”
Basic premise is fun
Solid sound design
Excellent metal soundtrack
Choice of strange tones
One Note Experience
When it comes to subtlety, Metal: Hellsinger said, “Hell no.” Taking inspiration from 2016’s excellent Doom reboot, the rhythm shooter takes all the design hooks that made id Software’s game so memorable and blasts them through a stack of amplifiers far beyond of 11. If you could ever put your finger on why Doom is such an oddly satisfying game, prepare to have it moshed in your skull.
Developer The Outsiders achieves this by adding a beat-matching component on top of rapid-fire first-person shooting, similar to Gun jam. Players must kill demons in time with fierce metal music to maximize their score and damage. It deliberately gamifies the experience of subconsciously playing with a game’s music, but in a way that can feel more restrictive when stripped bare.
Metal: Hellsinger delivers on its genre-blending action premise through a killer metal soundtrack that will be a hit with its audience. However, by deconstructing the rhythmic secrets of games like Lossthe shooter exposes the bones of its genre perhaps a little more than players really need to see.
Table of Contents
At a glance, it’s easy to confuse Metal: Hellsinger with Eternal destiny. The Outsiders doesn’t try to hide its inspirations, recreating the arena-like battles of Doom filled with bonuses to grab and demons to slay. Over the course of eight levels, players shoot and battle their way through different hell realms in a linear fashion, each culminating in a classic “red bar” vs. “Aspect” boss fight. To make the Doom connection even more explicit, health can be gained by melee killing a weakened enemy while they’re blinking. As a pure shooter, Metal: Hellsinger doesn’t do much to top Doom Doom itself.
Every action is part of an ongoing metal symphony.
The rhythmic aspect acts as a counterbalance to this. The twist is that players are encouraged to shoot in time to the music. Small arrows pulsate from either side of a pistol’s reticle, giving a subtle indication of the best time to fire. When I’m in the groove, the battles are awesome. I slashed some weak remnants with two quick sword swings, switched to my shotgun to pump slugs into a larger enemy one at a time, and followed up with an execution – just like I drummed along to the music with my attacks.
What makes this work especially important is the extra attention to sound design and animation. When I need to reload my shotgun, it’s not a rash action. It also opens and flares up to the rhythm. If I hit the reload button again to a glowing golden beat, I’ll trigger a quick active reload which shortens the animation, but brings me back to shooting at a different beat than I expected. Even though I don’t need to jump or rush to the beat, I find myself doing it anyway to maintain that state of flow. Every action is part of an ongoing metal symphony.
Although it’s an easy-to-grab hook, it unfortunately becomes restrictive and mechanical. I’m basically still performing actions to a 4/4 beat, which makes my shots feel like the metronome rather than an instrument of the band. It’s a bit of a shift for a genre of music that often feels dynamic as it plays with speed and rhythm. Even when the music makes these changes, I still keep time.
Metal: Hellsinger could have endured experimenting with its beat-matching system a bit more, perhaps drawing more inspiration from games like Thumper than Doom. We get bits of it in his small selection of weapons, like a pair of boomerang-shaped blades that need to be thrown in a quick one-two, but I rarely feel like I adapt to the music as much as regularly. pressing a button. I’m left with one game that isn’t particularly a great shooter or a great rhythm game.
Metal: Hellsinger would be somewhat disappointing were it not for its excellent soundtrack, which does the heavy lifting here. The Outsiders have assembled a metal dream team to deliver their hellish soundtrack. Singers like Randy Blythe of Lamb of God and Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy bring the right level of guttural fury to the experience. Most notably, System of a Down’s Serj Tankian delivers a phenomenal vocal performance on Not tomorrowwhich is possibly one of the best original songs ever composed for a game.
This is a game made by metalheads, for metalheads.
There is a slight awkwardness in the way the music is implemented. Killing demons increases a score modifier, which goes up to 16x. Song vocals only kick in when this counter is maxed out and disappear if the combo drops to 8x. It’s a bit of a buzzkill to headbang on a track only to take a hit and have your voice abruptly cut off like someone has stopped playing an instrument in Rock Band. It adds an incentive to do well, but it’s hard to soak up the music consistently.
Metal is not just a musical choice; it is an aesthetic. The shooter has fun creating a world that looks like a metal album cover brought to life. The story follows The Unknown, a mysterious demon who appears one day in Hell. The Devil, a massive skeleton known as the Red Judge, steals his voice and imprisons him, prompting his quest for bloodthirsty revenge. Bits of lore are strewn throughout, constructing the Outsiders’ vision of hell with demonic plot.
The tone isn’t quite cohesive though. Each mission begins with an animated cutscene featuring narration by Troy Baker, who voices Paz, the talking skull from The Unknown. Baker delivers his lines in a slow southern drag, sounding like a deft cowboy as light guitar notes play. I felt a tonal boost as I transitioned between the Western-tinged cutscenes and the nightmarish thrills that followed.
Even with that weird quirk, it’s a game of metalheads, for metalheads. Those who love the music and the subculture will feel like The Outsiders has created a game just for them. The soundtrack may be his lasting legacy, not the filming.
Metal: Hellsinger can often feel like a one-note experience. Although the levels have some visual differences, they are all identical in structure. Even the majority of his bosses are the same demonic enemy with a slightly different twist added. Although the campaign could be completed in four hours, even that felt a bit long at the end as I ran through the final two realms.
This is mainly because the shooter does not introduce many new ideas after its opening level. New weapons are unlocked in each realm early on, but this slow drop of tools for experimenting stops in the back half. Once I had a weapon loadout I was comfortable with, I didn’t have much incentive to change it. In kingdom five I was just there for the music – an itch one The Spotify playlist might have been scratched.
It inadvertently removes what is so special about the game’s natural rhythms.
It’s no surprise that some of my favorite moments come from the game’s bonus challenges, called Torments. Completing a realm unlocks three timed challenges where I have to kill demons to extend the clock. Each brings a unique touch, which changes the gameplay. One of them automatically swapped my weapon randomly, forcing me to switch strategies on the fly. Another would force me to kill with my weapon’s ultimate ability. As I settled into a professional stream in the story, Torments kept my blood pumping with high-stakes clock races that reward some extra perks.
Other than that, chasing high scores seems to be the name of the game. Players rack up massive point totals over the course of a level as they string together “combos” (these are usually just chains of basic actions like getting two quick kills or rushing in succession) and the final total is placed on a leaderboard. For those who want to become competitive, Metal: Hellsinger will require a lot more speed and precision, and that should make it exciting.
This need for speed left me with some control issues though. Players hold four weapons at once, with a sword and a bullet-spitting skull equipped at all times. However, each must be swapped to use it, as all weapons fire from the same button. It slowed the pace of the fight just enough to leave me wishing I could push a stick towards the sword rather than having to cycle to it. If I want to use this tool on a controller, I either have to drop down on the D-pad to equip it, or double-tap the right bumper (pressing will spawn the skull instead, a weak weapon that I barely used) . I often found myself skidding while searching for the weapon I wanted to use.
As I struggled with this, I thought back to Eternal destinya game whose DNA lives in Metal: Hellsinger. In this game, the action never stops. The control scheme allows me to shoot, slash enemies, throw shots, and melee with dedicated button assignments. When I played this game, I subconsciously approached it as a rhythm game as I weaved every piece of my arsenal into a single symphony of destruction. Metal: Hellsinger seems fascinated by the invisible groove we find ourselves in when playing games like this. But by putting explicit cues on screen, it inadvertently removes what’s so special about the game’s natural rhythms.
Whether Loss is a jam session that gives players space to improvise, Metal: Hellsinger is a high school recital. There’s only so far you can get away from the score.
Metal: Hellsinger has been tested on PC and Steam Deck.