Metal Hellsinger


If you want the two word review it is simply “hell yes!” If you want a few more words, then keep reading, but I think just knowing the basics of this game will tell you right away if this is for you.

In short, Metal: Hellsinger is a quick first person rhythmic shooter with a great metal soundtrack, high scores, depth in the fast-paced action, and good production values. Basically, if any combination of the words “first person shooter,” “metal,” “rhythm game,” and “high scores/leaderboards” pique your interest, this is probably your game. In fact, as long as not too many of those are deal breakers (or you have an open mind), you’ll find a lot to like here and enjoy a romp mowing down demons to a kicking soundtrack.

The basic gameplay is in the vein of Doom (2016), killing demons in hell, “slaughters” (instant kills) when enemies are on low life which propel you across the room, and yeah, that soundtrack. The main new element is that there is a beat to time your shots with and a detailed scoring system, with bonuses for combos, streaks, and so on. Shoot on the beat for higher damage and score and keep that streak going, without being hit or missing a beat, for better damage and score multiplier (called, appropriately enough, fury). Not hitting the beat will make things more difficult, but lower difficulty is more forgiving and you can even turn off the beat system completely in the options. There are also beat indicators in the environment and aiming reticle. So, no worries about it being too difficult, even if you are rhythmically challenged!

And along with your rising fury more elements of the soundtrack come in, starting with just basic percussion to instruments and finally the vocals, pumping you up with epic music as you come into your power. It rocks, literally.

The levels themselves are relatively short, doable in 10-20 minutes typically, depending on how thorough you want to be and how quick you are at building and maintaining your action momentum. Mostly there are larger arenas where enemies keep spawning in waves, typically getting more difficult, until the next path opens up. These rooms tend to be larger with some different heights, paths you can take (using a double jump or slaughter movement) and incentivize quick, constant movement between enemies.

The variety in design and art is pretty good, never feeling too much the same. Likewise the enemies are pretty varied in how they attack, how tough they are, and overall design: there’s poison spitters that slow you down, big demons with a blocking shield, flying angels with beam attacks, and so on. I found these core elements of a shooter, the level design, enemies, and flow between them, to work well.

You get a set number of retries (respawning in the current room wherever you were in the waves of enemies), with 3 at the easiest and none at the more difficult settings. This costs you quite a few points on your final score. Yes, this does mean you can die on the boss at the end of the level and have to repeat the full thing, though usually this isn’t too bad since levels are meant to be replayed for higher scores and the moment to moment action is exhilarating.

There is much more on top of these basics. While there is just a small handful of weapons, there is nice variety including a shooting skull for little damage but letting you keep up a streak, a sword, and guns that have a charged ultimate ability (like a super shotgun piercing blast) or are different and fun (dual boomerangs!). I’m generally a shotgun type of guy and used that one a lot, with its hefty boom. But I found it was good to mix in the pistols for better range damage and loved using the boomerangs as my secondary main weapon for the quick and constant firing. You pick two main weapons each level and all seem viable in general, some better suited for certain boss fights or styles of playing though.

There’s also a set of sigils. These are earned through doing challenge rooms, like only doing damage on perfect beat matching, or decreasing health as you try to defeat 50 enemies, and they give you bonuses like protecting a streak from ending with damage or increasing how fast you build up fury. There’s combos you learn through playing, like stringing together different kills with different weapons or movement, and generally a lot you can try to do to go beyond “shoot on the beat” to play better and score higher.

Overall production is really good. The levels are varied and are interesting looking (though short), game elements are polished, and everything runs flawlessly with Proton (played only on my desktop; rated “playable” on the Deck with small text the only negative noted officially). Reports on ProtonDB have it at Gold with users noting low to medium settings fro 50-60fps, or probably better at 40fps and medium (some high) settings. I had no crashes or other technical issues.

The setting and story is different and interesting enough, with nice voice acting (that’s the Jennifer Hale as the big bad and Troy Baker with a great Southern twang for the narration) and some drawn cutscenes. The general idea is that you play as the fabled “hellsinger” to literally sing your song despite hell’s (the devil is called Red Judge) best efforts to stop your rebelliousness. Something like that. It is enough to keep you entertained and read/listen more in weapons and challenge level descriptions to get more flavor. It is all rather well presented.

On a technical note, the game appropriately has a setting for the beat offset (display/input delay) and your pulling the trigger. This is done through timing your clicks with the beat and flashing to automatically find the right offset. And yes, it does make a difference. Switching between wireless headphones and wired speakers on my desktop had a noticeable difference in the timing offset and a better syncing while actually playing.

To repeat myself, the standout element in production is the soundtrack. I enjoy this kind of music (metal with a more melodic bend) and to have it all start kicking in as you hit that sweet flow of action is very well executed. The original soundtrack is awesome and features a range of good artists in the genre, including Serj Tankian of System of a Down fame. You can also add your own music with official modding tools, though I believe it needs a constant beats per minute and you won’t get the separation of parts to build up.

The game is fun, but not perfect. The levels and overall campaign is on the short side (I’m sure if you are good you can rush through it in just a few hours, stretch to 10-20 to collect all the sigils, etc.). But, that is balanced by the scoring system and leaderboards for replayability, if you want to chase your (or friends or global) best. Easy enough to dip in just for a run at a level (you can replay any you’ve played) to beat your score or time, though once you start rocking out you might want to keep that playlist going. While you usually get into a good rhythm (literally), at times I’d find myself searching for a remaining enemy or group and not seeing where they spawned in a larger area. The game does highlight enemies behind some barriers though, so you don’t have to manually move everywhere to find them, but still found I had to hunt them down at times.

As mentioned, dying too many times will set you back to the beginning, which can be a bit frustrating. Especially if you didn’t know what the boss of the level would be like, which is always the Red Judge in some different style, and realize your selected weapon load out is more difficult. Or maybe you just never click into a good flow and suffer some deaths early, meaning you’ll have to be perfect for the boss. Not that the game is overly difficult on the “medium” setting.

That said, the gameplay hits all that it needs to for this kind of game: varied and impactful weapons, depth to scoring, good production, and rewarding feel for a fast FPS. All the elements I noted at the start were all big pluses for me, but I think even if you aren’t a metalhead there’s something to the rhythmic shooting and coordinated soundtrack that will get your foot tapping and head banging.

Metal: Hellsinger is available on Steam, Xbox Game Pass, and consoles. There’s also a demo available (on Steam) as well as DLC for additional weapons and music (ranging from Gorillaz to Muse and Depeche Mode). A game key for the base game was provided for review.