From start to finish, Metal: Hellsinger is wholly unlike anything else I’ve ever played. Its inspirations are evident, sure – you’d be hard-pressed to overlook the DOOM-dashing FPS style Metal: Hellsinger employs, and rhythm games are hardly new themselves, but the way those elements are combined here makes for quite the sight. Replayability will perhaps be a concern unless you’re set on self-triumphs and climbing leaderboards, but the even one run through Metal: Hellsinger is enough to leave one satisfied.
Neither DOOM-likes nor rhythm games are things I’ve ever had a knack for (though not for a lack of effort), so on the surface, Metal: Hellsinger seemed a tricky sort of game to tackle. But like any hit-buttons-on-the-beat game, the rhythm element quite literally sets the tempo for the rest of the experience. As cliché as it might sound, the beat really does consume you to the point that shot weapons and dashes naturally start to fall into place.
The weapons themselves are pretty archetypal as far as shooters like this go – a shotgun, some dual pistols, and a few specialized weapons round out your arsenal – but where they truly start to stand apart is when reloads or ultimates come into play. Requiring those inputs to be registered on-beat as well is what elevates players from wielders of their weapons to masters over the loadouts. Managing the gauges assigned to each ultimate is a minigame all in its own and rewards players for becoming more knowledgeable about what weapons are best in which situations.
Metal: Hellsinger does well to layer these different elements on top of one another to allow players to focus on different aspects of the game at their own pace without making it feel like you’re being penalized for not utilizing everything someone who’s been playing the game for much longer might use. The vocals kick in at a 16x multiplier, for example, which is entirely possible to achieve without dashing on beat or memorizing combos from your cheat sheet. You’ll get to that multiplier and higher places on the leaderboard as you get fancier with your movements, but the focus remains largely on the individual with different difficulty options and helpful boons like one that allows you to take hits without losing streaks until you get more accustomed to the Hells Metal: Hellsinger traverses.
Growing accustomed to Metal: Hellsinger’s levels does reveal some of the game’s sameness as you progress through it, however. After replaying levels a few times to get your bearings or to beat personal or global scores, it’s quickly revealed that enemy spawns and some attack patterns are set in stone. Sure, paths enemies take will vary depending on where you are in any given arena, but trying for new bests quickly becomes a game that’s one part mastering the mechanics at play and one part memorizing the levels to move as efficiently as possible. Like a speedrun or a game that’s strictly about rhythm, personal or player-to-player triumphs are largely reduced to minimizing mistakes while knowing what comes next. That itself can naturally give way to prioritizing optimal loadouts and modifiers given that you can only select a few for any given run, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it does take away some of the charm from what’s otherwise a wholly unique experience.
It’s worth pointing out, too, that while Metal: Hellsinger is indeed unique, it’s not the first game to tackle this merging of genres. BPM: Bullets Per Minute exists and did come out before Metal: Hellsinger, but the latter boasts a roster of supporting talent that’s hard to ignore for anyone who even remotely dabbles in the metal genre Metal: Hellsinger bathes in. Hearing vocals from Serj Tankian, Alissa White-Gluz, and more over the sounds and sights of executing enemies or blasting to the beat makes for a trance-like performance punctuated by every input.
Some scattered FPS drops and behind-the-veil repetitiveness may hamper Metal: Hellsinger at times, but those infrequent hang-ups do little to detract from the overall experience The Outsiders have created. It’s easy to say this game should inspire others to pursue this genre mashup, too, to create similar experiences, but The Outsiders got it so very right with Metal: Hellsinger that perhaps it’s better to let this one marinate for a while before a truly creative iteration of this comes along.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5