Rhythm shooters are one of the fastest growing versions of the FPS genre. It seems like everyone is making one in recent years, but Metal Hellsinger is the one that has grabbed everyone’s attention and rightly so. His demo was played by over a million people and I’m happy to say that the rhythmic kinetic experience is just as good in the full game with a wider variety of demon slaying weapons, environments and songs.
As I progressed through each of the game’s levels, I found that Metal Hellsinger becomes more addictive as it does a great job of varying the weapons, enemies, and situations you find yourself in. Either using the in-game shotgun. , Persephone, or watching demons shatter with a frozen blast from the Vulcan, each weapon has a wonderfully unique identity that fits into the world of Metal Hellsinger.
And while they look great in their own right, shooting each one of them feels incredibly satisfying as they all have powerful sound effects that really amplify the rewarding feeling of shooting to the beat. Likewise, using your sword to slay and slaughter enemies up close while ripping them to shreds is just as cool.
One of my biggest concerns about the demo was variety: could The Outsiders create enough visually distinct and interesting levels to keep the game from being repetitive?
I am pleased to report that the study has. From snow-capped mountains to the dark and gritty corridors of ancient castles, each level has its own look and throughout your journey through the various hells, new enemies are also introduced. Not only do these enemies look cool, but they also have new attacks to learn, so you can avoid getting hit and keep your combo multiplier and hit streak going to maximize your score at the end.
While the game’s initial roster of enemies early on allows you to familiarize yourself with the game’s combat, later in the game’s main campaign you start to worry about area-of-effect attacks slowly spreading across an arena to the beat of a rhythm. Additionally, you’ll need to keep track of enemies in the air as well as those on the ground, as the large winged creatures will shoot toxic gases and lasers at you.
I’d be lying if I said all of this wasn’t overwhelming, but the ability to replay levels and the relatively short duration of each one doesn’t make this annoying or frustrating. It’s a game that promotes practice and mastery, and my second pass through a level was almost always more successful than the first.
Additional bonus challenges that test your skills can also be unlocked. These include forcing you to kill demons with melee kills alone, or to kill in a variety of other creative ways, such as having to deal with your weapon switching to another every time you land. They add another fun option for you to experience Metal Hellsinger gameplay.
These also feel like a nice and much-needed change from the base levels in Metal Hellsinger’s campaign, as they allow you to play with the toolset they give you in ways you simply can’t in the main campaign.
Three of these challenges are unlocked after completing each main level and succeeding in the challenges rewards you with Sigils that can be equipped and provide small benefits like being able to take a few hits before losing your multiplier or not falling 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, gets the job done, but sadly becomes forgettable when compared to Metal Hellsinger’s excellent gameplay. Uncomplicated writing and a story told almost exclusively through narration led me to log off after finishing each level and wait for the next one to begin.
However, towards the end of the game, the story goes too far and seeks to link the game to a larger world beyond Hell and seems unnecessary, especially since the game has focused exclusively on Hell beforehand.
And that overreach in the closing moments amplifies the one blemish on the Metal Hellsinger experience and that’s its ultimate 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 can time your takes and keep to the beat, the last level’s song is just too messy.
Unfortunately, the pace at which you need to shoot is drowned out by additional vocals or instruments. This makes it almost impossible to maintain a high multiplier or feel that immense satisfaction that permeates the rest of the game.
Also, the final boss falls into the tropes of ‘asking you to do something you haven’t done before in the game’ and ‘throwing yourself in too much’, making it feel like you’re facing every demon and attack Hell can throw at you, instead of a carefully crafted sequence of fights and a final boss. And, this being the final level, it ends the game on a really poor note that soured the previous five hours of amazing gunplay and music that I had just experienced.
It’s really disappointing and I’ve tried to go back and find the rhythm within this level but I just can’t. Significant issues give the impression that gameplay was sacrificed for this song to be included in the game, as it is a great and powerful musical approach to the game.
So while most of the experience really excels at what it’s trying to do, it feels like over-ambitiousness 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 exciting as that level was in the demo. It’s a shame the game ends off the beat with a poor final level and a story that goes further than necessary. But, despite those flaws, Metal Hellsinger still offers some of the best FPS action you’ll find this year.
Metal Hellsinger (PC)
Metal Hellsinger delivers 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’ll play this year.