HIGH Perfect rhythm shots at x16 combo level.

LOW Boring boss fights and narrative.

WTF Amy Lee’s divine vocal work.

Beat Saber, Rez and Rock Band are but a few of the well-known rhythm games that have profoundly touched many in the gaming industry. Metal: Hellsinger does not touch the gamer in a similar way — instead it seizes upon their heart and attempts to pump as much adrenaline and fear into it while giving just enough serotonin to keep them coming back for more.

For anyone who’s played the recent Doom titles, the idea of slaying thousands of demons in hell while rock and metal music plays in the background is nothing new, but what if combat in Doom had musical rhythm, and my ability to follow said rhythm made my weapons more powerful and faster at reloading?

Ladies, gentlemen and demons, welcome to Metal: Hellsinger.

Metal: Hellsinger is a first-person shooter/platformer that skews towards bullet-hell in boss fights. Movement is fast and furious, requiring the player to be constantly moving, and dashing at just the right time for invulnerability is crucial, as it’s not possible to dash constantly. It even throws active reloads into the mix!

However, matching the timing of my shots with the rhythm of the music is what Hellsinger is all about, and it’s essentially the difference between racing with or without nitrous in a driving game. The more perfect-in-rhythm shots I hit, the louder the music gets, the more damage my bullets deal and the higher my score multiplayer goes.

Metal: Hellsinger shines when two dozen demons are in pursuit and the player hits three or four shots in perfect rhythm, causing the music and vocals to ramp up. The swell of the audio accompanying the player’s rampage is utterly euphoric.

There is a decent amount of variety in weapons, enemies and their attack patterns that goes beyond differences in aesthetics and health bar size. Players will find beasts like the aptly-named giant Behemoths, pesky Stalkers who can go invisible for short periods and Lesser Seraphs who can fly and deal significant damage if approached for close combat. The Shielded Cambions are the most aggravating, though. Their inconsistent movement patterns and propensity to keep firing while being completely protected by their shields demands patience and trickery.

Unfortunately, while the enemies are fine, boss battles are a weak area for Metal: Hellsinger because these fights are only challenging when the main foe calls upon minions to cause distractions and pad out the length of a skirmish. When going at it one-on-one, there’s no real challenge posed to anyone who’s been paying attention to perks and upgrades,.

So now we come to the biggest aspect — the music. The soundtrack in Metal: Hellsinger is so well-tuned to the weapons and arenas that it’s possible to get perfect rhythm shots off by letting the music guide the gameplay. Further, each weapon has its own rhythm, syncing with different firing and reload speeds. This makes Metal: Hellsinger a perfect candidate in the replayability department, not only for the sake of achievements/trophies, but for the sense of discovery the player feels when having to adapt a new shooting strategy that fits a new song while using a new weapon and still dispatching enemies effectively.

If there’s any weak aspect to Metal: Hellsinger, it’s the plot. The player is a soul that does not belong in hell but ends up there anyway. For reasons beyond their comprehension, their voice was taken away from them and now their main objective is to get that voice back. Naturally, the best way to recover one’s voice is to make demons in hell scream in agony as one kills them on the way to the big bad.

The story is narrated by the cheesiest cowboy voiceover imaginable — real ’80s Hollywood Western stuff. It’s an oddity given the setting, and can be grating as the campaign goes on. This narrator and his terrible one-liners are unfortunately a harbinger of the failings to come when analyzing the narrative in Metal: Hellsinger. The premise is ill-explained and the motivation for moving forward is so paper-thin it’s embarrassing. Clearly the developers spent their time on gameplay and sound design, and then left the story to whatever intern was available to slap something together.

While not perfect in all areas, the craft on display in Metal: Hellsinger is a testament to the beauty and precision that a focused project with a great vision can yield.

Rating: 8 out of 10

— Patricio do Rosario

Disclosures: This game is published by Funcom and developed by The Outsiders. It is available on PS5, XBX/S and PC. This game copy was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T. Contains Violence, Suggestive Themes, Crude Humor, Blood, and/or infrequent use of Strong Language. There are depictions of blood and violence, both at close range. There is also a generous amount of use of Tobacco in-game. That said, as a point of comparison to others in the genre, I feel it is milder than both Doom and Wolfenstein from recent years.

Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Metal: Hellsinger offers visual prompts for players who might not be able to hear the beat. My experience with the sound off was a bit disorienting because I spent a bit too much time looking at the sides of the screen (where the timing markers scroll by) as opposed to the whole screen, but I would guess it would be less noticeable with practice. Based on this, I would say that the game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: The controls are remappable.

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