Windows Central Verdict
Metal: Hellsinger delivers engrossing rhythm-based shooting fun alongside a genuinely fantastic metal soundtrack. The game is short and lacks environmental variety, but the allure of a bigger high score should keep players returning for more.
+ Addictive, DOOM-inspired FPS gameplay
+ An incredible soundtrack featuring legendary metal artists
+ Torment challenges and leaderboards encourage repeat play
− A teasingly short narrative
− Lack of level variety
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The return of the legendary DOOM franchise in 2016 was marked by an epic metal soundtrack masterminded by Mick Gordon, and it brought the genre back to video games in a big way. In 2022, Metal: Hellsinger, a DOOM-esque FPS that leans even more heavily into an original soundtrack featuring shredding guitars, booming percussion, and some of the best metal vocals in the industry is continuing that trend.
I was sold by Metal: Hellsinger's rhythm gameplay from the moment I began playing its demo, and it drummed up excitement to jump into the full game. The final package delivers on the musical ambitions of the developers and the impressive array of artists involved. Even if the full game is a little quick to stop giving you fresh content to explore, there is a lot of fun to be had in this latest rendition of Hell.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Funcom. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.
Metal: Hellsinger — What's good
Metal: Hellsinger's core gameplay is deceptively simple to grasp. This is a first-person shooter with plenty of similarities to id Software's DOOM games, but with increased investment in tying the soundtrack to the combat. Players can utilize a variety of unique weapons, as well as brutal Executions (which grant bursts of health), to cut through swarms of diverse demonic enemies in hellish environments and achieve higher scores.
Metal: Hellsinger's heavy soundtrack dominates the background the entire time, and players need to match their actions with the beat to deliver greater damage, earn a higher score, and ultimately manage to survive the onslaught of enemies hellbent on destroying them. Consistently matching the beat to increase your streak ups the Fury level, a score multiplier that also ramps up the energy of the soundtrack. Completing a level nets players a spot on the leaderboards, with their score determined by the time spent at the highest Fury level, the number of beats perfectly matched, the number of successful kills and multi-kills, the speed at which the level is completed, the amount of damage the player took, and more.
|Genre||First-person shooter, Rhythm|
|Install size||~12 GB|
|Release date||Sept. 15, 2022|
|Platforms||PC, Xbox Series X|S, PS5|
|Xbox / PC Game Pass||PC, Xbox Series X|S, Cloud|
This rhythmic gameplay loop is excellent. Carving your way through Hell to the beat of an aggressive metal song never fails to capture your attention. While the arsenal of weapons available isn't the largest, there's a bigger variety of enemy types on which to use those weapons. A mixture of basic and elite enemies ensures no battle passes without some form of challenge, and later levels progressively pump up the difficulty with more enemies, longer waves, and a greater number of elites.
Every level also ends with a boss fight, with players tasked with defeating an Aspect of Hell's leader, the Red Judge. Each boss possesses unique abilities that you'll have to learn and overcome before you can clear the level and gain access to the next area. In the end, players will go toe-to-toe with the Red Judge herself, an all-powerful entity dominating Hell with her overwhelming abilities.
In total, there are eight unique levels (plus a tutorial), and 21 additional challenges known as Torments that mix up the gameplay and grant you Sigils that can provide powerful boosts and abilities in regular play.
In the end, however, it's not Metal: Hellsinger's narrative or even the epic boss fights you'll remember, but rather the mesmerizing metal soundtrack, addictive gameplay, and the allure of an ever-larger score to cap your Hell-bound adventures. It shouldn't surprise anyone who has followed Metal: Hellsinger's journey that its music is one of its defining characteristics, but it should please many that the expectations set are met by the finished soundtrack, which measures just over an hour of original metal music.
Much of Metal: Hellsinger's soundtrack is composed by Two Feathers, a studio known for its work on League of Legends, the Battlefield franchises, and so many others. However, each track also features a guest artist from some of the biggest and most well-known bands in the metal industry. These vocals provide the focal point for every song, and not a single track is unimpressive.
The list of featured artists is incredible, with especially excellent performances from Tatiana Shmayluk from Jinjer, Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy (who performs in my personal favorite song), and Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Players may also recognize the vocalists from other noted metal bands like Trivium, Soilwork, Refused and Invsn, Lamb of God, Black Crown Initiate and Replacire, and Dark Tranquillity (whose vocalist, Mikael Stanne, features on the largest number of tracks).
Even separated from Metal: Hellsinger, this collection of music works as an exciting and standalone metal album. The music here won't turn the metal industry on its head — by nature, the songs can't be too technically advanced since they need to be fairly simple so they can easily loop throughout the level. Still, I enjoyed every song on the soundtrack and rarely stopped headbanging or moving my body to the music as I played. This quickly became one of my favorite video game soundtracks, and that's before even considering the ingenious audio design that elevates the game to new heights.
I previously mentioned the Fury meter, and while this meter is vital for achieving the highest scores possible, it's also intrinsically tied to the soundtrack. As your Fury rises, the music dynamically swells in energy and sound, starting with simple percussion at the lowest level, bringing in more layers as you rise, and finishing off with the full song, complete with riveting vocals, at the max Fury level.
This complex effect is accomplished so well that it feels like a simple, mundane feature that every game should be able to employ. The better you play, the better the game sounds, and it multiplies the euphoria of finding the rhythm and going on an unstoppable spree, leaving the ashes of fallen demons scattered in your wake. I was constantly impressed by the effortless smoothness of rising through the Fury meter and bolstering the background song.
Also worth mentioning is how well Metal: Hellsinger loops and mixes every song to persist throughout a level. Every song is, predictably, around 3-7 minutes long, but this isn't enough time to span any of the levels. Other games can use lulls of silence to help blend songs across areas, but the game needs to maintain an energetic sound the entire time. Despite this challenge, I was never consciously aware of songs looping or being cut together. This, combined with the dynamism of the Fury meter and the generally fantastic quality of the songs themselves, ensures that Metal: Hellsinger is one of the best-sounding games of the year, and one of the most addictive.
Metal: Hellsinger — What's not good
Metal: Hellsinger is polished, well-designed, and undeniably fun. While its visual fidelity and art design certainly won't win it any rewards, I never once felt they were lacking. Gameplay feels varied enough that I didn't grow bored of combat, and the metal soundtrack, paired with excellent audio design, is best-in-class. It seems like The Outsiders got everything right, except for one major qualm that lingered with me long afterward — the lack of content.
Metal: Hellsinger is driven by a narrative, single-player campaign that does have some interesting story beats. The tale follows the Unknown, a mysterious demon that is intent on reclaiming her lost voice, and possibly her memories. According to an ancient prophecy, this demon may be the Hellsinger that is destined to succeed at conquering Heaven and Hell during her quest. It becomes clear fairly early on that the story isn't particularly important, however, a point accentuated by inconsistent writing quality and a fast pace that moves matters along so players can "get on with it" and start the next level.
Metal: Hellsinger isn't flat-out ignoring its story, but it certainly makes no effort to linger. Unfortunately, all of its eight campaign levels (not including the tutorial) only amount to just over four hours — after which you've seen every environment there is to see and battled every enemy there is to battle. It doesn't help that every level is mostly linear, meaning each run will follow the same path. Torment challenges provide another few hours of content, but they take place in the same environments as the story.
Not all games need to prioritize their narrative if it makes sense, and it's clear that Metal: Hellsinger's long-term allure is with its leaderboards and the reach for perfected runs. Still, I was left wanting to see more of this morbid world The Outsiders created for its game, and I yearned for more level variety to keep it interesting for longer.
It's not clear if The Outsiders plan to grow Metal: Hellsinger in the future with possible DLC — the story is certainly open-ended enough to allow that — but what's available right now isn't quite enough.
Metal: Hellsinger — Should you play it?
Metal: Hellsinger is marked by its brevity of content almost as much as it is by its entertaining metal soundtrack. Its strength lies in how it expertly weaves rhythm gameplay into the pillars that define other shooters like DOOM. Whether you consider Metal: Hellsinger worth playing may depend on if you're tempted by the lure of a higher score, but one thing is certain: The list of legendary artists The Outsiders managed to secure for its riff-heavy music is not for show. Metal: Hellsinger delivers one of the most memorable soundtracks and some of the best audio design of the year.
I'm not the most competitive player and am not as motivated by a larger number on a leaderboard, but riveting demon-slaying action alongside great music nabs Metal: Hellsinger a spot among my favorite PC games I've played recently. If you're on the fence, Metal: Hellsinger is a day one addition to Xbox and PC Game Pass, making it easy to experience without committing to the full price tag.
Metal: Hellsinger releases on Sept. 15, 2022 for Xbox Series X|S, PS5, and PC, with preorders netting two days of early access.
Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.