Musicals have played a key role in the development of film as an artform. In fact, the very first feature length movie with audio, 1927’s The Jazz Singer, was itself a musical. However, within the realm of film, things are very different. While some games have attempted to incorporate musical elements into them, or have opted to simulate the experience of music, games that mimic the traditional musical are few and far between. Enter Metal: Hellsinger, a heavy metal musical FPS that takes as much inspiration from the Guitar Heroes of the world as the Dooms and Call of Dutys.
Developed by a team of veteran FPS devs called The Outsiders, Metal: Hellsinger is a concept so ingenious, you wonder why it’s taken so long to see on this level. I had the opportunity to try a hands-on demo of the prologue and first level of the game, and overall, I think there is definite potential here. However, this comes with an unfortunate caveat that I will elaborate on later.
The game itself is very similar both in aesthetics and general controls to the 2016 reboot of DOOM. You’ll be chopping up imp-like creatures called Marionettes, shooting large blasts with your shotgun and using primary and secondary fire. No aiming down the sights here, this is a pure “boomer shooter” as some have taken to calling it.
However, there is a major twist here that changes everything. In Metal: Hellsinger, when you shoot on the beat to the music playing, you deal extra damage. Indicators on your HUD show when each successive beat is coming, and if you shoot, reload, execute, etc. on the beat, you will receive considerable rewards. Perform well, and you will level up your damage indicator. Not only will this affect the damage you output, but the background music will change as well, adding more instruments and elements. This is really cool in execution, as when you’re in the flow, it feels like nothing else. It’s especially exciting when you reach the maximum level and the vocals kick in.
In terms of presentation, I left the demo very impressed with what I saw. The story itself, telling the tale of a demonic gunslinger and her love, is a tad befuddling but is fun overall. Troy Baker is firmly in “Joel” mode doing the narration, which is fun as well. I must admit I did not recognize him, which is a rare sentence these days. The music in the game is also, understandably, superb, with a number of celebrity musicians from bands such as System of a Down and Arch Enemy.
Graphically, the game looks quite good as well. To my surprise, Metal: Hellsinger is running in the Unity engine, but it is clearly pushing the graphical capabiltiies of it to its very limits. The game looks great, and is evocative of Doom and Heavy Metal magazine.
However, all of this praise comes with a massive caveat, and that’s the performance. For this demo, I played on my ASUS ROG G15 PC. An Xbox code was unfortunately not provided. Now, my PC has a decent bit of power to it. A bit less than a PS5, but a good cut above a Series S. I have been able to run games at up to 240hz with limited difficulties. Forza Horizon, Halo, Flight Sim, Yakuza, Watch Dogs. I’ve thrown some decently commanding games at my PC, with nary a crash or bug.
This game was different. Regular, elongated drops into single frames per second. Crashes. Inability to even open the launcher at points. It didn’t matter my settings, my anticheat, setting all graphics to low. It made nary a difference. Time and time again, in the middle of a heated battle, the game dropped to a slideshow, stayed there for sometimes upwards of two minutes, and then returned to normal. When you take into account the fact that Metal: Hellsinger requires precise timing and reflexes, and respawns are limited to twice per level, needless to say, I was unable to make it past the first boss.
Obviously, this is a pre-release press build. There is plenty of time to iron out these bugs, and if there isn’t (as of writing, no release date other than ‘2022’ has been set), I’d highly recommend a delay. Also, this could be an issue on my computer’s end (although I have some doubts) and obviously, this is not evocative of the console versions for better or worse. However, as is, the game, at least the one I played, is a good amount of polishing away from being ready.
With all of this being said, Metal: Hellsinger is worth the time to polish. Because the core game itself is not just incredibly novel, it’s also a ton of fun. With a little bit of extra tender love and care, this could be one of the freshest shooters of the generation. So please do not write this game off, it is absolutely brimming with potential, and I hope the final product lives up to it.
We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop when the game finally releases on PC, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.
Huge thanks go out to The Outsiders for providing us with PC code for this preview.