Ever since Doomguy cocked his shotgun in time with DOOM (2016)’s iconic soundtrack, the marriage of rhythm games and first-person shooting was inevitable. It’s an unusual mix, but one that has great potential. Games like BPM have already tried to do their own thing, but nothing released so far has captured the full potential of slaying demons in line with wailing guitars. Metal: Hellsinger is the starting point for this new genre mashup, a brilliant gameplay mix that brings the best of both worlds into one slick FPS package.
That all starts with a tried and true narrative. Metal: Hellsinger casts players as The Unknown, a dual-wielding half-demon standing up against the hordes of hell. There is a story to be told here through cutscenes that feel right out of the OG Xbox era, something that hits right at my own personal nostalgia. Our hero is fueled by vengeance and equipped with an impressive array of weaponry. From a pair of revolvers to a heavy-duty shotgun, even the single level available for preview has an impressive variety in its combat sandbox.
That’s key to Metal: Hellsinger’s success. Even if the game stripped out its rhythm hooks, it would still have plenty of merit as a straight-up shooter. It would probably be called derivative due to its demonic theming, but this specific menagerie of monsters delivers a satisfying challenge and plentiful targets around every corner. Beyond that, the core gunplay feels right in line with the best the genre has to offer.
Like all the best shooters of the moment, Metal: Hellsinger also sports an interesting way to zoom around combat arenas with ease. The Unknown’s demonic nature includes a pair of wings that let them double jump and glide with ease. Combined with a speedy dash used to dodge incoming fire, the movement and shooting often sync up just as nicely as the action does with the head-banging soundtrack.
Speaking of, the artist list for Metal: Hellsinger is phenomenal. System of a Down’s Serj Tankian, Trivium’s Matt Heafy, and Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe are just some of the singers laying down new vocals for the game’s original score. Each song matches with a stage, and players don’t earn the vocals unless they time shots well and keep a combo going. While that can seem limiting on paper, the system works as a great motivator in the vein of DOOM’s glory kills (something Hellsinger also borrows for its sandbox). At the end of the day, you want to hear the full song as you tear apart each foe, so you’ll gladly keep with the rhythm as long as possible.
Besides providing pleasing audio, playing well also charges each weapon’s ultimate ability. These play out similar to abilities in hero shooters, and they’re great additions that can really change up a combat scenario. For example, the dual magnums can unleash a shadow clone of The Unknown that works as an automatic turret, drawing fire from enemies and dishing out serious damage. It’s the type of light strategy that can push a straightforward shooter into the upper echelons, and I’m very excited to see what the rest of the arsenal has in store when it comes to these overpowered finishers.
Even with the game’s enticing rewards, slaying to the beat can be easier said than done. There were periods during my session where I missed a single note and then couldn’t catch up with the soundtrack. When everything goes according to plan, Metal: Hellsinger is an amazing composition, but getting to that high point does require some ability to read music mentally. This is why it’s so key that everything surrounding the rhythm gimmick works like clockwork, and why Metal: Hellsinger beats out other attempts at this growing subgenre so handily. With a good number of levels and a well-told story, Hellsinger has a real shot at topping the charts and defining what it means to be a great rhythm FPS.