FPS Music Review

Metal: Hellsinger – Review

As the band Steel Panther once cried out to the heavens “Death to all but Metal”. Developer The Outsiders seem to have taken this as a personal challenge to bring that very action to light with their new title: Metal: Hellsinger.

Reign in Blood

Metal: Hellsinger follows the demonic footprints of a silent but very angry Demon called “The Unknown” who has been imprisoned in the lowest part of Hell. She comes across the skull of an entity called Paz, who steps in as our western-inspired narrator for this demonic tale of betrayal, anger, destruction, lava, and tears of blood. 

The Unknown is a silent weapon of destruction as she’s had her voice stolen by “The Judge”. The Judge fears her existence, believing her to be the “Hellsinger” who’s foretold to bring her downfall and that of Hell with it. There is also the mystery of why Paz can’t remember anything alongside another few plot points that arise throughout. It’s not exactly Legacy of Kain levels of intricate plot, but it does manage to raise a goosebump or two by its climax.

Metal: Hellsinger - Story

Somewhere in Time

The story is told through motion-comic style cutscenes, through in-game dialogue as narrated by Paz, and in an interesting narrative decision through the harsh vocals contained within the songs that absorb the game. I didn’t catch it at first, but after playing some of the levels a few times, I picked up bits of lore from the lyrics in the songs. I couldn’t have been more impressed with that inclusion if I tried. 

There are also bits of lore within the description of the “Trials” that you unlock after completing a level. These explore a bit more of the trials that The Unknown has gone through and what happened to put The Judge in such a place of power within the depths of Hell.

While the story doesn’t tackle any new and interesting areas, it presented a tale that I was interested in from the get-go. By the time it was finished, I was ready to devote my life to The Unknown and the fantastically well-written Paz.

Metal: Hellsinger - Gameplay

South of Heaven

So it spins a good yarn, but what exactly does The Unknown do to exact revenge and put the minions of The Judge into place? Well, she grabs a couple of weapons and takes to Hell with a skip in her step and the screams of a thousand armies in her throat as a First Person Shooter mixed with a Rhythm game. 

Yes, that’s right. The team at The Outsiders decided what would be more metal than combining the fast-paced First Person Shooter gameplay of titles like Doom with the beat-keeping, score-climbing addictive hook of the Guitar Hero series. While this isn’t the first game to try to fuse genres in such a way, it’s easily the best attempt to date when it comes to the FPS genre. It stands easily on par with another type of game involving crypts and Necrodancers. 

The movement in Metal: Hellsinger is fast, responsive, and provides you with all the options you need to reign in hell. You have a dash ability, the ability to double jump, and the use of your weapons. Unlike other titles that have tried this style of gameplay, you are only penalized with a lower damage output should you not hit or dash with perfect timing to the beat. The only ability significantly tied to the beat is the “Slaughter Kills” where you get up-close and personal with a beastie and show them their insides for the payoff of health pick-up.

To help you pick up the rhythm to follow, you have an onscreen prompt that constantly keeps time. It works as a visual indicator of when the perfect time is to pull the trigger. You can also use Paz as a weapon. While he doesn’t do much damage, his main function is to help you keep on the beat should you lose it and maintain your current “Fury” level which raises with each successful trigger pull, slash of your sword, and enemy you send to the after-afterlife.

Fury is a big part of the game and something that helps keep the pace. It’s themed around Heavy Metal and Metal: Hellsinger keeps up with the blistering guitar speeds and thunderous vocals by, making sure you want to keep on the beat at all times. As your Fury grows, so does your damage output and your ultimate meter. This allows you to pull off some devastating attacks which can turn the battle in your favor.

The level design also incorporates the overall theme. You won’t be exploring labyrinthian areas, solving puzzles, and getting lost. Instead, you’re pretty much funneled from area to area with small paths. There are no secrets to find, just walkways to your next encounter and more demons to slay. It certainly makes sure you’re aware of which direction you need to be directing your rage.

Metal: Hellsinger - Paz

Peace Sells But Who’s Buying?

The weapon selection isn’t the biggest on offer. You have your sword and Paz as always equipped, and then you have the traditional Shotgun, some revolvers to help with the almost Western storytelling, some bladed boomerang-style weapons, and an explosive crossbow. Once you’ve unlocked all of these from following the story, you can choose two of them to bring into battle.

The weapons all have their own way of interacting with the rhythm. The revolvers, for example, are very capable of shooting on every beat and are brilliant at quickly building Ultimate while not being the most destructive of the arsenal. The Shotgun on the other hand, due to being pump action means you can only hit on every other beat, but with more damage and range. 

The enemy pool is quite a small one and later on commits the sin of reusing previous enemies but providing them with different attributes. What I did like is that each enemy serves a function. You have your popcorn trash mobs who are great for building ultimate meter and health, and then the more formidable foes force you to put some distance and move around more. This is especially apparent in the boss battles where the mobs become your main health pool.

Merciful Fate

The game consists of 3 difficulties and 9 levels. All but two of the levels also have an additional 3 Trials that you can take on after you complete it. 

These Trails are challenges with tweaks such as having to kill enemies using slaughter kills, weapons being swapped out randomly, and the like. Trials are great ways to not only practice your skills and play the game in different ways, but they also provide enhancements that make the main game easier such as being able to take damage a certain amount of times before your Fury drops.

With the level design and core gameplay, you’d think repetition would set in. It doesn’t. The game clocks in at around 5 hours, and has a highly addictive scoring aspect as well as online scoreboards. Tedium rarely sets in. The only aspect of the game I felt rather lacking was the boss battles, in which all but one are the same enemy only with different attacks and different arenas. It is a shame when you come in expecting grand grotesque monsters from the depraved unhallowed halls. 

Metal: Hellsinger - Monster

Will To Power

Visually Metal: Hellsinger is what I would imagine happens if you Google search the words, Hell, Slayer and Gore then viciously headbanged into your screen multiple times just to see what the last thing you see is before you pass out.

The monster design is “fine”. Nothing here feels truly inspired and that extends to the boss fights for the bulk of them. They tick the usual tropes of Demon mannequins, acid-spewing bugs, and Quasimodo-inspired hunchbacks. The Unknowns’ design is quite interesting, but again it’s nothing you won’t have seen in any other Hell-focused demon-laden piece of media. 

The way the stages of Hell are presented wouldn’t look amiss in the racks of the Metal section over at HMV. It has all the usual cliches of “Heck”; lava, mountains, ambiguous ruins, and the shattered remains of giant beasties that you aren’t too confident in their “Dead” status. They do mix things up with twisted gardens and even a section involving a railway and disused trains, but for the most part, it’s caves, ruins, and seas of lava and blood as far as The Unknowns’ three eyes can see.

What I did love about the visuals and the style of the game is the fact it reacts to how well you are playing. As your Fury rises, fires around the arenas act as pyro, and when you hit the top at x16 Fury you’ll feel like you’re playing to a crowd of denim jacket-wearing headbangers as pyro explodes around you. It really gets the blood flowing and adrenaline oozing from your pores.

Ride the Lightning 

In regards to the above, it’s time to talk about the music. It shouldn’t come as much of a shock to anyone when I say its Metal from the top of its skull down to the very tip of its demonic paws. 

You’ll be keeping track of the beat while the stage reacts to your fury. At the lower levels of the multiplier, you only get the basic instrumentals but as you build it up, more instruments start to appear until you hit that 16x high. That’s when you are presented with the vocals provided by an all-star cast of the genre’s very best.

The soundtrack collates vocals from such artists as Matt Heafy of Trivium, Tatiana Shmayluk of Jinjer, Serj Takian of System of a Down, Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquility, and my personal favorite song was given life by Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy fame. The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic and feels like a real love letter to the genre. There isn’t a single stinker in the whole game, and I’d be lying if I hadn’t found myself longing to own an official soundtrack collection from the game and thinking about it long after I had put the controller down.

The only drawback about the soundtrack is that if you don’t like the genre, you may struggle with the game as a whole. It’s so integral to the game that trying to play it without the music could prove quite an issue. I believe the PC version of the game is getting the ability to use custom soundtracks, but the job the musicians have pulled off here is absolutely flawless and in my opinion, it would be detrimental to the game to not experience the music as it was intended.


Metal: Hellsinger was an adrenaline-fuelled experience that left me with a smile and a sore neck each time I turned the game on. It managed to not only present me with a visceral and focused First Person Shooter, but also my current musical obsession. 

The gameplay gave me no middle ground in the best way and pushed me to play better with each trial and difficulty setting. Initially, if I couldn’t catch the beat I’d play very poorly, but once it clicked with me I’d find myself headbanging, foot stomping, and playing with all the ferocity of Slayer possessed by Lucifer Morningstar himself. 

Metal: Hellsinger is quite possibly the game I’ve needed ever since Doom Eternal’s curtains closed and I for one throw the devil horns into the heavens at the prospect of more to come.


Platforms: PC, PlayStation, XBox

If you would like to see more FPS games with a music mechanic, you may be interested in our review of BPM: Bullets Per Minute.

Many thanks go to Funcom for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.

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