The very concept of Metal: Hellsinger appeals to me from the first note: Slay demons in a modern Doom-style first-person shooter to the beat of newly recorded tracks from some big names in rock and metal. As someone who grew up playing the original Doom and loves the modern iterations of the franchise, and has perhaps sunk more time into the Rock Band series than any other franchise, The Outsiders' upcoming game checks a lot of boxes. Still, coming into my hands-on time with the game, I was skeptical. Thankfully, the short demo I played at Summer Game Fest (which is also available now on PlayStation, Xbox, and Steam) reinforced my impression that this game is, indeed, for me.
A brief tutorial spells out that by firing my guns, slashing my sword, or blasting flames from the head of my disembodied skull to the beat, I increase my multiplier. That multiplier is crucial to the ultimate score at the end of the level. However, there are other reasons to want to hold a multiplier, chief among them for me is the fact that as you flow into the upper reaches of the multiplier, the song kicks in full force; what starts as a simple beat with some guitars flourishes into screaming vocals, double-kick-laden drum beats, and shredding guitar riffs. It sounds simple, but it took me much of the demo re-learning how to play an FPS in this manner.
At first, I'm not good at it. Sure, there are guidelines that show you when to shoot in time with the beat, but my first inclination upon seeing the demons coming my way is to spam the right trigger and slice and dice them with my equipped sword; it turns out my decades of playing first-person shooters aren't much help at first. However, slowly but surely, I get the hang of it, as my attacks begin feeling more impactful as I land successive shots in perfect rhythm. Some weapons are easier to shoot to the beat than others, as I struggle to keep the rhythm with my shotgun, while the dual pistols make me feel a bit more confident in my skills. Much like in Doom, once you damage an enemy enough, they fall into a stunned state, allowing you to land a devastating finishing blow (causing them to drop health pickups to replenish any you've lost). Unlike the normal attacks, which can be fired off at any time, finishers must be performed in rhythm with the music.
As I continue blasting my way through the hordes of demons, attacking to the beat almost sends me into a flow state. Attacking to the beat, dodge-dashing out away from incoming attacks, performing on-beat active reloads, and landing finishers to clear rooms feel almost like second nature thanks to the entrancing-yet-intense metal pumping through my headphones. Once the mechanics clicked for me and I retrained my initial FPS instincts, Metal: Hellsinger pulled me in.
My demo culminated with a boss battle against Judge Aspect. This winged beast has all the mainstay moves you'd expect in a game like this: waves of fireballs, focused beams of energy, teleportation, and, of course, summoning minions. Aspect's substantial health bar takes a long time to chip away, but thanks to the waves of minions and a few health pickups on an adjacent piece of land, I finally take the elite demon down and my demo comes to an end.
When Metal: Hellsinger launches, it will feature 10 songs from at least 9 artists, which can be played across 7 levels. With names like Randy Blythe from Lamb of God, Serj Tankian from System of a Down, and Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy providing vocals to the soundtrack, I can't wait to dive deeper into the depths of Hell when the game launches on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC on September 15.
For more on Metal: Hellsinger, check out our interview with System of a Down's Serj Tankian about his contributions and thoughts on the upcoming shooter.