Metal: Hellsinger is the rhythm game that I always wanted but never knew. I’ve always liked rhythm games on a conceptual level, but despite being a child of the Dance Dance Revolution, none have evoked the same visceral reaction or trance-like state I got from Metal: Hellsinger. This is a game that drew tears from my eyes because I hadn’t blinked in over a minute and had me sighing after I defeated a boss because I’d been subconsciously holding my breath. And I needed more.
With clear inspiration from the reimagined Doom franchise, Hellsinger is a highly mobile first-person shooter available on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation 5 that has you performing everything to the beat of a metal soundtrack that features contributions from vocalists like Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquility and Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy, just to name a few. I don’t know what dark pact was signed to get all of these artists to show up for this game, but Hellsinger is one of the best metal albums I’ve heard in a long time.
No disrespect to Mick Gordon and his phenomenal work on the reimagined Doom soundtracks, but the way that the music perfectly jams together with everything on-screen has a strange way of drilling down into my hippo-jampus, or whichever part of my brain is responsible for headbanging.
Like any good rhythm game, Hellsinger has a combo meter tracking how long you’ve managed to stay on tempo, but this is also tied to the unique track featured in each level. You start off with a basic kick drum beat, and as your combo meter builds, more layers of the track slowly fall into place. Maintaining a higher combo gives you a damage buff, but keeping it maxed out kicks in the vocal track for a particular level, and that’s when things get turned up to 11, if you’ll forgive the cliche.
Hellsinger’s soundtrack may be the easiest thing to gush about, but I also have to give credit to the sound design. Anything you do just sounds better when it’s done in time with the song. Guns are punchier, dashes get whooshier, and kills get... er... chunkier? Overall, it’s a smart way to let you know that whatever you’re doing is working.
The weapon selection isn’t quite as varied as what you’d see in the Doom games, but they all fill a distinct role in countering specific enemies and have a unique cadence where they’re most effective. All of your weapons have unlimited ammo, which always keeps the action moving, but some of them need to be reloaded at regular intervals, which can be done faster when you’ve properly timed it to a beat.
The combat places a big emphasis on mobility and momentum, with midair dashes and double jumps that allow you to quickly bound through combat arenas, and the finishers used to polish off some baddies can practically be performed from the next zip code, letting you dash over to them as long as you’re pointed in their general direction.
Ultimately, the combat and sound coalesce into an experience that speaks volumes to my headbanging sensibilities and meshed with me on a level that many other rhythm games have failed to achieve. My only complaint with Hellsinger is the entire experience is maybe too short-lived. While there are unlockables and other incentives to replaying levels, you can blow through the main story in around four or five hours. If you’re a fan of the Doom franchise or more contemporary metal artists, I’d encourage you to give Metal: Hellsinger a go if you’ve got 30 bucks and a free weekend.