VVideo games and heavy metal music have long shared a passing curiosity. Look no further than Doom iconography, or Tim Schafer’s Brütal Legend, for proof. But it was in the mid-2000s – during the reign of music and rhythm games such as Guitar Hero – that the connection was most evident. Count me among the ranks of those who discovered Pantera and Megadeth through the plastic instrument.
That’s why this year Metal: Hellsinger is on my radar. The game is a cross between a first-person shooter and a rhythm game: by matching your shot to the tempo of the music, you build a score multiplier that increases the damage you deal. We have already seen this in BPM: balls per minutebut Metal: Hellsinger brings its own heavy metal setting and soundtrack to the party.
Back in 2016, creative director David Goldfarb played through the new iteration of Doom and topped it off with his own soundtrack. “I was listening to Meshuggah…and at one point my shots overlapped with the beat, and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s cool.'” Along with a few other new ideas — like playing the demon instead than the Demon Hunter – this achievement laid the foundation for Metal: Hellsinger.
“I really wanted to do metal in a way that I didn’t feel like I had done before,” says Goldfarb. “Doom has its techno metal. Brütal Legend has its songs licensed – and we knew we couldn’t afford to license songs.
He became close to the composer duo Two Feathers, made up of musicians Elvira Björkman and Nicklas Hjertberg, who had already worked with him. They set out to create their own metal disc, designed from scratch. “We’ve done a lot of dynamic music and a lot of games before,” says Björkman. “[This time] we wanted to move forward… let’s make it so interactive it could blow their fucking minds.
You can now try out a demo of Metal: Hellsinger on Steam, and like all good rhythm games, the interplay between music and gameplay is magical at its best. The rapid-fire action plays against the desire to stay locked into the beat. Maintaining the game’s 16x multiplier also has an added bonus: this is where the voices kick in, so playing the game well is the only way to hear the impressive list of guest singersincluding elusive metal icons such as System of a Down’s Serj Tankian.
Players have noticed that some weapons allow for higher scores than others, limiting your options if you want to hunt highscores on the leaderboard – but Goldfarb says the demo runs on older code and the score is up. being redesigned before release. That’s just as well, because Hellsinger really feels like a rhythm game rather than a shooter with musical elements nailed in, and rhythm games live and die by their ratings. Games like this aren’t about achieving perfection, but rather that feeling of getting a little closer with each play through. Like playing an instrument, they give you the satisfaction of progressive mastery.