If Doom Eternal and Rock Band were mashed up into one video game, what would it look like? Oh, and not the whole of Rock Band, mind you, but instead it would just be all of the death metal DLC tracks. That metal-FPS fantasy is in fact real, and it’s called Metal: Hellsinger. It’s a new game from industry veteran David Goldfarb (Payday 2, Killzone 2, Battlefield series) and his team at The Outsiders, and Goldfarb is very serious about it. This is no gimmick.
“I love Rock Band and I love Doom,” he told me. “And metal is underserved in the way that I wanted it to be served. There’s the Brutal Legend way and the Doom way and I didn’t want to do either of those things. I wanted to treat [metal] like its own universe.” He searched for the words, before he said, “I want to make the Paradise Lost of metal.”
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You star as The Unknown, and her goal in this playable heavy metal album cover is to battle your way through The Infernal Planes, aka The Thousand Hells, and destroy the ruler of Hell, Red Judge. Along the way, you’ll be aided by Paz the Skull (voiced by Troy Baker), who Goldfarb said is both the game’s narrator and an important weapon.
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As a massive fan of both Doom and Rock Band, I was eager to give a pre-alpha build a try. To my pleasant surprise, Metal: Hellsinger had a lot more of Rock Band in it than I was expecting. Sure, it’s a first-person shooter – as Goldfarb put it, his team at The Outsiders is taking a shooter-first approach because “we’re [expletive] shooter people. Why would we make a game on rails when we have all of this experience [making shooters]?” – but there’s a lot of Rock Band in here too. As you perform better, shooting and slaying to the rhythm of the metal soundtrack, the music gets more and more intense. Eventually the lyrics come in too. So it gets harder as you get better at it. It has a 16x beat multiplier you can reach, just like Rock Band, that becomes fairly difficult to get to, let alone sustain.
I learned that my aim was even more important while trying to build multipliers against the demonic horde, and like in Doom softened up enemies lit up for an up-close glory kill of sorts with The Unknown’s scythe after you deal them enough damage. But shooting to the rhythm of the beat added a compelling and interesting hook to the gameplay on top of the usual FPS trigger-pulling. I wanted to build my combo up to get my score higher because, like in Rock Band, there’s a leaderboard to climb in each stage.
Talent from Trivium, Dark Tranquility, Arch Enemy, and Soilwork, among other bands, are contributing to the soundtrack. Metal: Hellsinger isn’t due out until 2021 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, with PS5 and Xbox Series X versions likely too (“We are talking about what we could do” with the new consoles, he told me). As Goldfarb put it after he finished his presentation, “Music is joy.”