What is it? A large scale military FPS.
Expect to pay $40
Developer Black Matter
Publisher Team 17
Release Out now
Reviewed on RTX 2060, Ryzen 5 2600 3.4GHz, 16GB RAM
Multiplayer? Competitive up to 100 players
Link www.hellletloose.com (opens in new tab)
Hell Let Loose is the sort of game that convinces me we're in the golden age of the multiplayer FPS. No matter what kind of first-person shooting you're into, there's probably a good game out there designed to scratch your specific itch. For military sim fans, Hell Let Loose is one of those games. Like Squad before it, it answers the question: "What if there was a truly hardcore Battlefield?"
The main game mode is basically one huge match of Rush with one team pushing and the other defending, but you can't just respawn on a squadmate every time you die. You can only respawn on Outposts placed by a squad leader or at larger Garrisons that have to be built from scratch. Let the enemy overrun your Garrison and you're forced to run over a kilometer back to the fight. Yes, it's that kind of game.
It's also the kind of game where one or two bullets kill, and it's as brutal as it sounds. I would often die before I could even tell where the shot came from, and revives are only possible if there's a medic around (there's usually not).
If you've spent any amount of time in Squad or Insurgency then the lethality will be familiar, but the dynamic changes significantly when almost everyone is carrying a WW2-era bolt action rifle. Most classes can't just spray-and-pray on full auto, so every shot has to be carefully considered alongside travel time and bullet drop.
Hell Let Loose's emphasis on teamwork, respawn management, and vehicles will instantly make sense if you've played Squad or its WW2 spinoff Post Scriptum.
Crucially, though, Black Matter has simplified most of the logistical mechanics that can bog down 90-minute Squad matches. Constructing a Garrison building that the entire team can respawn at is way faster and takes half the effort as in Squad. Building materials and ammo don't have to be manually loaded into trucks and driven somewhere, either. Instead, certain classes can set down nodes that automatically produce resources for the whole team, similar to a real-time strategy game.
On one hand, I appreciate that these simpliciations make Hell Let Loose more accessible. It's great that you can jump into almost any class and quickly get a grasp on things. On the other hand, Squad's impenetrable logistical strategy layer is a huge part of its charm. When you can spend an entire match making supply runs for teammates, it really sells that you're a small cog in a larger machine. Hell Let Loose is mostly just fighting, which is also fine by me.
Devil in the details
My main nitpick is with sound. Coming from dozens of hours in Squad, part of that game's immersion is letting the game overwhelm my ears with extremely loud guns, tank fire, and explosive ordnance. When everything is tuned correctly, a gun should be so loud that I can't hear my teammate over the radio. This is where Hell Let Loose kinda falls flat. No matter how much I mess with audio sliders, the game never gets loud enough for my liking.
Some of this comes down to the sound effects Black Matter chose for its WW2 arsenal of Kar98s, M1 Garands, and MP40s. Ironically, one of the most disappointing moments in Hell Let Loose is when bullets just barely miss me.
I've heard lots of 'whizzes' and 'pops', but Hell Let Loose lacks the intimidating 'crack' you hear when a bullet breaks the sound barrier next to your face. The standard rifle sounds for all three playable factions (US, Germany, and Russia) sound more like bassy cannons than piercing screeches. It's a cool effect on its own, but the noise doesn't carry well over a distance. Hearing the distant scream of a Kar98 in Hell Let Loose never made my hair stand up the way guns can in Hunt: Showdown or Squad.
I know I'm splitting hairs pretty thin with ultra-specific audio preferences, but my fun in milsims really does come down to the details. I'm certainly not running a kilometer to the frontline or getting sniped from a random bush because I want a perfectly balanced, symmetrical competitive shooter—I want to be engrossed in how overwhelming (and unbalanced) a real battle can be.
Hell Let Loose does that about as well as other Battlefield-like milsims, but it's also really similar to a few other games that have been around longer, and I'm not sure the audience for the niche genre can support them all. I think Squad will continue to be the milsim I come back to every few months, but if straightforward WW2 action is what I'm after, Hell Let Loose is a worthy option.