VIDEO: Watch the trailer for Metal: Hellsinger above. Also on YouTube.
David Goldfarb popped into the PC Gaming Show today to show off some gameplay taken from the studio's upcoming rhythm-FPS Metal: Hellsinger. The game tells the tale of a demon called The Unknown, who descends into the pits of the Thousand Hells, guns and music blasting with equal intensity, to seek vengeance upon the Red Judge.
Metal: Hellsinger can be played as a straightforward FPS, but matching the action to the music "is a huge part of the play experience," Goldfarb told me in a recent interview. "When you're playing Doom, you hit a kind of zen if you're really good, you're just moving around and shooting stuff—except in Doom, you're not following an external rhythm," he said.
"You can play [Metal: Hellsinger] the way you play a shooter if that's what you desire. But the most effective way to play is the beat matching, and getting into the song, and be killing guys on the beat, and reloading on the beat, and dodging on the beat. And then doing it with different weapons that have different rhythms—because then you're in that zen state. So it's a shooter in lots of ways, and then it's this other thing in other ways."
Goldfarb described Metal: Hellsinger's Thousand Hells as like "old album covers," and there's no question that Ronnie James Dio's face would be right at home on any of the backdrops in the pre-alpha demo I played. There's plenty of the usual fire and brimstone, but the game world will also include frozen wastelands and other realms of "madness," and all of the the music—all of it very metal—is written specifically for the game so it can be layered in "tiers" based on your performance. At a minimum, there's a basic beat to roll with, but the higher your rhythmic kill count climbs, the more complex the soundtrack becomes, with lyrics dropping in when all your balls are out.
"The better you do [in other games], the crazier things get," Goldfarb said. "In our case, the better you do, the crazier the song gets."
It took me a few tries with the preview build before I really "got it," but around my fourth or fifth run—none of which had been very successful up to that point—it all suddenly clicked. I didn't even notice the music rising to a crescendo beneath my slaughter at first, until suddenly some guy started screaming in my ear, and then the guitars were grinding and the double-kick was speed-bagging my eardrums and man, I was killing, and I was rocking. The action isn't as off-the-hook as Doom Eternal, which I'm also currently playing, but more metal? It might just be.
Metal: Hellsinger appeared very soon after the demise of Darkborn, the Viking monster game that fell apart in April, but The Outsiders has actually been working on it for about a year now. It's still in pre-alpha at this stage, and Goldfarb said this is the earliest he's ever showed off a project he's working on.
"But whatever, it's pandemic preview time. It's cool. It's nice to be able to show people stuff early, I think, even if it's a long way from perfect. It feels like it's the right time to do something different in that regard, so I think it's okay. We all need some distraction."
He declined to discuss the untimely end of Darkborn, but he did suggest that Metal: Hellsinger is in some ways a sort of mirror image of, and reaction to, that game.
"I wanted to make something that was joyous. Music, for me, is the thing," he said. "It's funny that that was the fork, for me. It was like, make this thing that was really meaningful to me on this front, which was Darkborn, but is really sad and depressing—basically there's two parts of my personality. Here's the part that's really sad and depressing, and here's the part that's really aggro and stoked. And that's kind of it. So this was the other part, the part where it was like, what if we made something that was just fun?"
And while he was clearly very deeply disappointed about the failure of Darkborn—"If I could've found a way to make it work, I would've made it work," he said—Metal: Hellsinger seems to have taken some of the edge off.
"At the end of the day, it's like, how do you make something that you really enjoy, and is a pleasure to make? And this game has been for me. And that's unusual. Because usually, it's hard, it's really really difficult. And this game, it hasn't had the same weight, and I'm super-grateful that it didn't. And I think for the whole team, it's the same way. Everybody's like, yeah!" he said.
"Everyone should make a metal game. That's my recommendation."