The Hellsinger team walked through hell and found hope
Metal: Hellsinger is the first release from the Swedish studio The foreigners. Released in September 2022, the rhythm and first-person shooter hybrid reminds gamers everywhere that video games and music go together like peanut butter and jam.
At first glance, Metal: Hellsinger seems simple enough. Your objective is to fight your way from room to room until you encounter the final boss of each stage. If you’re the type of person who likes to compete for scores on a leaderboard, you can choose to participate in additional challenges that improve your ranking, but otherwise the journey is relatively straightforward.
Where it stands out is its context, its world-building, and the nuance of its rhythmic mechanics. Set in Hell, you play as a human and part demon called “The Unknown”, fighting your way out. The twist is that peak performance forces you to strive to destroy your enemies in time to the music, which grants you higher damage, more devastating weapon effects, and higher combos.
It’s not just your power that’s intensified by Metronomic Killing, it’s the soundtrack itself. Brilliantly, as your score combo grows, various guitar tracks are layered over the raw beat, culminating in roaring vocals that complement the track. The effectiveness of this mechanism is difficult to describe – it has to be experienced. Although it’s a short game, the focus on virtuosity rather than mere achievement means you’re kept coming back for more plays, hoping to get closer to a perfectly musical slaughter. executed.
David Goldfarb is co-founder of development studio The Outsiders and Metal: Hellsingercreative director. He was previously game director on Payday 2and lead designer on Battlefield 3 and Battlefield Bad Company 2.
According to Goldfarb, Metal: hellish singer was not intended to be The Outsiders’ debut album. The studio’s original game, Born of Darkness, was canceled four years into development after publisher, Take-Two, decided to part ways with the team. This left the Swedish outfit in dire straits, with just months of finances. hellish singer – ironically – was something of a Hail Mary. It’s no wonder Goldfarb and his team are still “decompressing” following its release, although its reception was certainly “gratifying”.
The idea for Metal: hellish singer came in more peaceful times. As Goldfarb recalls, “I played [Grand Theft Auto] city of vicedriving along a beach listening to music from the 80s. I remember feeling that the intersection of music and [playing games] I felt really good.
“Then when I was playing Loss in 2016, I was listening to Meshuggah, and – I think probably by accident – I started pulling on the beat. I felt like I was in a state of flux and thought, “That’s cool!”
No doubt his 2016 self would have said the same to the lineup of metal singers he and his team were eventually able to bring into the project. Icons such as Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Matt Heafy (Trivium), Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquility), Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy) and Tatiana Shmayluk (Jinjer) feature, read like a who’s-who of the metal music genre.
“This process has been like a snowball,” Goldfarb says. “I had a list, but we didn’t think we would get these people.” Fate has decided otherwise. The mother of one of the musical team members knew Mikael Stanne’s girlfriend, and with that first piece of the puzzle in place, a world-class roster slowly grew around her.
‘I remember when we had Randy [Blythe] because I’m a huge fan of Lamb of God. I said to myself: “This is incredible! says Goldfarb with a smile. “It was a completely crazy race. None of us had the faintest idea.
The team was equally surprised when a demo posted online met with great popularity. ‘I was against [making a demo] when it was first lifted. My experience with demos is that 98% of the time they are so much work and so little reward,” says Goldfarb. ‘But the marketing was like, ‘You really have to play the game to figure it out.’
Even after launch, this turned out to be true. “I think our game is unique in that regard. I think you can show people the game forever and they’ll say, “It’s a Loss clone”. But when people sit down and play, they’re like, ‘Okay, that’s not what I thought at all.
Goldfarb’s broader take on the game is equally unexpected. ‘Born of Darkness was a really sad game for many reasons: the way it ended, and also [its inspiration]the Grendel story,” he thinks. “Making this game was really important to me because I always felt like the monster. So losing that… there was a lot of heartbreak there.
‘Metal was a way to rediscover the pleasure of doing things again,” he explains. “It’s weird to say, but it’s a message of hope… It’s a message of rebellion.”
Given his experiences, Goldfarb has a message for budding game developers: “The only thing I would say is don’t work for shitty people.” Don’t work for people who don’t represent your interests, whether they’re creative or not.
“Everyone finds their own path. I don’t know exactly how I got there. I’m just lucky and grateful to have been able to make games that people have loved – for the most part. Hopefully I can continue to do that adds Goldfarb.
And for people who aren’t fans of metal or first-person shooters, Goldfarb urges them to “take the demo and play on the lowest difficulty,” Goldfarb urges. “I think it’s definitely something you can play and enjoy, even if you’re none of that.”
Metal: Hellsinger is available now on PC, Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.