Interview: Metal: Hellsinger is "a metal album come to life"

By Tom West,

Metal: Hellsinger creative director and The Outsiders' founder, David Goldfarb, has taken a little time out from killing hellish nightmares to answer a few of our burning questions about the rhythm-shooter that comes to Xbox soon.

Metal and video games is a partnership that has been around since the dawn of, well, video games, and nothing is more badass than pumping round after round into enemies while your favorite bands assault your eardrums. The Outsiders looks to have blended the two in Metal: Hellsinger, which is published by Funcom and launches on Xbox Series X|S in September. The studio's founder and creative director, David Goldfarb, took some time out from slaying demon spawn to answer our burning questions. Goldfarb has a fair amount of experience with the FPS genre, having previously been the Game Director for Payday 2, as well as the lead designer on both Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3, so you can expect some solid gunplay in this hellishly fun jaunt through the underworld.

Metal: Hellsinger release date announcement trailer

What is Metal: Hellsinger?

It's a rhythm-based shooter that follows the story of a part-human and part-demon character called The Unknown, who's on a path of vengeance through the eight Hells in search of their ruler, The Red Judge. "It was supposed to be a metal album come to life," says Goldfarb. "Mechanically my goal was for people to get that flow state that I loved so much from Rock Band, but in a shooter, and even more than that, the chance to really improve and feel like you had gotten measurably better, the way I felt after playing Guitar Hero on easy and then getting good enough to 100% a song on expert."

Metal: Hellsinger is a first-person shooter that gives you the ability to wield various weapons against hordes of enemies, battle it out for leaderboard domination against other players, and slay to the beat of original metal tracks concocted by the musical duo, Two Feathers. The tracks see many of the world's top metal vocalists lend their voices to the cause, but you'll need to put in the work if you want to actually hear them.

Metal Hellsinger interview the outsiders

Rhythm-based games and hell-shooters have both grown in popularity in recent years, so competition is becoming fierce for new IPs, and much like other developers, The Outsiders originally planned for an instrumental track list. "I wanted the game to be super heavy," Goldfarb tells us. "I think we had the multiplier stuff built already, but when we were talking about music and how we might achieve this effect, I’m pretty sure Two Feathers (the musical duo who composed all our music and sound) was like 'hey, maybe we could try vocals for the last multiplier tier?' It sounded like a great idea, but we had no idea if it would work."

Metal, in general, has a tendency to lean heavily into putting its vocals front and centre, especially when you consider vocalists like Serj Tankian, who can easily switch their vocal style between melodic and erratic in an instant. We can certainly see why the team at The Outsiders wasn't sure if it would work or not, but after playing through one of the game's earlier levels during our Summer Game Fest demo tests, we can assure you that the vocal layer works beautifully. "We got Mikael Stanne (vocalist of Dark Tranquillity and other amazing bands) to do a test," Goldfarb continues. As soon as it went into the game it was absolutely clear this was the way to go… and that we needed more vocalists."

You can find the current lineup of vocalists in the table below, but we were interested to find out if there was anyone that Goldfarb would have loved to work with on Metal: Hellsinger. While we did get a mysterious tease of "I cannot comment on this because we are working on it," Goldfarb also told us of one metal legend that would have been a perfect fit for the game: "If I could bring Ronnie James Dio back to earth for this game (and just in general), I think he would have been perfect for us and I like to think he would have loved the game." We have to agree with Dio being a great fit for the game but hearing that there could be other vocalists in the runnings is an intriguing prospect. Drop into the comments below to let us know of any vocalists you think would fit in Metal: Hellsinger's lineup — Parkway Drive's Winston McCall? Five Finger Death Punch's Ivan Moody? The Lone Wolf's Tommy Vext? In This Moment's Maria Brink? Honestly, we could speculate for days, and we have no doubt that whatever The Outsiders is cooking up, we're going to be excited puppies once the announcements are made.

Vocalist name Bands Metal: Hellsinger track
Alissa White-Gluz Arch Enemy Stygia
Björn Strid Soilwork Dissolution
Dennis Lyxzén Refused and INVSN Silent No More
James Dorton Black Crown Initiate and Replacire Poetry of Cinder
Matt Heafy Trivium This Devastation
Mikael Stanne Dark Tranquility Through You, This is the End, and Blood and Law
Randy Blythe Lamb of God Acheron
Serj Tankian System of a Down No Tomorrow
Tatiana Shmayluk Jinjer Burial at Night

When does Metal: Hellsinger launch?

Metal: Hellsinger will be launching on September 15th for Xbox Series X|S, PS5, and PC as a digital-only title. Preorders are now live, as well as a one-level demo on all three platforms, which we highly recommend you try out. Additionally, looking at the FAQ page over on the Metal: Hellsinger Discord channel, the team looks to be looking into releasing the game's soundtrack separately, although that's not set in stone yet.

Metal: Hellsinger

Metal: Hellsinger

Strike terror into the hearts of demons and devils as you fight your way through eight Hells. Metal: Hellsinger is a rhythm FPS, brimming with diabolical enemies, powerful weapons, and metal music. Set out on an infernal journey in order to achieve the purest of goals: Vengeance.

What is Metal: Hellsinger about?

In Metal: Hellsinger we embody a part-human, part-demon creature called The Unknown, who's on a path of vengeance through the eight Hells in search of their ruler, a creature known as The Red Judge (voiced by Jennifer Hale). "Back in some indefinite time, for reasons we won’t mention, the Judge took the Unknown’s voice and trapped her in Voke for eternity," Goldfarb tells us. "So, as you might imagine, this didn’t sit well with the Unknown and she’s been searching for a way out for a very long time when the game begins…"

Each of the Hells' domains will be crawling with hordes of demon spawn for you to unload your arsenal of weaponry into, and all feature an end boss to overcome if you hope to make it to The Red Judge. Speaking about inspirations for the game, Goldfarb mentioned that Shin Godzilla and Lost in Paradise were "talked about a lot," but "my [Goldfarb] position with the story was to do something that complimented the game and built a world and player character that felt epic and inspiring — and I guess most importantly; that treated Metal with respect without turning it into parody, but also could kind of laugh at itself too."

How does Metal: Hellsinger play?

Metal Hellsinger interview the outsiders

"In general, we [Metal: Hellsinger] are shooter first, as we were shooter devs first, and we wanted to make a game that had the feedback and mechanics we expected," Goldfarb explains. In Metal: Hellsinger, you take on hordes of enemies in a linear dungeon-crawl fashion. It's a first-person shooter that tasks you with performing each action to the beat of the soundtrack we discussed above. As you shoot and hit your enemies, reload, dodge, and pretty much any other action that isn't running, to the beat, you'll begin building a score multiplier. Performing an action off-beat will reset the multiplier, as will being hit by enemies' attacks. As the multiplier increases, so too does the tempo of the level's track, which will increase in intensity until you max it out and unlock the vocal portion of the song.

"The rhythm is the core layer, and the mechanics of the game are the notes you sort of play on top of the rhythm of each level."
It all works beautifully, and surprisingly, unlike many other games in the rhythm-based genre, Metal: Hellsinger isn't punishingly difficult — we're looking at you, BPM. When discussing what makes the game stand out from other hell-based shooters, we're told that "the rhythm component is obviously the biggest one, but the original soundtrack, amazing vocalists, and commitment to metal are probably the main differentiators."

The Unknown has plenty of death-dealing goodies at her disposal, from dual-wielded revolvers and machine guns to shotguns and a fire-spewing skull called Paz, and many more. You'll have a chance to take those beauties with you through the campaign, which is narrated by Troy Baker (yes, it's really hard to not name-drop with this game), as well as special challenges through the realms of Torment, which are designed to help you become more powerful.

Any news on Metal: Hellsinger's achievements?

Metal Hellsinger interview the outsiders

"We basically looked for the particularly fun and/or crazy things to do in the game and tried to make achievements out of them," Goldfarb explains. "In a game like ours, a lot of the fun is discovering combos and things that modify score, so we have some achievements related to progression as well."

We've already got the full Metal: Hellsinger achievements list, which contains 28 achievements worth 1,000 Gamerscore. There are a fair few aimed at keeping up your combo, like 'This Pounding Heart IV,' which tasks you with getting your combo count to 50, as well as 'The Empress,' which unlocks for killing 25 enemies without being hit. Those of you that decide to step into the realms of Torment can look forward to the 'No Rest for the Wicked' achievement for completing them all; or how about 'Highway to Hell' for killing 666 enemies? This game is metal to its core.

If you were wondering, Goldfarb is looking forward to seeing players unlock the 'Pazifist' achievement: "It’s not my favourite necessarily, but I think finishing a level with Paz only (the Skull) is interesting to see people do because it is quite a challenge, although having watched people play the demo, people are already doing this and much more." You're all just too good!
Tom West
Written by Tom West
Tom has been playing video games since he was old enough to hold a controller, experimenting with a number of systems until he eventually fell in love with Xbox. With a passion for the platform, he decided to make a career out of it, and now happily spends his days writing about that which he loves. If he’s not hunting for Xbox achievements, you’ll likely find him somewhere in The Elder Scrolls Online or fighting for survival in Battlefield.
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