Come Hellbound and high water.
You know the drill by now. A new first-person shooter that styles itself on FPSes of old. Back when key-hunting, maze-navigating, and room-clearing were all the rage. We’ve experienced something of a renaissance of classic-style shooters in recent years, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, it seems like 2018 could well be the year of the classic-style FPS. We’re gonna be spoiled for choice, as yet another entry is throwing its hat into the ring, and this one’s called Hellbound. Though very early in development, we were able to procure a key from the game’s kindly developers.
As the title suggests, the game takes place in a stereotypical depiction of Hell, complete with fire and brimstone and horned monstrosities. Our protagonist is a muscular grunt wielding weapons that quickly turn demons into red mush. The player’s identity, as well as his reasons for committing demonicide, are left vague and we can only assume the final product will be forthcoming in the backstory department.
The road to Hellbound is paved with good intentions.
I gotta admit, I have a certain soft spot for classic depictions of Hell, and Hellbound pulls it off superbly. It wouldn’t be out of place in the new Doom or Quake Champions. There’s even elements of Painkiller, Devil Daggers, and Gears Of War going on here. I really do wanna sit and explore this vision of Hell, with its red skies and rivers of lava. But there’s currently one tiny snag…
Currently, the game only supports a wave-based survival mode. Players navigate a small arena littered with health and ammo and proceed to destroy the enemies that spawn in waves. Tougher enemies and better weapons are unlocked as you progress through the waves, until the enemy count makes it unplayable. During all this, the protagonist has to be mindful of lava pools and exploding pods, both of which can chip away at health and armor with alarming speed.
A damned fine experience.
The point thus far is to get a feel for the weapons, monsters, and movement. Fortunately, it plays well. The first wave is always a little bit of a drag, as players are armed with a puny shotgun and a fist attack, with a club available as an enemy drop. Things quickly liven up once the triple-barrel shotgun is introduced, and later things get even more fun and chaotic when the minigun and rocket launcher variants spawn in. It’s frantic and overwhelming to survive as long as possible, and worth it to see your name on the game’s leaderboards.
Viewed as a tech demo, the current version of Hellbound is extremely promising. There’s a strong core to work with, and I’d love to see it fleshed out into a fully-realized classic-style FPS, with complex level design, simple puzzles, and good, old-fashioned horde shooting. The survival mode should definitely be kept as an optional extra, as it’s a great way to familiarize players with the weapons and monsters. In fact, I feel all FPSes should have it, but I digress.
Currently, there isn’t much to see in Hellbound. It’s still early days, but we can gleam an idea of the direction the game is heading and how it feels. And I’m glad to say, we’ve got a solid base to work from, here. The movement speed, the impactfulness of the weapons, the ugly enemies, and the overall aesthetic… it’s all good. The current survival mode is fun enough, but I would really love to see this one expanded into a fully-fleshed retro FPS experience, which will mesh well with its more modern look. If you’re also curious, keep an eye out on its official Steam page.