Not a single good intention in sight
The fact that 90’s shooters are as popular as ever is a testament to their sound design philosophy. Of course, the catalogue is as extensive as ever, what with a steady stream of retro-styled shooters gracing our screens on a nigh-regular basis. Hellbound is another such title, now a full-fledged game, which has emerged from languishing in Steam’s Early Access. And does it hold up against its peers? To put a fine point to it: oh, Hell yeah.
A literal shot in the dark (and everywhere else)
So, you take on the role of Hellgore; a damned soul with an attitude every bit as evil as the inferno around you. Not one to take kindly to being demon bait, Hellgore takes it upon himself to escape Hell and slaughter every eldritch abomination he can find. Sounds like a good time, right? It actually is.
It helps a lot, too, that Hell is such an interesting place. Full of winding hallways and switch-puzzles. It could keep someone amused for an eternity, but Hellgore has no intention to say around for so long. It’s also fortunate that the place is filled with all manner of demonic weaponry that our anti-hero is apt at using.
Weapons have a rather odd look, appearing quasi-organic and seemingly inspired by the works of H.R. Giger. Despite their appearance, they function pretty much like your standard shooter fare. You have shotguns, machine guns, and even a melee club that you kinda wish you never have to resort to. And most of them are extremely satisfying to use, quickly turning enemies into showers of red pixels and mist.
Your personal demons just got a lot more personal
The design is what you’d expect from a title born from the bloody embryonic of 1990’s shooters: sprawling, multi-tiered levels made from obscure structures and fused together in decidedly non-logical ways. Lots of hallways are packed to the brim(stone) full of evil enemies, which assorted rooms are locked behind keys and switches. Scattered around are health and ammo pickups, along with explosive green pods that take the place of barrels and are often deliberately placed in positions to maximize damage to enemies.
Despite the generous amount of power-ups, our dear Hellgore is unlikely to leave the realm of the damned alive. Enemies hit fast and hard, and the game is not shy about grouping them in very annoying and overwhelming clusters. The environment is as hostile as its denizens and routinely rejects your efforts to traverse it. Expect to run backward into lava pools or to find yourself in the explosions of green pods. It’s tough and, at times, very frustrating, but it’s enough of a romp to keep you engaged and wanting for more.
Levels are not particularly large, but are labyrinthine and difficult to traverse. Not least of all because of the number of hazards, but because it’s not always immediately obvious which path you need to take. It may take time to see the effect of a flipped switch or to understand which key you need to find to proceed. It brings back memories of classic Doom and Quake, and any retro fan worth their salt will savor it with as much glee as they can muster. But all of it in a modern engine, of course.
The details are in the devils
Hellbound may be pure 90’s gameplay, but its aesthetic is quite modern. Making solid use of the Unreal 4 engine, details are vivid and complex. It could easily pass as a modern-style shooter. It’s pretty and colorful, though grunge-y and sinister at the same time. It’s very good to look at, though I feel at times there is way too much visual detail in what should be a streamlined experience. Nonetheless, it has minimal impact on overall gameplay.
Audio-wise, it fulfills all its needs admirably. Guns sound beefy and impactful, and enemies give off appropriately painful-sounding grunts and screams, though it quite literally is not anything you’ve never heard before. Music s a bit more interesting, filled with an expected metal soundtrack that’s perfect to kill along to.
If you’re ready to shoot up some demons now, head on over to Hellbound’s official Steam store page now. You won’t regret it. In the meantime, check out the raw gameplay trailer below to see over six minutes of carnage in action. If you’ve played it, be sure to comment and let us know what you loved, or possibly hated, about this game.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Windows PC / Steam (Reviewed); Publisher: Nimble Giant Entertainment; Developer: Saibot Studios; Number of players: single-player only; Released on the 4th of August, 2020.
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam key for Hellbound provided for Hey Poor Player by the game’s publisher.