Hell Let Loose Review: Tactical And Authentic Milsim Action
With the hype machines for Call of Duty: Vanguard and Battlefield 2042 in full swing, you’d be forgiven for having no idea that another military FPS hit consoles this month after making the jump from PC. Published by Team17 and developed by Black Matter, Hell Let Loose is looking to fill a void for PlayStation and Xbox players by providing an authentic World War II milsim experience – a genre that is typically underrepresented on consoles.
Tactical and Unforgiving
Right out of the gate, it’s clear that Black Matter isn’t interested in providing the immediate and accessible thrills of a Call of Duty or Battlefield. Hell Let Loose is an experience that doesn’t care if you’re having fun; it wants you to know that war is hell, something it conveys with immense success through a combination of top-notch visuals, harrowing sound design, and unforgiving gameplay.
I should flag; if you are someone who isn’t interested in potentially dedicating 90 minutes to a match, or you’re someone who shy’s away from using voice communications when playing an online shooter, then Hell Let Loose may not be for you. Matches are lengthy, tactical affairs, where top-notch team coordination is crucial to success, no matter the game mode you are playing.
At launch, there are two game modes, both of which will feel familiar to anyone who has played Battlefield’s Rush mode. Offensive, my personal favorite, sees one team attack, trying to push the defenders back as strategic points are captured on the map. Warfare sees each team start with half of the map in their control, the aim being to capture the other team’s territory.
The nine maps present at launch are sprawling behemoths, dwarfing even the largest maps which Battlefield has to offer. The space is needed as well, as Hell Let Loose supports up to 100 players (50 per team) per match at launch.
Band of Brothers
Chances are, when you spawn into your first game, instinct will take over, and you will make a beeline straight for the first objective you are either attacking or defending. Chances also are that you will be met swiftly with a bullet to the head, following which, you may be faced with a long trip back towards the objective that can often take around three minutes or more to make.
It’s at this point you will realize that Hell Let Loose isn’t here to cater to a lone wolf playstyle. Wars are won via strategic coordination and stellar teamwork, and this is something Black Matter has fully leaned into.
Teams of 50 players are divided into smaller units, and it will become immediately clear that class composition on each team is key to success. Nowhere is this more apparent than the way spawns are handled.
As above, getting killed has the potential to send a player back to a position which will result in them trekking back to the action across enormous maps. A team that is well balanced in terms of classes can entirely mitigate this, through the placement of additional spawn points.
The Commander class, of which there can only be one per unit, is perhaps the most important cog in the machine. A good Commander should ideally be taking control of where these additional spawn points, called “Garrisons” here, are placed. It’s then up to the Commander to call in the resources needed to build these structures and coordinate his team so that deliveries of these resources are being made to the correct area of the map.
Spotters and Officers are almost equally as crucial as they can lay down Outposts, a further type of spawn point that can only be used by members of the same unit, in contrast to the Garrisons, which can be used by the entire team. I can’t stress enough how important I found the correct class composition to be during my time with Hell Let Loose, as the experience begins to fall apart somewhat when this area of the game is neglected, which I’ll touch on momentarily.
The need for class diversity goes beyond effectively managing spawns also. There are 14 classes present at launch, each of which can be leveled up to unlock additional loadout options. You’ll want Riflemen who can resupply ammo and bandage up teammates in a pinch. Medics are also of paramount importance, with their ability to provide much-needed revives, potentially preventing teammates from having to make another excruciating trip from spawn to an objective. You might also need anti-tank personnel, depending on whether the opponent has locked down an objective with a hulking armored vehicle.
It’s an experience that is always asking you to assess what your team needs at any given moment. Forget about preserving or trying to improve your KDR, Hell Let Loose is a game where sacrifice is inevitable. A well-balanced, finely coordinated team is always going to triumph over a team that has failed to embrace the class-based dependencies. The vast majority of my victories came against teams that weren’t effectively managing their Outposts and Garrisons, meaning every death for them gave my team precious minutes needed to take over an enemy position.
Whilst it’s undeniably exhilarating when it all comes together, the absolute requirement for communication comes with its drawbacks which, to be fair, are not the fault of the developers. Across the many matches I played, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I encountered other players using microphones. I found this to honestly be game-breaking. Squad members find themselves separated, spawn points aren’t being managed, and class diversity goes out the window.
Matches like these tend to devolve into endless, repeated treks between the starting spawn points and objectives. Players start quitting with alarming frequency, to the point where I rarely finished a game where two full teams of 50 players remained. It’s frustrating because Hell Let Loose is a truly fantastic experience. However, I fear that this lack of willingness to embrace the team-based nature and need for communication will result in the player count rapidly decreasing.
Crossplay, which is enabled at launch, should hopefully assist in retaining a healthy number of players, but, in any event, if you are interested in jumping in, my advice would be to do so with a few friends to avoid the frustrations I encountered whilst reviewing.
Unfortunately, lack of willingness to engage with the team-based mechanics is an issue, as otherwise, this is one of the most immersive tactical shooters I’ve ever played.
The movement that initially seems slow and sluggish soon comes off as heavy and authentic, as though you are actually in the boots of a soldier, weighed down by equipment whilst scrambling to the next piece of makeshift cover you can find. Weapons all feel incredibly weighty and kick like mules; and with no hit markers present, along with no HUD indicator to let you know you’ve killed someone, you must often rely on gut instinct in assessing whether your bullets actually took your target out, or whether they are just playing possum.
The theatres of war you’ll visit all look spectacular as well. Running on Unreal Engine, Hell Let Loose frequently looks breath-taking, and the stellar graphics are matched by impeccable sound design. When dug deep into the trenches, as tanks rain shells down on your position and the screams of squadmates carry through the air whilst the crack of gunfire whizzes around you, it all comes together as a package that can be a true assault on your senses. I’ve never felt fear when playing an online multiplayer shooter, but with how quickly death can arrive, and the uber realism of the sound and visuals, Hell Let Loose frequently had me sweating.
With such work being done to draw the player into the experience, it’s a pity that a lot of the launch window has been spent not only fighting enemy forces but battling connectivity issues also. There have been times when the matchmaking just flat out refused to find a lobby, and very often, lobbies were destroyed by lag, rubber banding, and disconnects. Patching has resolved the worst of these issues, and things have been somewhat more stable the further removed from launch we get, however just be mindful that if you are jumping in now, teething issues are still a thing.
Whilst intimidating and unwelcoming, Hell Let Loose is an intoxicating experience for those who welcome a battlefield where death has consequences, and communication is key to survival. If you can round up a group of friends all willing to persevere with the steep learning curve, and who don’t mind dedicating entire evenings to a few matches, prepare to be engrossed for hours on end.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Xbox Series X/S (reviewed), PlayStation 5, PC; Publisher: Team 17; Developer: Black Matter; Players 2-100 (online); Released: October 5. 2021 (July 27, 2021 for PC); MSRP: $39.99