Here’s a Hellbound review; a homage to the 90s FPS titles such as Doom and Quake, with a grunting hulk of a character keen on bloodshed. Out now on Steam.
Hellbound is one of those games where from the very get-go, you start buzzing, reminiscing about the golden years of PC gaming. Well, that’s if you were around in the 90s playing this sort of game. It might as well be an ID Software game as it’s a premium FPS.
There’s a mild resurgence of these sort of titles of late, and with titles such as the excellent Ion Fury, it makes a change to reviewing a pixel art title on the Switch. It’s a nice looking game, but more importantly, the gameplay is swift and silky smooth. Is Hellbound worth it?
Any fans of the genre will have their go-to titles. These days it’s mostly Call of Duty or the newer versions of Doom, but back in the day when light bulbs were introduced, we were playing games like Doom, Duke Nukem 3D and Quake.
These were the highlight of the genre in my experience. While we now have super-duper realistic dynamic lighting and all these other technical terms to help graphic card manufacturers sell you their latest alien-infused technology, the FPS title of old was simply about dashing about as fast as possible with minimal cutscenes or story.
Now if you’ve read more than a dozen posts on this site, you’ll now that goes against everything I hold dear as a fan of story, point and click adventures and cutscenes. However… a decent FPS should be about fast-paced action, and on this simple criterion alone, Hellbound delivers.
On the story side of things, you play Hellgore – an ex-beauty pageant winner who goes postal by wiping out anything that moves in retaliation for the death of his loved ones. You don’t need a narrative here, and he even makes a point of saying ‘enough with the introductions’ as soon as you start playing.
Without any cutscenes to speak of, you’re thrown into the battle straight away, and it feels like the game has been injected with a speedball of adrenaline and, err… speed. This game is incredibly swift, and I had all the settings maxed out.
Granted, this isn’t the equivalent of what Crisis was when first released, but it serves the purpose and the colour palette and textures look like a Doom environment, and that’s a good thing.
Come Get Some
No FPS title is anything unless it has a shotgun and players are awarded it from the get-go. Ammunition is a little sparse, so it pays to get your accuracy right for some explosive meat bags – the gore factor is entertaining, in a bad, destructive way.
Weapon choices are a little on the limited side, but you have the usual melee weapon and rocket launcher, but nothing truly stand out. Enemies look the part, but I didn’t notice that much variety.
The controls are as you would expect for an FPS – a keyboard combo with the mouse makes me remember why this is so much better than playing on a console, but it’s the ‘having fingers like a bass player’ that caused me more issues than I’d care to have imagined.
Immediately as you start, you’ll be jumping a lot of gaps with lava flowing underneath. As a ‘noob’ currently using an old iMac keyboard with a Lidl branded mouse (for now), I don’t have any macros setup or a tidy set up as such.
Switching to hold shift then space, while avoiding enemy attacks was hard work, and as a result, all my deaths came from the environmental hazards instead of the enemies. I already am in the market for updating my peripherals, but I shouldn’t have to to be able to enjoy that game at its most basic design.
Timing is everything, and while I was quick at removing the threats, albeit, not as sleek as some of the players I see online, it was the interacting with switches then running to a platform or door in time that held me back.
Again, this might be resolved by mapping or the tools at my disposal, but I did find the running and jumping elements challenging. I didn’t see any sort of gamepad support wither.
Destroy What You Don’t Understand!
Other than that, the gameplay is a lot of fun and exactly what I would expect from a shooter paying homage to the 90s. Despite the disclaimer of this being tough as it’s a 90s game, I find the more modern rogue-likes harder. That’s not to say Hellbound, from Saibot Studios and Nimble Giant Entertainment, is an easy game – far from it.
I’m sure a more die-hard FPS gamer could fly through this in a few hours, but I kept having to repeat areas as the checkpoints are pretty minimal. Again, lava being my enemy. Add to that the lack of ammo, and while I like melee games, I’d much rather have the option to shoot stuff in a game like this.
Generally speaking though, the aim is to anything that moves – hell, even if it’s inanimate, shoot it as it might contain armour shards or health. The game is pretty stingy on collectables so it’s worth looting whatever you can to stay alive.
Like its predecessors, there are secrets to be found. My motivation would be pretty sporadic as on the one hand, I’d be keen to explore the areas, but other times would get frustrated with my inability to stay alive that I’d end up sprinting my way through and hope for the best.
I’m not much of a gaming completionist as I don’t have the time, nor the desire so much. However, when it comes to the sheer thrill of combat, then Hellbound hits the spots for me.
No story, no cutscenes – just a frenzy of bullets.
Before concluding the review, bear in mind that I had a hiatus to PC gaming for some years, so playing this game felt much like the titles I played ‘back in the day’.
Sure, technologies and gaming had improved drastically, but I don’t think that the developers set out for something to change the world, rather a punch on the arm and the manliest of smiles to fellow shooters from the 90s. In that case, job well done and for what it is, I enjoyed it – if a little brief.
N.B: Hellbound currently has 20% off the already low price, but be quick as there’s just over a day left (as of writing).