With all the new self titled “oldschool fps” making their appearance known in Steam one after the other, it would be foolhardy to dismiss the chance of another fps renaissance sometime in the future. In the span of a few months, we have seen new titles like Dusk, Ion Maiden, Apocryph and Amid Evil popping up on Steam and hence proving that there is still a solid market for these visceral fast paced shooters reminiscent of the ones from the 90’s. The newest member in this little family is a little game called Hellbound.
Hellbound is the latest game from Argentina based developer Saibot Studios advertised as “A 90’s fps, 20 years later.” But according to the devs, their studio is not financially ready to make a full-fledged single player game as of now. Instead, they have released a wave-based arena shooter based on Hellbound called “Hellbound – Survival Mode” as an appetizer before the big meal. The status of the single player campaign however depends on how this month goes for Saibot Studios. But that’s a story for later. The Survival Mode is now on closed beta and you can sign up for a key here.
Hellbound – Survival Mode
Like the name says, Hellbound – Survival Mode pits you, a beefed up tribal-soldier dude named Hellgore in a corner of hell against wave after wave of demonic forces. Although the game is said to take inspirations from Doom, Quake and Duke Nukem 3D, the gameplay is more similar to the likes of Serious Sam, Painkiller and the excellent Doom Reboot. Your objective is to kill demons and survive for as long as you can. You start off with nothing but a semi-automatic rifle that is equivalent to the first tier gun from oldschool shooters. It doesn’t do a lot of damage, but it has infinite ammo and it will make you stay alive long enough to get some sweet pieces of demonic arsenal.
It is not long after that you get your first weapon pick up; a twisted looking baseball bat of sorts which can often one-shot most enemies. You then get a new gun for the next 3 waves. Among the featured weapons are a triple barreled shotgun that is great for some serious close-up damage, a fast firing gatling rifle equivalent to the chaingun from the 90’s and a rocket launcher which does some nice splash damage and is excellent for crowd control. All the weapons are spot-on, well balanced and overall, feel great. You’ll often switch back and forth between them to suit your needs. The weapon selection and models are a throwback to the 90’s and hit all the sweet spots. The fact that they are projectile-based and not hit-scan is another plus. Some of these guns feature secondary fire modes too. But the addition of iron sights on some of the guns feel out of place for what it’s trying to imitate. It’s not that useful and add to the fact that it severely reduces your FOV.
Aside from weapons and ammo, you’ll also collect pieces of health and armor which is essential if you want to survive anything more than a single wave. They respawn often and even one piece of armor can mean the difference between life and death. Speaking of death, you will need to be on the move at all times unless you want to explode into tiny giblets. The game continues the tradition of it’s predecessors in being a fast paced fps. But the main gripe I have now is the sprint button. Because of it, the default run speed is not that fast and holding down the sprint button in the middle of hail of bullets and rockets can be a pain the butt. Not to mention the fact that you can’t fire while sprinting. Removing the feature entirely and adding that as the default speed will make the game much more enjoyable.
Each of the 10 or more waves gets progressively difficult as you move from one to the next. There are 4 or so major enemy types in the current build. A melee demon, a gunner demon, a bigass demon which looks like the Kliers from Serious Sam that shoots projectiles and the rocket launcher demons. These last guys can make your life a living hell. After level six, things will start to get so chaotic that you won’t even get a second to take a breather. Especially the latter levels where it’s just one huge mess with you being bombarded by attacks in 360 degrees and in all ranges. This is made excruciatingly painful by the exploding mushroom thingys on the environment which respawn frequently. Most of the time, it’s these things that kills you, not the 8 feet tall demons. But the game, even in this limited setup is a blast to play. It’s so satisfying that it became my new stress buster. They really hit the oldschool mark on the gameplay department. Plus there is also a global leaderboard if you are into that sort of thing.
Visuals, Performance and Sound
Hellbound is powered by Unreal Engine 4 and looks absolutely gorgeous if you can manage to max everything up. Rather than going for a retro look with pixelated visuals to resemble oldschool shooters, Saibot has decided to go full modern and that’s a great decision. The game looks a lot similar to Doom (2016) in terms of art style and color palette. Since the game takes place in hell, everything looks red, fiery and demonic. The weapons and enemies both pack a lot of detail and animations look rather well done too, albeit being a bit limited. Enemies explode into giblets at the tip of your gun and it looks and feels great.
As far as performance goes, anyone with a decent pc won’t have trouble running the game at 1080p with a buttery smooth 60 fps. If you fall into the other category, don’t worry as there are a few graphics options to make your game run well. All the game lacks is an option to turn off the motion blur which many may find annoying.
Like I said before, this game is inspired from 90’s fps such as Doom and Quake and that inspiration is clearly carried over to the music. The game features some thrash metal tracks to aid you in your murderous rampage and it just works, just like it did for countless shooters before Hellbound. Weapon sounds, explosions, agony, death, dismemberment, gibbing everything sounds the way it should.
Suggesting Hellbound in its current state is not a divisive decision as the game closed beta can be freely played if you sign up in the official website. There is a lot of potential in Hellbound. The shooting is solid, satisfying and the arena mode is highly replayable even if you don’t care about the leaderboard stuff. There is no better platform to test your fps skills. It’d be a shame if the single player campaign never gets made. So if you love games like Doom, Quake, Serious Sam or Painkiller, give Hellbound : Survival Mode a try and see if you still have what it takes to survive hell.