Hellbound is a first person shooter developed by Saibot Studios. It is inspired by the 90’s classics that everyone has heard of, like Doom and Quake. It’s a love letter to these games with plenty of fast-paced, blood-soaked action. Unfortunately it’s held back by some poor level design choices, lack of content and disappointing difficulty. Here’s my Hellbound review.
Fast-Paced Shooter With Potential
The gameplay is a mix between shooting and platforming, as you’d expect from a game inspired by Doom. Hellbound pulls this off really well. The movement and shooting are both fantastic. Moving around the maps feels quick and has a smooth flow. Likewise, the guns pack a punch. They all feel extremely powerful, just as they should when they make enemies explode into chunks of flesh. The core gameplay of moving and killing can make you feel like a bad-ass killing machine. Unfortunately, the game’s other issues are more likely to leave you feeling disappointed.
The weapons do feel powerful. Unfortunately, within an hour you’ll already have your full arsenal, and it’s not very varied. A pistol, a melee weapon (which isn’t really needed as ammo pickups are abundant), a shotgun, a minigun and a rocket launcher. It sounds like a wide range of tools to experiment with, but they are all equally powerful and essentially the same. They don’t offer anything new or exciting, so you’ll only need to swap between them when you run out of ammo. Each weapon has a secondary mode but they don’t offer much of a change either. If certain enemies were resistant to certain guns it’d be different, as you’d have to change up your strategy throughout, but this isn’t the case. Whether you’re fighting a gun-shooting demon, a fireball-shooting demon or the hellish demon dogs, all you’ll need is a few easy shots and they die.
The game instantly warns you about difficulty, telling you that, for some people, Hellbound will be too hard. I wanted to experience it at its best, so I chose the hard difficulty. It was not hard. In fact, I only died a handful of times. The game is pitched like it is only for the most hardcore gamers who have been playing since the 90’s and want a real challenge. In reality, it’s a barely challenging power fantasy allowing you to rip through most enemies like tissue paper. The only challenging encounters the game throws at you involve spawning huge groups of enemies at point blank range and hoping they kill you before you make some distance. The level design doesn’t help here. There are too many large open areas where enemies spawn. You can just run away and kill them from a safe distance, totally stripping the game of it’s difficulty.
The best moment was when I was forced into tight corridors and found myself being ambushed from the sides by the demon dog beasts. This introduced a chaotic panic that the game completely lacked outside of that one corridor. I had high hopes for the final battle, knowing I’d be against a huge boss. Unfortunately, the boss battle purely relies on spawning enemies all around you. The boss itself is very weak, mostly using fireballs which you can easily avoid. The only challenge in the boss battle is keeping the game running, as the framerate went from 60 to 15 fps thanks to the enemies spawning everywhere.
Level Design Was A Mixed Bag
The levels consist of multiple rooms and arenas linked together with doors. You can open some of the doors instantly, whilst others need a key. The keys are hidden in the levels on alternate paths. Exploring the levels looking for the keys and then remembering where to use them was a lot of fun most of the time. These sections are chained together in a complex manner which was satisfying to navigate with the smooth, fast-paced movement. However, once or twice in every level I found myself in big open areas with no clear indication of where to go next. Getting lost in these areas is more frustrating than it is fun and ruined the pacing of the game.
Shorter Than Expected
I didn’t expect a very long game, between 5 and 10 hours at most. Hellbound is much shorter than that. I finished the whole game on the hardest difficulty (other than one unlocked after the campaign) in little over 2 hours. In that time, the game struggles to ever meet it’s potential. Rather than feeling proud to have beat it on it’s hard difficulty setting, the ending left me feeling flat and disappointed. You are rewarded with a new survival mode map though.
Survival Mode Shines
Survival Mode is where Hellbound shines. It doesn’t offer much improvement on the level design – the arenas are all fairly flat and don’t offer any interesting platforming. But the enemy difficulty ramps up here and it feels like a true test of strength. The maps are a lot less open which often left me feeling overwhelmed. I was surviving by the skin of my teeth. In later rounds, enemies gain a ‘rage’ powerup and this makes them even stronger. It’s simple, adrenaline-fuelled combat which was finally offering the difficulty I expected from the rest of the game. You’ll have to keep moving at all times to make it out alive. With four maps offering plenty of replayability, this is where the game shines and the mode I found much more enjoyable.
The visuals are true to their inspiration, but of course far better than those found in 90’s shooters. They aren’t particularly detailed, but if you liked the recent Doom games, want to try more of the genre and find the older games graphics are too dated, this game is a good middle ground.
Ultimately, Hellbound’s core gameplay feels great. The movement is fast-paced and flows really well. The guns both feel powerful and extremely satisfying, but don’t offer much variation. Unfortunately, ripping through the demon hordes in Campaign Mode isn’t very fun due to inconsistent level design and a surprising lack of difficulty. It always feels like it’s building up to something better, but never reaches its potential. The game is far too short, and wraps up with a disappointing boss battle that causes framerate problems. Finishing the campaign rewards you with a new survival map though, and this mode is where the game shines. There are four maps total, and they are far more difficult. They are smaller, forcing you to keep moving around the enemies, who are much more challenging in this environment. It focuses on what the game does well – movement and satisfying oomph – and it’s a lot more fun than the campaign. The graphics are good, offering a solid middle-ground. They aren’t detailed or particularly impressive, but the visuals make Hellbound far more accessible than the 90’s shooters that inspired it. The inconsistent level design, little variation and lack of difficulty in the campaign unfortunately keep it from being special.
Hellbound is available now on Steam for £11.39/$14.99. If you buy it, let me know what you think in the comments down below or over on my social medias. For all the latest gaming news, make sure to stay right here at The Games Freak.
I received a review code for this game for free.