Here’s the gist of Hellbound.
This is a 90s style first-person-shooter developed by Saibot Studios and published by Nimble Giant Entertainment.
It was released for PC in August 2020 with the promise of bringing back all the fast-paced, marathon man action combat of classic shooters like Doom and Quake, but released in the modern era.
And assuredly, first impressions do evoke that vibe.
From visuals to sound, Hellbound feels exactly like what you’d expect if 90s devs behind the hellscape aesthetic shooters had access to more modern technological prowess.
While it doesn’t exactly look like a release, which is entirely fair as it’s made by a small team, visually it captures the atmosphere as perfectly as possible without raycaster environments.
Something which I thoroughly appreciate is the abundance of color which finds its way into the world, though glowing powerups, high saturation textures, and architecture.
The hellscape aesthetic is one I’ve grown rather bored of over the years, but a more colorful take on it is very much welcome.
However, as the game itself fully admits, the gameplay is what matters.
Because it’s assuredly not the story, generic-as-they-come demons are on a planet and you’re sent to kick them out plot, cliché by design as an homage to the classics.
No, what matters is the faced paced movement, making use of strafing and jumping to avoid enemy’s projectile or melee-based attacks, and straightforward shooting.
Gameplay-wise it feels more like Quake than Doom I’d say, though the aesthetic leans more towards the latter.
The controls are tight and easy to pick up, simply point and shoot.
Hellbound’s input feels snappy and responsive, and as a result, it’s satisfying as ever to take down demons with a decently sized arsenal of around five different weapons.
With a left-click being your gun’s main functionality, and right-click being a weapon-contextual alt-fire.
Such as a three-shot burst.
All the mechanical aspects you’d expect from a 90s style shooter are here… but, that in and of itself is also one of my biggest criticisms.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of retro FPSes, but I prefer when these games attempt to take the gameplay to another level, or do something… original with the setting.
Like the upcoming Prodius Map Editor or MC S-ISK level of the desk.
But the hellscapes of Hellbound, colorful as they may be, have been used a dozen times before.
The enemies are simplistic, walking straight at you and dealing with colossal amounts of damage.
Killing you very quickly.
Honestly, the difficulty in this game is all over the place.
You can go from chugging along just fine to dying in a second flat if you’re not careful, but not in a good way.
This is done by making the fastest enemies also the most brutal, balanced, in theory, by being melee only.
However, in practice, this just means close quarters are a nightmare, and large open areas are boring kiting grounds.
Hellbound is at it’s best in medium-sized areas, with enough cover to deal with gunfire from enemies at range, but enough open field to strafe jump away from those who prefer getting up close and personal.
Health and armor pickups are meager, though, and the occasional super-powerup segments felt very tacked on.
Like they only exist to mirror games of the past.
Getting back to my point, everything about this game feels straight out of the 90s.
For better or for worse.
It controls more modernly, with WASD and mouse aim of course, but in terms of game feel, it hasn’t aged a day.
Especially the voice acting. It’s, uh…
DEEP, DEMONIC IN-GAME VOICE: “All those memories lost… like gun shells in lava!”
“Two big motherfuckers go in, only one gets out.”
“You are one UGLY motherfucker!”
Listen, I don’t mean to well, a hound on Hellbound.
It offers you exactly what it says on the tin.
A 90s FPS 30 Years Later.
But you have to consider what that entails.
It’s not trying to be a modern take on classic shooters, it’s… a classic shooter.
Flaws and all.
No aim-down-sights, with the exception of the default shotgun, no puzzles or NPCs, no dialogue to speak of, nothing but rooms full of enemies to shoot.
The level design, in particular, is labyrinth-like, full of keycard mazes and random buttons attributed to doors in unrelated areas.
My least favorite aspect of old shooters is the confusing maps.
Lacking direction, or modern design cues which use light and shape to point the player’s attention in the right direction.
But Hellbound doesn’t have any of this.
Instead, it’s lava pits and caverns, with the same three songs looping over and over.
After long enough, the aesthetic and sound design really started to bore me.
Speaking of, aside from the game’s single-player campaign, a survival mode exists to further sustain replayability.
Waves of enemies with ever-increasing power battle you in arena-style settings, and you’re meant to hold out as long as possible for the high-score, on an online leaderboard.
This is far and away from the most fun I had with the game and brought back the most nostalgic memories of Quake for me.
However, in this mode and promotion. I literally turned around about 2 hours ago to play through all the available content.
For around $15, this isn’t terrible… but it’s certainly nothing outstanding.
With no multiplayer, either, you have to really enjoy every aspect of doom-likes to get your money’s worth out of Hellbound.
And I guess that’s my final point overall.
Hellbound isn’t trying to be anything more than a 90s shooter.
It literally boasts on this steam page that it has taken things back to the basics with a very little story or environmental interaction.
And if that’s what you want, well then, it’s up to you if the $15 asking price is worthwhile.
But this game doesn’t improve upon any aspect of Quake or Doom, it simply does the same thing again.
From every angle including story, gameplay, and level design, there’s nothing original about Hellbound.
It’s, just another 90s shooter.
If it’s nostalgia you’re looking for, the comfort food of retro shooters, it’ll do the trick.
But for those who are looking for something new done with the genre, I’d sooner turn your attention to DUSK for just a little bit more.
I don’t regret my time with Hellbound, it’s a fun romp.
And thanks to Davis and Homer PR for the initial access key, I’m still enjoying myself!
But there are other shooters which scratch the 90s itch, while also having something, anything, new to offer.
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