So many great first-person shooters are out or on their way this year, and you may be struggling with what you’d like to spend your money on. There is a lack of hardcore shooters on the console market with Rainbow Six being the most well-known. We see a new title in this genre as Hell Let Loose joins the small lineup of extreme hardcore first-person shooters on console. How does it fair? Let’s find out.
This is a multiplayer tactical first-person shooter developed by Australian studio Black Matter and published by Team 17. Due to the immense size of the maps and high player count, this is a current-gen only title. An early access phase between June 2019 and July 2021 put it through its paces on PC. The hardware we now have in our consoles now allows development teams to consider a wider market of players in their approach.
Hell Let Loose does not feature any campaign mode. The focus is purely on multiplayer 50v50 iconic battles of the Western and Eastern fronts during World War II at platoon level. This is no run and gun affair, it is realistic, vast, and is more suited to squad-based gameplay. If you approach this game the way you would any other shooter you’ll be a sitting duck.
Where the game falls down is the lack of explanation on how it functions and plays. With no tutorial in sight, players are expected to dig deep and find out for themselves how to play the game. There are some text-based pointers of guidance but I found I had to turn to YouTube and research on Google to find out more on how the game modes work. This is sadly where the casual pool of players will filter out and lose patience because this game requires plenty of it.
There are two modes in Hell Let Loose, Offensive and Warfare. In Offensive one team attacks while the other defends. The defending team must do their best to keep hold of all capture points, attackers must swoop through and absorb and take control of these points before the match timer ends. Warfare is slightly different and more a tug of war style mode. The game is won by controlling all sectors at a certain stage in time or being in possession of the majority when the timer runs out.
Know your role!
If you’re used to sitting in a party chat with friends you may want to think twice. Unless you have a squad of five or six that you’ll play regularly with on this then you’ll need to communicate with random players. Playing this solo and silent will be a struggle as each player has a specific job to do. There are fourteen playable roles here. Explaining all of these in great detail would fill pages of text so I’ll gloss over the most important soldiers to note.
The two most important roles are the Commander and officers of each unit. Being a commander basically places you in charge. As the leader of your faction you will be responsible for coordinating the actions of all squads. You’ll maintain an overall view of the battlefield and use your abilities to drop air support or gain supplies. As an officer you are the leader of a platoon. You can have up to six of you at any one time per platoon & there is also the option to make a platoon private if you just want to keep it to you and your buddies. Each officer is responsible for constructing spawn points, managing your squad, and communicating with other squad leaders.
If you don’t feel comfortable in any of these positions then you can select from the other 12 options. Rifleman, anti-tank, machine gunner, assault, medic, engineer, support, automatic rifleman, spotter, sniper, tank commander, or crewman. Each soldier has unique traits and there is a limit to how many can be in each group. For instance, there can only be one medic per platoon. You’ll spend hours figuring out just how you enjoy playing the game as the various classes and roles all play so differently. There is an extremely deep learning curve in how all these troops work and blend together. One example is that an officer who doesn’t build spawn points is going to make it a nightmare for his platoon.
Choose your spawns wisely!
Once commencing a game you’ll be presented with an option of three spawn points in your own territory. These will always be there, however, it is up to the officers in order to construct outposts and garrisons further afield to enable fallen soldiers to respawn further up the battlefield once their respawn timer depletes after death. If these extra spawn points are not built then the result is painstakingly frustrating as you have to run all the way from the original spawn points to where the action is taking place and some of these maps are true to scale and all enormous in size. From experience, I can inform you that running for three to four minutes to then receive a bullet right between the eyes only to do it all again is rage-inducing.
This is ultimately down to there being no tutorial and the in-game explanations being weak in comparison to what you can find on YouTube. A large portion of players will pick up this game expecting a Battlefield style vibe and that isn’t this at all. That said, I absolutely adore the fact it encourages communication between people you wouldn’t normally speak to. I miss the days of open Call Of Duty lobbies way back on the Xbox 360 where there was constant banter. Party chat has pretty much obliterated hope for players to engage with each other outside of their own friend zone. Almost every platoon I was part of had players speaking to each other over their headsets, something I haven’t witnessed in over a decade. I salute Black Matter for this and I’d love to see more games follow this approach.
Weapons & equipment
World War 2 weaponry features here of course. The magnificent M1 Garand, the powerful performance of the MG42, the trusty MP40, I could go on. Equipment extends to medical supplies, smoke grenades, binoculars, and more. Everything handles and performs as you’d expect it to and gunplay is satisfactory. More weapons are unlocked through leveling up the different classes which can be a bit of a grind.
Graphics and Sound
Visually Hell Let Loose is absolutely stunning. The environment is picturesque and captures warzones of the second World War impeccably. The attention to detail with animations such as airstrikes was mindblowing. Watching one land on the horizon and observing a cascade of smoke and debris is quite possibly one of the coolest aspects of a first-person shooter I have ever seen. Crawling through crop fields and forests whilst spotting enemies in the treeline ahead of you creates moments of fear and excitement. It is without a doubt the most realistic shooter I have ever played in terms of how everything displays. The one criticism I would give is the fact there were many buildings dotted around and almost all of them were not accessible.
In the audio department there was nothing I could fault here whatsoever. The sound of bullets whizzing past your ears and the snap of the gunfire is truly terrifying to the point you do have the instinct to dive down to the ground. Explosions surrounding you make you take a step back and think “What the f**k was that!” The way the audio blends with the visual is magnificent and atmospheric in making you feel like you’re really there.
The communication options are impressive as well. You’ll want to be wearing a headset in Hell Let Loose or you will struggle. Even if you don’t want to speak just listening to others is useful. There are channels that can be selected at the click of the LB button. Squad channel allows you to freely speak with your platoon whilst Proximity chat gives you the ability to communicate with players in your immediate vicinity. Commanders and officers have the added feature of tuning into all squad leaders to bark out intel and direct orders.
I had some irritating issues with the controller in terms of bugs. At random my B button would not function, often leaving me in the crouch position or lay on the floor unable to really participate. This forced me to commit suicide and redeploy at the cost of a death and potentially running miles again. Other issues to note were the controller randomly turning itself off mid game, my friends also had the same problem. There were several freezes mid-game resulting in me having to quit and rejoin the server thus losing all progress. On occasion I would attempt to heal with the X button for it to bring up gamer cards of random players. Sometimes in game chat I would lose communication with friends and be unable to hear them. All of these factors do not render the game unplayable, but it does hamper the overall feel.
Hell Let Loose is a dream for enthusiasts of hardcore first-person shooter titles with an almost forced squad-based element. Would I recommend this for solo players? Only if you’re willing to speak up to others online, make friends and work with others. This game is not made for lone wolves. If you’re the kind of gamer who has a group of mates playing together all the time, then I urge you to at least try before you buy. The great news is that the Xbox version has a ten-hour trial allowing you to test the full version of the game before you commit, & the console version has cross-play between Xbox Series S/X and Playstation 5. You’ll need patience to endure the lengthy matches that can last the best part of an hour. If you’re willing to master the steep learning curve though, there is a great game waiting for you.