I’ve played a lot of first person shooters in my life. When I was younger, it was my preferred genre—and I still prefer most games to be in first-person if it’s practical for them to be. First person is immersive, and often connected to fast, twitch-based gameplay—especially if that game is a shooter. Hellbound is yet another in a long list of shooters I’ve played, and it manages to hold up.
Hellbound is a first-person shooter that tries to emulate classic id Software games like Quake and Doom—and it does a pretty good job at it. Even without the dozen or so messages on its product page and in the game mentioning that Hellbound is going for a retro-shooter feel, it’s apparent. It has fast movement, floating power-ups, armor, ammo, and hordes of enemies firing at you over a backdrop of hellish landscapes.
There is a story in Hellbound, but it doesn’t matter. You play as a lumpy slab of meat that’s as tough as the Doom Slayer and spouts one-liners like Duke or Sam. You have to kill monsters (or avoid them) while collecting keys and traversing through each of the seven levels culminating with a confrontation with the big bad at the need. And that’s it, but really, there doesn’t have to be much more.
There aren’t many guns to shoot at enemies with in Hellbound, and the arsenal that’s provided doesn’t really shake things up too much. There’s your fists, a bat, a rifle, shotgun, minigun-type weapon, and a rocket launcher. And that’s it. If “old-school id-inspired shooter” was a recipe, the developers made only a few changes. Don’t expect innovation, but the weapons do the job, and while some of them feel weak, the sound effects do a good job of providing some extra oomph.
What would a retro-inspired first person shooter be without lots of enemies to shoot at? Hellbound throws you into situations with dozens of enemies at a time, but there aren’t that many different enemy types. There are melee and gun grunts, and a few demons that throw projectiles like Doom’s Imps, as well as others that lunge at you with a devastating melee attack. And that’s pretty much it. I think they throw in a rocket launcher grunt at some point, but they died so quickly I only noticed their rocket launchers afterwards.
Now let me be clear: Hellbound is a fun game. It even has a pretty good art style that works for what it’s trying to accomplish. It’s just too damn short.
With only seven levels, Hellbound doesn’t take long to play through. And while the levels are okay, hunting for keys and killing the hordes of enemies that spawn after you find said keys isn’t groundbreaking.
Despite its short length, you can possibly squeeze a little more time out of Hellbound by playing it on a harder difficulty, or trying out its Survival mode. Survival mode only has four levels to play in, but you fight against waves of enemies until you eventually fail. You can compete on the leaderboards—but let’s face it, when has that ever made you stay in a game for several more hours? Again, nothing groundbreaking here.
“Nothing groundbreaking” should have been Hellbound’s tagline. It’s a fun, fast, tight shooter that I would have enjoyed playing when I was a kid. But it feels like (at most) the first episode to a larger game that doesn’t exist. I totally recommend Hellbound, but just be prepared for an incredibly short game.
Hellbound is available today on Steam.
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