Review – Hellbound

Sometimes, all I want to do is play the most straightforward game possible. A game that’s fast-paced, over-the-top, and meant for you to pick it up and play it without ever asking questions regarding lore or morality. Sure, there’s Doom Eternal, which is still my favorite game of 2020, and possibly this entire console generation as a whole, but I’d never say no to a game that’s clearly inspired by Id Software’s current and previous outings. Let’s tackle Saibot Studios’ Hellbound and see if it can be considered a worthy sidekick to Doomguy’s shenanigans.

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These walls were green before I arrived.

Hellbound is a perfect definition of a Doom clone and that’s high praise. It’s all about shooting demons in hell with negative amounts of care or remorse, wielding the most ludicrous guns you can imagine, running at blisteringly fast speeds at all times, all while having your eardrums mutilated by awesome death metal riffs. All of this does a great job at keeping your adrenaline at near-dangerous levels.

It calls itself “a 90’s shooter released 30 years later”. It borrows gameplay elements that are synonymous with most Id Software’s outings: huge levels with tons of secret rooms, health, ammo and shield pickups, little to no checkpoints, key collecting, and a brutal difficulty, even on so-called easier settings.

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This is a love letter to 90’s shooters, but your starting weapon has iron sights as its secondary function.

This game pulls no punches. Right from the get-go, even before you’re thrown into the main menu, it pats itself on the back with a not-so-subtle message about how difficult it is. It’s “a game meant to resemble the 90’s, so a lot of people will consider it way too hard”. They’re not wrong, as Hellbound‘s levels are full of death traps and enemies that can deplete your health and shield meters in just a few hits. Your main character is not as resilient as Doomguy or Duke Nukem, even though he constantly tries to showcase how much of a hotshot he is by spitting out one liners that would make Austin St. John cringe.

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This old chap is Hellbound’s version of Doom’s Imp.

With that being said, Hellbound is far from being impossible to beat. It’s just a game with an old school mentality. It wants you to die over and over again until you memorize enemy patterns as if you could read their minds. It also rewards you for being less than gentle with your enemies, as it provides you with some health or shield pickups if you keep on shooting an enemy after you’ve killed it. You’ll usually get only one or two health points, but considering the fact Hellbound worries about providing players with pickups as much as Nintendo worries about putting their games on sale, any help is welcome.

This is a very flawed game, however. My main gripe lies in its controls. I don’t think I’ve ever needed to criticise the controls on a PC shooter, but Hellbound suffers from some occasional button responsiveness issues, meaning that my guns wouldn’t fire bullets even after clicking on the mouse’s left button a good half dozen times. Considering I would rarely shoot a gun without having an enemy in front of me, this annoying glitch turned an already difficult game into a hard and unfair title at times.

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This map is quite familiar…

There’s another big issue: its length. Hellbound is a stupidly short game, as you can beat it in around two to three years. It’s actually shorter than most chapters in older Doom and Quake games. There is a very entertaining Survival mode that provides an extra amount of lasting appeal, however. It’s not a lot and the responsiveness glitches are also present in this mode, but it does add a bit of value to this already cheap package.

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Come and have a go.

All in all, Hellbound is a very fun game, but I can’t see it being appealing to anyone other than hardcore old-school shooter fans. It succeeds at providing players with a Doom-esque experience that is a bit more faithful to the 90’s originals than Id Software’s more modern iterations, all while featuring more modern graphics and physics. However, it’s short, unpolished, and frankly, not very innovative. I had fun with it and I am glad it exists, but I’d never choose this over my beloved Doom Eternal, or even the recent remaster of Doom 64 for that matter.

 

Graphics: 7.5

The game sure looks good and runs at a blistering fast framerate, but its landscapes are way too repetitive.

Gameplay: 7.5

The overall combat is great, your character moves at a fast pace at all times, and the guns pack a punch. The game suffers from some occasional button responsiveness issues that will result in unfair deaths.

Sound: 9.0

A phenomenal soundtrack comprised of brutal death metal riffs that fit perfectly with the game’s tone. Too bad there’s some schmuck trying to emulate Duke Nukem with some terrible one-liners, or else the sound department would have been a perfect ten.

Fun Factor: 7.0

It’s a love letter to Doom, Quake, and Duke Nukem. It doesn’t innovate at all, but it manages to entertain, as it’s tough as nails and completely unapologetic. Sadly, it’s very short, but its Survival mode offers a bit of extra lasting appeal.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Hellbound is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Hellbound was provided by the publisher.