I have always been a fan of large-scale first-person shooters. As a kid, Battlefield 1942 blew my mind. The idea of a swarm of people working together in unison and completing objectives is just inherently appealing. Hell Let Loose takes 100 people, throws them in staggeringly large maps, and asks them to work together in one of the most accurate WW2 shooters that has ever graced a home console.
Hardcore WW2 Action
Right off the bat, this is a multiplayer game only. There is no story, no campaign, no bot matches. You hit ‘find a match’, and you go play. That’s it. Multiplayer-only shooters are very hit and miss. Sometimes it feels like you’re being shafted, other times the game is so damn good you don’t care. Hell Let Loose sits somewhere in the middle.
This review is going to be a bit different from usual because trying to be all serious and explain what makes Hell Let Loose good is dry and boring – more so than usual. It’s very much a feeling it gives that drew me in, and, inevitably, cast me out. I’ll call it the allure of the hardcore FPS.
Storytime. So, I jumped into a game, we were somewhere in France, and the Axis had to be booted out. I spawned in, ran towards a truck, and hopped in with my squad. Another squad joined us and the driver hoofed it towards the front line. Standard stuff – and then the roleplaying happened. Suddenly everyone was nattering about their girls back home, how they missed home-cooked food, and how they had kids on the way.
BPM (Bullets Per Minute) Review
It was wholesome. Entire lives started to spring up as 12 people started sharing these made-up stories. One guy started to express fear that he was going to die in the coming battle, and the lads started to reassure him. Our truck, plus a few others in tow, made it to town. We disembarked and the two officers in charge had us make a careful sweep of the area. Before that happened, Hell Let Loose (cheesy name drop, sorry).
A rocket collided with our truck and the streets filled with the sounds of gunfire. Panic started to fill the chat as Officers desperately tried to get men to take cover and set up positions. Mid-order, our officer gets shot and dies instantly. The remaining officer calls for a retreat to some houses nearby to hole up, and call for reinforcements. As I made a run for it, bullets zipping past my ears, all I could hear was the sound of the injured calling out for help, screaming in pain. One of the blokes who was talking about his girlfriend was frantically asking for his friend to look after her for him. It was surreal.
We finally hunker down. More than half our starting number was gone. Neither of the officers in charge had made it. Morale was low, the town was on the verge of being lost, and the enemy was closing in. We held out for as long as we could, heck, we even managed to retake some ground. Then it happened – our impromptu leader was downed. I was the only medic remaining, he was on the other side of the road. I took to my feet, ran across no-mans-land, morphine in hand. My squadmates were screaming at me to get down, but I kept running. Then it happens – just as I reach him, I’m taken out. As life leaves me, I hear the sounds of rolling tracks – our armored company had just arrived. All goes black as the town falls back under our control.
A Tale of Two Games
When Hell Let Loose is good, it is truly amazing. That is one of many stories I have lived through whilst playing this game. These stories can happen because the game is built on teamwork – not kills. It’s built on objectives – not streaks. The downside of such a player-driven narrative experience is that you don’t always get this. For every role-played story of love, loss, and comradery, there were dozens filled with silence.
Time for the dry stuff. You don’t go into Hell Let Loose with the intent to kill people. The game is way too clunky (intentionally) to allow one person to win the war. Heck, the war is across multiple fronts on a map that takes tens of minutes to walk across. One man can only do so much at the best of times. The true heroes in Hell Let Loose are the officers in charge, and the cooperation of many, many people.
Communication is key you see, and communication can only be done in one of three ways. Proximity, Squad, or Officer. Proximity allows everyone nearby to hear you. Handy for squad-to-squad cross-communication. Squad allows you to talk to your squadmates in private. The Officer channel is reserved for the Officers of squads, and these are the guys who are going to organize the war. They also have a direct line to the Commander, a high-ranking player who is making sure the war effort is stocked, supplied, and organized.
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When it’s 50v50, you can’t just have 50 people screaming down a mic. Officers can communicate with other officers, arrange joint maneuvers and get a feel for the state of the battle. This isn’t new to Hell Let Loose, but it’s very well implemented, and, again, the lack of individual potential and the focus on the group enhances this nicely.
What’s more, different squads do different things. Infantry makes up the bulk, but within that, there are classes. Each class has different guns and tools, such as a medkit, or a big stonking LMG. Making a balanced squad is important when it comes to engaging the enemy. The last thing you want is your medic, or heaven forbid, your officer, taking a bullet and leaving you high and dry in a warzone. When you die, you are out for the count for well over half a minute. Recon Companies only have space for 2 members, a sniper, and his spotter. Armoured Company members are the only ones who can man tanks, and tanks are powerful pieces that need to be carefully guided requiring plenty of liaison between squads and companies.
When this all works, it’s magnificent. You can see why people are so eager to roleplay. The game is crying out for people to do just that. This is a hardcore game for a very specific crowd. There are no crosshairs, very little HUD, no-hit markers – nothing. You go down in 1 hit, and you die instantly if you are shot in the head. Tanks are hard to control, and artillery requires a Bachelor’s Degree in Geometry to fire effectively. You could very easily spend 10 minutes running to the frontline only to be shot and killed by someone a mile away.
The hardcore nature is Hell Let Loose’s greatest strength and greatest weakness. If you join a server and nobody is talking it becomes a slow, boring FPS where you accidentally win the game or lose. Death becomes tedious and the controls become frustrating. You either have 40 minutes of pure joy or 40 minutes of the most grueling nonsense imaginable. There is no in-between. The game also falls apart if there aren’t enough players on the server. I found it very difficult to find a full 50v50 server, and more often than not, it was barely scraping 10v10. When the maps are this big, 10v10 starts to resemble needles in a haystack. Baring mind the game supports cross-platform play and I was still struggling at peak game times during the weekend.
Graphically the game looks great for the most part but has moments of looking a little bit unpolished and moments of looking amazing. The environments are detailed, guns look true to life, the effects that muddy your screen when you are suppressed, or when artillery is pounding into the earth, all look great. When the action kicks off, it looks stunning. The audio enhances it many times over, too. Guns have a real kick to them, warzones are deafeningly loud, and I would 100% recommend a good set of headphones to truly immerse yourself in the chaos. Hell Let Loose also uses some of the Dualsenses gadgets and gizmos, with the adaptive triggers being a nice touch.
How does one rate Hell Let Loose? On the one hand, it has provided some of the best gaming moments of this year, and on the other, I have been bored out of my mind more times than I could count. If you are playing solo and hoping for a good time, you might not get it. It’s best to go in with a squad, heck, maybe a couple. Search for communities, join private servers, etc. If the idea of a bunch of grown-ass adults pretending to be WW2 soldiers sounds like a good time, then this is for you. Otherwise, this is a miss.
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