Multiplayer shooters set in WW2 are hardly uncommon these days. Whether it's Call of Duty, Battlefield, even Enlisted, there's plenty to tickle your fancy. The indie studio Black Matter knows this, and has looked at the genre and created a game that prides itself on its realism, a game that isn't designed for the majority, but for the fans of the genre looking for a shooter experience that relies on game strategy and sense as much, if not more, than mechanics. Now, that very game, Hell Let Loose has left Early Access and is available to the masses and I've taken it to the fields of battle to check out how it stacks up.
Hell Let Loose is a multiplayer shooter through and through. There's no narrative or storyline, in fact there isn't even a tutorial. Booting up the game takes you to the main menu where you have to join a server, most of which are run by members of the community, to get right into the action. With prior knowledge to the shooter genre, there isn't much in a mechanical sense to learn besides the fundamentals of movement and using firearms, so it's not exactly an issue that the tutorial is missing, but considering the way that Hell Let Loose plays, a little training and warning would go a very, very long way.
You see, unlike Battlefield V or Call of Duty: WWII, which are fast-paced arcade-like shooters in an FPS sense, Hell Let Loose is one of the most authentic representations of the genre. Time-to-kill values are incredibly low, meaning you will die in an instant, the maps are large, enemy players will hide in every nook and cranny to rack up kills, and the game modes require a ton of communication between your team to find success. It's the sort of design that wouldn't last ten minutes in EA or Activision's series, but for Hell Let Loose, it's its greatest strength.
This title uses an RTS-inspired set of game modes, where players will have to work together and communicate incredibly effectively to be able to succeed. What Hell Let Loose asks is that players coordinate to capture various locations and resources to push the lines of war in their favour - and because the lobbies are 100v100 for the most part, you get an unprecedented level of communication required to achieve victory effectively. Needless to say, it's ambitious and basically requires an active and engaged community to find success, but it has managed to do so, and in return, you get a WW2 shooter that is unique from the pack.
With Hell Let Loose being a shooter, you'll be glad to know that the game mechanics are incredibly tight, and feel responsive and fluid. You can't play this game like you would Battlefield or Call of Duty, but the gunplay is still designed to a high enough quality that you never feel hindered by the system. The same applies for the movement for the most part. It's actually quite arcade-y in nature and suffers from the same woes of a lot of FPSs, in the sense that your character seems to have unlimited stamina, but struggles to vault simple fences at times.
As this is a WW2 game, being a foot soldier is only part of what is on offer. Hell Let Loose features vehicular combat that puts you behind the wheel, or rather armour, of a range of war machines. As the maps are large and there are plenty of places to hide, the tanks and other vehicles never feel as oppressive to infantry - as is the case in Battlefield - which makes for a much more rounded experience in that regard.
Aside from the teamplay and the RTS-inspired game modes, one of the areas that Hell Let Loose really sets itself apart from competitors is in its battlefield authenticity. This is a game where it feels oppressing to be under fire, the sounds of explosions are terrifying, and the vehicles that dot the landscape are behemoths that are frightening beyond belief. And then there's the map design, where you genuinely don't want to leave the trenches, for the fear of being shot by another player hiding in the thicket, rifle in hand. It's a take on FPS that replaces the quick doses of dopamine and rapid nature of the game with strategy and fear, and it works remarkably well.
But, as I've mentioned previously, this isn't a game for most people. Hell Let Loose is both a hardcore game in the way it fundamentally plays, but also in how it is designed at its core. The lack of a defined matchmaking system often provides a challenging entry into finding games that suit your native language and where you're based, and then on top of that, there's the progression, which can be tough to figure out, and doesn't allow you to play whichever class you want from minute one. It's a little overly complex and can be alienating, but if you can just push through that wall, the game that is underneath is engaging and rewarding, and unlike what is often offered in the genre.
Hell Let Loose has a defined place in this genre, a place where a select few individuals will thrive and enjoy what is offered beyond belief. But, beware. As if fast-paced games are your forte, and you prefer shooters that are more 'arcadey' in nature that feature less emphasis on teamwide communication, then this won't be the game for you - even if it displays authenticity on a level even beyond games such as Battlefield or Enlisted.