We got our hands on the new Hellbound demo and its Survival Mode recently, giving us a taste of what's to come ahead of its full story mode release that is set for later this year. The survival mode takes place within an enclosed map, surrounded by lava down in the depths of Hell. Here, armed with your bare fists and a semi-automatic rifle, you must take on the ever-increasing hoards of demonic monsters in a fight for survival against the devilish force that lurked behind every corner in this '90s-inspired shooter.
The survival mode is free for all to play and gives players the chance to experience how the full game will play out by letting them test out the weapons and get a feel for the movement of the brutish protagonist as he maims demons in the hellscape of Hellbound. Dubbing itself as a "90s style First Person Shooter, made 20 years later" the game has clearly taken inspiration from classic games like Doom, Quake and Duke Nukem. Hellbound has an art style very close to these classics, as well as similar gunplay mechanics and a very similar approach to gore. Hellbound doesn't try to hide its reverence, and it runs with that throughout.
Although the content available is limited, at least the survival mode is free and it gives players a challenging way to compete to get to the top of the leaderboards. The gameplay is challenging from the start and if you're not careful you can very easily get swarmed by a large number of enemies, pushed into a corner and overrun. The game knows its a challenge and it plays on that: each wave in the survival mode brings in more enemies, new enemies and fewer health pickups to make sure that you are toughing it out until your inevitable death.
The demo is slightly different, as it gives players more of a look into the actual game and this is where we really see the similarities to classic '90s shooters. The HUD design is very simple, showing the weapon you have equipped, a small image of the character's face and your shield/health, and it looks similar to that of classic Doom. Once you get into the actual game, again, it feels familiar, and the weapons, whilst being different, feel like how we remember them. You are given a variety to add to your arsenal, ranging from rifles to shotguns to big over the top rocket launchers.
Once you get into things, monsters will come at you from all directions, bombarding you without restraint. In the demo, health pickups are not very frequent so you will have to be more cautious and refrain from just running into every battle with a gun in hand. The game also shares a 'key' system with the id Software classics, and you have to hunt around the map for the Red Key, for example, to unlock the next stage, opening up more rooms and enemies. Be prepared, however, as each stage you go through will increase in difficulty and dying will set you back to the very start.
The map design is also very reminiscent of vintage Doom, with lots of open lava pools, enclosed corridors, and monsters spawning around every corner. There's not much time to breathe and as soon as you think you might be safe you will be swarmed by another gang of beasts. This all adds to the old school challenge: there are no difficulty levels, no mid-game saving, just an all-out slugfest until the very end.
All in all, Hellbound has promise, and the nostalgia we felt whilst playing was strong. Yes, the game is somewhat familiar but it is supposed to be that way and the devs don't shy away from that fact. Saibot Studios has taken all of its inspiration from games like Doom, adding bigger and better graphics, more fluid gunplay, and a nostalgic soundtrack befitting a '90s-era shooter.
Loading next content