‘Hell Let Loose’ Early Impressions

Hmm.

Well.

I’m running somewhat late with this one. It’s my early impressions piece (in case the title didn’t give that away) for Hell Let Loose (you also might’ve picked that one up), as it is part of this month’s Humble Choice offering. UnwiseOwl collects a rag-tag bunch of us up each month to help form a view on whether any given month’s offering is worth it or not.

I’ve put a couple of hours inside the game now. And perhaps another hour outside, but on the game, in terms of watching various beginner guides. Which… might already begin to tell you something about the game and whether it’s for you. Hell Let Loose isn’t one you are going to just jump into all willy-nilly and do well in. Oh no.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Perhaps I should tell you what the game even is.

“Join the ever-expanding experience of Hell Let Loose – a hardcore World War Two first-person shooter with epic battles of 100 players with infantry, tanks, artillery, a dynamically shifting front line and a unique resource-based RTS-inspired meta-game.”

The emphasis is mine, but the words are the developers.

I caught a ride into battle on the truck with my squad, and I’m already contemplating the wisdom of my choices.

The game is quite an experience. The visuals are not bad, the maps are expansive and the audio is exceptional. From positional footsteps to the roar of plane engines ahead, the skittering of distant gunfire or the bowel-emptying shake of artillery fire landing uncomfortably close — as an experience, it’s the audio that really brings it to life.

In my time with the game, I’ve played two of the nine available roles. I tried my hand out as a mix of Rifleman and Assault. The two things these roles have in common? They can be dumb infantry grunts, just following orders from the field commander and squad leader. Early on, in particular, I didn’t necessarily know what my orders were meant to achieve. Someone pointed, and I went there.

As noted, the maps are vast. And sometimes, if there are no forward spawn points (Garrisons, or ‘garrys’) available, either because they’ve been destroyed, our squad leaders haven’t placed any, or they’re simply overrun and ‘hot’ with enemies — you can have a fairly long trek back to the active frontline. Let me tell you — and I don’t think this will be the last time I say this — the sound design of the game is phenomenal. There is something truly eerie about the juxtaposition of the nearby silence of moving through a bomb-ravaged city but still being able to hear, in the great distance, the war raging on ahead, in the direction you’re voluntarily travelling in.

Then… Add to that; footsteps. And there are no friendly markers on the map nearby.

Lying in the mud. I had taken fire from somewhere ahead, most of the bullets pattering into the ground nearby, but it was enough to make me hit the deck.

So this all sounds quite positive so far, eh?

But I came away from the game conflicted. I think… If you’re in for quite a learning curve and are prepared to see the ‘KILLED IN ACTION’ screen more often than the ‘YOU DIED’ screen in Dark Souls while playing blindfolded, you’ll find something to quite enjoy here. The ‘learning curve’ of the game resembles more of a cliff really. And that’s just speaking as an infantry player following orders.

I’ve not even begun to look at the armour, artillery or recon squads, each of which has its own mechanics. Tanks are multi-crew vehicles with their own subroles. Artillery needs the help of the squad leaders out on the field to range and identify targets. Recon is a two-person squad consisting of a Sniper and Spotter, where the Sniper fire needs to account for the full ballistics model of the game, with bullet drop and travel time.

Add to that, the whole logistics and supply line aspect that other people need to manage to keep your frontline supplied with spawn points and defences and it’s just… a lot.

All of which, in a certain mood or gaming appetite, I could be up for. A less arcadey-Battlefield is something I could see myself getting right behind. That is not an attitude I find myself adopting at the moment though, and a part of this is the fact that when you die (which, as previously mentioned, is going to happen a lot) you can spend up to 40 seconds waiting to get back onto the field. (~10 seconds minimum, then it’s a matter of catching the next deployment wave, as your team respawns in cycles rather than on individual timers).

I’m as surprised as you are. Honestly, this was a very closely matched round. We just barely eked out the third control point capture, pushing in behind our tank line on foot. Was an epic finish. I was even, amazingly, alive for it!

Which in itself… Yeah, OK. I can see the need not to make respawn timers too quickly otherwise it’d become one giant stalemate with no-one able to progress in any direction. That 30 second cycle (+10 second minimum individual timer) gives a team who has been victorious in a given engagement the opportunity to move forward and suppress or destroy the local garrison, which gives that ability to push across the map.

So no, I don’t mind that part.

But then consider the fact you move at a snail’s pace. Honestly, and no kidding, when I first jumped into a game I thought there was some form of cinematic slow-motion in effect for the start of the round, or that perhaps I’d logged into the final moments of the map in progress. No, though, that was honestly the speed. So, you take a few minutes to get to somewhere the action is and BAM, dead. To an enemy you possibly never even saw.

Again, there is absolutely an element of ‘git gud’ to work through here. Even by the end of the first round, my ability to visually identify enemies had improved. But let me tell you, the camo they wear and the lack of any kind of enemy nameplate really does mean you’re going to have to be constantly paranoid about your surroundings.

Ultimately, if you have the patience (and time, each round can be 40+ minutes) for a more hardcore experience, one that will let you go deep into any number of roles and functions as you see fit, Hell Let Loose seems like it has your name all over it. Just don’t expect to be running and gunning like in CoD or Battlefield, this really isn’t that type of game.

If you’re looking for a beginner’s guide, or even just to see some of the game in action, here is one I quite liked:

Naithin

Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.

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