Game name: High Hell
Release date: October 23, 2017
Price: US$ 9.99
Available on: Steam
Genre: First person shooter
Developers: Terri Vellmann, Doseone
Publisher: Devolver Digital
The first person shooter genre is experiencing a resurgence that few could have predicted, considering the rise of the Call of Duty clones during the last decade. Indie developers such as Flying Wild Hog and David Szymanski have raised the bar with the Shadow Warrior reboots and DUSK‘s first chapter, and big budget publishers have also expressed their interest in titles that break from the tired military shooter genre with releases of the caliber of 2016’s DOOM and Titanfall 2.
High Hell is another exponent of this new wave of shooters, designed to give the player as much freedom as possible, and keeping us on our toes at each turn. Created by Terri Vellmann, mastermind behind Heavy Bullets, a deliciously chaotic FPS roguelike that was released on Steam in 2014, High Hell takes away all the distractions introduced by modern shooter design philosophy, focusing on the basic elements that every FPS must possess; guns that feel good, fast paced movement and well designed levels.
On the guns front, we’ll complete the entire game carrying exactly one weapon, a tool of death that sucks the life out of most enemies in one shot and doesn’t require complicated things such as a reload button. We can choose to aim with the right click for long range engagements, but once again, since we are getting back to the basics, there is no penalty for hipfire. Shooting this contraption feels great, and kills will reward us with health, so there’s an incentive to be accurate, considering than our foes are carrying similar weaponry and will deplete our life bar in just a few hits.
Movement is another important element in a good shooter, and I’m happy to report that High Hell’s protagonist can run without getting tired every few seconds, and that jumping and crashing doors feels just right. There is no fancy parkour here, but after spending a few hours running and jumping through the game’s levels at full speed, I couldn’t care less about that.
With guns and movement out of the way, it’s time to focus on level design, which is yet high point for this title. The first few maps are relatively linear, but once the game opens up, we’ll be traversing vertical environments and searching for secrets in hidden pathways that reminded me of the FPS gems of yesteryear. There are no keys to be found or anything like that (any closed door can be kicked open at the press of a button) but most levels clicked with me just seconds before first setting foot in them. Nothing can beat scripted encounters like good level design, and Terri Vollmann seems to be a master at this arcane art.
On the audiovisual front, High Hell feels like a perfect match for indie publisher Devolver Digital, as the game’s art style is aggressively colorful, screaming for attention at every turn (and serving a gameplay purpose, as every enemy is clearly identifiable). There are no cutscenes, though every load screen is interactive, and I often found myself wondering about the kind of crazy stuff I’d see the next time I faced one. Doseone’s soundtrack is as excellent as we’ve come to expect from his genius, with tunes that perfectly matched the action displayed on my monitor.
Of course, no game is perfect, and High Hell is guilty of one thing, which is that it’s far too short. Most players will be able to beat it in less than two hours, though there is a lot of incentive for replayability, with tons of hidden secrets/collectibles to be found, side objectives that scream for our attention, and Steam Leaderboards support making speedruns a very viable option.
Overall, High Hell is a fantastic little shooter that will leave players hungry for more. It’s not for everyone, as some gamers aren’t keen on replaying levels or hunting for secrets, but those who choose to pick up Terri Vellman’s latest creation will not be disappointed.
8.5/10 – Great.