Team 17’s WW2 multiplayer shooter is a triumpth in tactical gameplay and cooperation
DISCLAIMER : For this review, we were provided with a game code from the developers at Black Matter. This has no impact on the opinions expressed in this article. Thanks to Team 17 and Black Matter.
Hell Let Loose is a World War II first-person shooter multiplayer game whose emphasis on teamwork and strategy produces an ultimately fulfilling and addicting experience that will have you thinking “oh damn, maybe experiencing the harrowing atrocities of war ain’t so bad after all!” Developed by Black Matter Pty Ltd and published by Team 17, the game attempts to differentiate itself from other WW2 FPSs (like Battlefield or Call of Duty) by providing an authentic depiction of World War II. 2016’s Day of Infamy is similar in this regard, though Hell Let Loose takes this to the next level.
Each map handles a total of 100 players, who are split into teams of 50. Teams can be American, German — and on the PC— Soviet. Those teams themselves are split further into 6 different squads. There are a decent amount of roles to choose from (i.e. squad leader, support, engineer, assault, medic, etc.), though a balanced team is essential. Any team bereft of medics and engineers will quickly get ventilated by bullets or find themselves trapped in a barbed wire labyrinth made of rusty metal and their own hubris. Game Modes include “warfare”, where the two competing sides battle for territory and whichever side has seized all the sectors (or has most sectors before time runs out) wins; and “offensive”, where one side has to defend their territory against the other team’s onslaught before time runs out. Both modes feature a strategic metagame, in which the commander of each team can deploy artillery, airstrikes, supply trucks, etc by using resources produced by engineers. The commander is also responsible for the strategic placement of garrisons, where teammates can respawn after getting killed.
While the game has a lot of moving parts, there’s a lot of buoyancy to the hyperrealism. So don’t play the game expecting to deal with lice from freshly dug holes in the ground, rationing your cold food, spending quiet moments at a secure zone writing a letter to a loved one, or allocating time for contemplating how good life is gonna be for white men after the war is over. Because it’s still a video game, you’ll also be back in fighting shape in no time if you die, which may take away from the realism, but evidently makes for a less frustrating experience. Regardless, you will be at the mercy of logistical nightmares like the elevation of the terrain, your proximity to garrisons and squadmates, and the perennial wartime terror of having to try and ask for help from soldiers who don’t have their mic turned on.
The most immediate threat the realism offers though, is the one presented by guns. The main conventional weaponry here will kill any player dead from 200 meters to 50 meters, depending on the gun. A headshot will absolutely kill you, helmets be damned. The attention to detail also necessitates a degree of asymmetry to the warfare: the German K98k is a bolt-action rifle will likely lose against its semi-automatic American M1 Garand counterpart in a firefight. There’s also the suppression effect that makes you flinch when under attack to emulate the sensation of being shot at. It’s obvious in an FPS that every encounter can mean death, but you’ve really got to carefully consider your options and positioning in this title.
But again, the commitment to accuracy isn’t at the expense of the gameplay. The period-accurate quirks serve to elevate what’s already there, and the small concessions to authenticity are deliberate. Despite their differences, the weapons are balanced by how you and your team use them and you’ll be asking questions like “why was I trying to use my bolt action rifle like a shotgun when this thing is like some kind of precision orbital laser?”. The suppression effect can also be mitigated by the suppression suppression effect that occurs when you keep in close proximity to reassuring classes like medics.
The efforts at authenticity are both immersive and informative. Because of this game, I found out that the ‘Go Compare’ jingle was based on George M Cohan’s 1917 song ‘Over There.’ The menu’s songs, which are contemporareous with the Second World War, go a long way to instilling morale and national identity with the player. But nothing really draws you in like the interactions with other people, especially if you happen to stumble upon a bunch of nerds such as myself going hard with the roleplay.
The controls are tight and responsive. The game runs fairly smoothly, the devs have put a lot of work a lot into optimization, though you will likely have to make some concessions if you want the game looking immaculate while maintaining 100+ fps. I recommend setting the shadows to low while making textures and distance high. It’s a bit less consistent on consoles, but console servers have crossplay with each other, so if you were on a PS5 you can break bread with your Xbox homies while you put an end to Nazi ideology/ create your own twisted Aryan hellscape (no judging here!)
One of the more hellish things about HLL is the steep learning curve. There isn’t a tutorial, the only attempt at easing you in is a suggestion to start with the rifleman class and the commander class being locked behind a level class. This might have been another attempt to nudge you into relying on your teammates, but even the developers have expressed their disappointment in the lack of a robust tutorial. If you struggle to find other players to fill you in,there’s a wealth of informational resources online though.
A Little Slice of Heaven Let Loose
Black Matter’s commitment to an authentic world war II experience is almost to its detriment. It’s unreasonable to ask, but I would love an expansion or sequel that went over combat from the First World War. If only so they had a game mode where you could play football with the opposing side on Christmas Day in a nice little nod to the real-life unofficial ceasefire that occurred in 1914. I would also have liked to see the developer take a shot at producing a single-player campaign, but I cannot fault them for having a goal (making a satisfying multiplayer experience) and succeeding at it. I like Super Mario but I can’t expect his games to become Devil May Cry-esque stylish combo engines either. With Hell Let Loose being bought by Team 17, and the promise of British forces later this year, it seems likely there’s going to be a bright future for the bleak but bussin’ portrait of warfare that HLL has painted for us.
The game has a healthy and wholesome player base, a highly active Discord server and subreddit, and a receptive developer in Black Matter. If you enjoy FPSs, history, or strategy, I would highly recommend giving this game a shot. Hell Let Loose is available on PC and every current generation console except for the Nintendo Switch™.
A flamboyant ultra nerd, Dave participates in the Underlevelled Tournament both for the thrill of the fight, and to avenge the orphans lost in the climax of the previous tournament.
Hobbies: street dance, collecting manga volumes, reading, editing
Likes: short-to-medium walks on the beach, pointing out how things can and will be misconstrued as racism, fighting games, RPGs, anime, Hades, alternative hip hop, conscious hip hop, Mara Wilson, overly long bios, ice-cream
Dislikes: insincere media, his own uncanny resemblance to Richard Ayoade, mayonnaise