Hell Let Loose Review
As I stood in a landing craft headed for Normandy beach while waiting for a match to start in Hell Let Loose, I was pretty sure what to expect when the craft’s doors opened. In my time, I’ve played more than my fair share of online multiplayer shooters set in warzones with beaches, from Day of Defeat to Arma 3, so when the time came to hit the beaches, I was positive that I’d be dead within 30 seconds. German MG42 nests were sure to gun down my team’s first assault wave, but then we’d all respawn and over the course of an hour or so, would slowly struggle from the beach into a nearby town to secure victory.
But when the server finished loading and as my M1 Garand-shooting finger sat at the ready, that didn’t happen. The doors of the landing craft dropped as expected, but there wasn’t any gunfire waiting for me or my squad. A few shots from German rifles landed near the gigantic and beautifully rendered crater that I’d instinctively dove into, and the odd grenade exploded somewhere between our lines and German’s, but that was it, because in most matches of Hell Let Loose, rarely does hell actually get let loose.
If the previous two paragraphs didn’t make it clear, Hell Let Loose is the latest in a long line of quasi-realistic online multiplayer first person shooters. After being in Early Access for a couple of years, the game that was poised to be the successor to Battlefield 5, Red Orchestra 2, Arma 3 and Squad has launched, and the result is something that’s going to need a new, better successor sooner rather than later.
To be clear, Hell Let Loose has the fundamentals of its genre down pat. First and foremost, it’s an absolutely beautiful game, technically speaking. Detailed models combine with colourful maps and dramatic-looking explosions to make the game look like a movie. The audio design, too, is best-in-class, with weapons and vehicles alike all having the perfect amount of audio-visual punch to make each one instil just the right amount of fear whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of their barrels.
The game’s weapons, too, feel amazing to use. There’s a wide variety of period-appropriate pieces to equip yourself with across the game’s Soviet, American and German factions, and each one’s animations are borderline orgasmic to watch and look at. While shooting them, they all have an appropriate amount of recoil and damage to ensure that deaths while engaging in house-to-house fighting always feels fair, fun and realistic.
Hell Let Loose also nails the communication aspect of its inspirees. Like in Squad, if you want to survive the game’s virtual depiction of World War 2, you should communicate with your team. There’s local, squad and team chat to help you do so, and in most servers, people are willing to give orders as long as you’re willing to receive them. The community is almost always open to relaxing, too, so playing Hell Let Loose after a few drinks on a Friday night is a great way to make some temporary comrades or pick up a few swear words in a European language.
The problem is that, although Hell Let Loose has everything it takes to be one of the all-time great first-person shooters, it suffers from three major problems that absolutely ruin the game. The first one is the simplest: the game’s maps are horrendous. Despite being fun to look at, every map is twice or three times the size it should be. It often takes 5-10 minutes from spawning in to reach an objective zone, and that journey will almost always take place on foot because of the lack of effective transport vehicles in the game. When you do see an enemy, too, it will often be at a distance where you simply need to shoot and hope for the best because you have no optics or binoculars to actually see where your shots are landing. For a game that claims to be about all-out warfare, Hell Let Loose is more a game about running to where the warfare should happen then dying before you actually get to see anyone.
This is made worse by the game’s second fatal flaw: the lack of a traditional respawn ticket-style system. When you die in Hell Let Loose, there’s no penalty besides having to wait 30-odd seconds to respawn. You also can’t win the game by killing all of your enemies, and instead, matches in the game will almost always last the roughly hour and a half that they’re scheduled to, even if one team is getting spawn-camped. As mentioned before, this means that most of your time in Hell Let Loose will be spent running to objectives, getting killed by someone in a bush, then spending ten minutes on your phone while waiting to repeat the process even after your team has mentally and physically given up.
That is, you will if you don’t get kicked by server admins. Hell Let Loose’s third major flaw is that, although individual players in the community tend to be easy going, the people who run the game’s servers are almost exclusively chuckeheads. If you’re an American like I am, you can expect to get repeatedly kicked from what few decent-ping servers there are for not speaking French/German/Russian. Even if you opt to remain quiet and use Google Translate, though, many servers’ admins will kill you for not speaking lengthy sentences in their native language. There aren’t many servers run by the game’s developers, either, so anyone who buys Hell Let Loose can expect to deal with administrators that are more cancerous than a menthol cigarette on a regular basis.
When these three flaws are combined, then, it makes it hard to see the good in Hell Let Loose. Although the weapons in the game all feel amazing, there’s a plethora of content to enjoy and the game looks phenomenal, enjoying any of those things while dealing with an overwhelmingly toxic set of community administrators and maps that are overly large is a chore. Anyone who’s played Arma or Squad before will likely be able to stomach these issues, but for anyone else, '83 should be launching into beta sooner rather than later and it will almost certainly be infinitely better.
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