Over the past weekend we were given the opportunity to play the latest build in the closed beta test for Hell Let Loose, an upcoming WWII squad based shooter on a grand scale. If you’ve ever played games like Squad, you know already what to expect in terms of gameplay: Infantry, Tanks, and Artillery. With a launch slated for June 6th, 2019, with only two months remaining, how does the current state of the game hold up? In simple terms, it’s not bad, but it’s not great either. There’s still two full months to release, there’s plenty of room for polish!
In Hell Let Loose you’re tasked with capturing points on a large map in an epic 50 on 50 (100 player server) battle, encompassing many aspects of ground combat from Infantry to Tanks, and some Artillery thrown into the mix. The idea is great, I’ve wanted a game such as this for a long time now. By that I mean a large scale WWII shooter, much like WWIIOL, but with a modern engine allowing for far greater graphics potential. Once I heard about Hell Let Loose, I got pulled in instantly. Granted there are other games out there that have managed to sneak their way into the spotlight such as Post Scriptum, I think Hell Let Loose has a distinct edge over them from a pure quality standpoint. Not bashing on Post Scriptum, but it feels more like a mod for Squad than a whole new game. That being said, let’s jump into my experience from the weekend beta test!
Going into this I knew it was still rather early in development. With the launch date of June 6th, however, I had hoped it was more polished than it was. I hope this isn’t a case of attempting to rush a product out to fight with another game to be top dog. I say that because I have very high hopes for this game, yet performance issues plagued the beta test, mostly character lag where players would zip around or just rubberband, but also from simple lag from the servers struggling at times. These seem to be easy fixes, but if Squad has shown us anything is sometimes these types of issues aren’t so easily resolved. Hitreg seemed to be okay, but not always on point. I’ve shot someone at times and it seemed to not register at all, but it was rare. For the most part it seemed to be pretty on point. It’s more just the pure lag of the characters that bothered me, especially in close quarters.
I reached out to Black Matter, the developers, and got a response back from CEO Maximilian Rea regarding some of the issues that plagued the test. In regards to the player lag, this is what he had to say:
“The player lag was one of the big three issues that we noticed during the playtest. We were profiling different server hardware during the weekend, and the unfortunate result of that was the desync/lag incurred for clients when viewing other players. This was the first time we witnessed this, and fortunately we’ve been able to fix it via changing the configuration of the server side. We felt that it was the largest impact on whether the gunplay was satisfying or not and was a crucial must-fix. We’re obviously also thankful that this occurred during testing and not once we had gone live.”
It appears that this was an isolated issue with a different server configuration. If that is indeed the case this is great news! The entire desync/lag combo with the T-Pose and players skidding across the field was really annoying. Having these issues fixed is a priority, and I’m glad the developers agree!
Gunplay was fun, albeit a little lackluster. If there was one major issue I had with the game, it’s the feeling that the weapons lack power, and seemingly have no ballistic coefficients at all. The lack of power is all audio, hands down, players died when I hit them, but the weapons just sound bland and without power. It wasn’t just the weapons, tanks and artillery all sounded bland, low, and just generic. Hopefully this is an easy fix, maybe these sounds were a work in progress, let’s hope for the best in the audio department, sound can make or break a game! You don’t hear the term Ballistic Coefficients every day, while some will know what I’m talking about many won’t. In simple terms, ballistic projectiles (Bullets) have to overcome air resistance to reach their target. This means as they push through the air, they are constantly subjected to air resistance which slows the projectile down and leads it to drop. Thus no straight, laser accurate bullets like many of our older generation shooters had. Modern games, however, have had bullet drop for at least 10 years, I’d venture a little more than that actually. What saddens me is Hell Let Loose seems to have no Ballistic Coefficients at all, meaning everything is laser point accurate no matter the distance. I get it, I’m nagging on the subject a little. When I’m playing games such as these, I don’t want pinpoint instant shots, I want somewhat realistic ballistics. If it’s just pinpoint laser-beam instant impact projectiles, where does skill play a role?
I asked Maximilian about the sounds, and whether they were simply placeholders and indeed they are. In response to my question regarding the lack of power the sounds had, he replied with:
“We totally agree regarding sounds – they are a work in progress and artistically the place where we need most improvement. We’ve begun working with a brilliant sound artist and a large number of the changes will occur between now and Early Access – and beyond. That is going to be the largest artistic push forward. Behind that is animation and UI/HUD. ”
One thing I did not like was the fact that the recon squad was just a 2 player squad. While I understand the reason behind it, most arguably dislike “snipers” in their squad as they feel they bring nothing to team. It’s just strange that they would make the first person to make the squad a spotter, with no other weapon but an SMG. Meaning if you make the squad, you won’t get the sniper role, this leads people to “snatch” the spot up as soon as someone makes a recon squad. Which results in the other person leaving and you’re in a recon squad by yourself as a sniper. It’s not ideal in the least. I’d like to see them adjust the recon squad to a degree that both members can participate and utilize the role of recon. I’d like to see them either do away with the recon squad, or allow both slots to utilize a scoped rifle.
I asked about the Recon squad, as through my time playing I continually saw one player in each Recon squad. This isn’t an intended feature, and I thought it odd. I tried the spotter role and wasn’t impressed. So I was curious how they planned to make it more appealing to keep the squad full, instead of having one person join and leave as soon as they don’t get the Sniper position.
“The Recon role is an interesting one. The optimal function of it is as a stealthy, observation based role that can deliver intel on enemy vehicle and spawn positions, with a scoped rifle being of secondary importance to harass higher value targets. We are keen not to give every unit a scoped weapon, as it’s important that we keep the total quantity of scoped weapons down to reflect the relative spread of them during the war. We also want to give players a sense of satisfaction when they overrun or take down a designated Sniper on the enemy team – as there is a finite number of them to deal with.
Initially, the two man unit was designed specifically to encourage paired play – to make it hard to spam the sniper role without at least a functional Spotter role (who is equipped with CQB weapons and loadout designed to protect the sniper at close range). Due to the way we’ve structured the role assignment, it’s quite easy for us refactor things to tweak the layout.
At present, we will be working to make the Spotter role more interesting – with added functionality coming later down the line. Currently the Recon unit is the only unit that can place an OP (spawn point) in locked enemy territory. We’ll most likely add to the Spotter’s abilities – most specifically to be able to call in a specific mortar barrage, or a target lock that the artillery can automatically range to. Our ethos is less to drastically shift things around and more to buff the less appealing role with added functionality. Like all the roles, we track their usage and relevant stats with telemetry and are always thinking of ways of making one role more or less popular.”
While I agree to a point, truly only the Russians and Germans had “Snipers” during the war. The US had what was called a designated Marksman, which was just another soldier in a platoon that was particularly good with a rifle. I still don’t like the idea behind a two man squad, but if they do what they’re saying in the quote above, it could really turn the role around and make it rather pleasing. I had no idea the Recon unit could place a spawn point in enemy territory, that’s a literal game changer. The spotter needs a buff, and I’m extremely happy to see the developers trying to improve the role.
Design wise we only got to play on two maps: Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and Hürtgen Forest. My favorite map was hands down Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. While the Hürtgen Forest map was designed beautifully, it was a bit hectic, and a bit too open. While parts of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont were open, there was a small town to fight in at the end point for the Germans, which would be the Southernmost point on the map. While the town wasn’t big by any stretch, the inclusion of the buildings changed the combat dynamic drastically. I have some gameplay footage below showing my usage of two buildings from the town to snipe the Germans as they were pushed from the north right into my crosshairs. I really look forward to more maps with towns involved, such as Carentan or the likes. There’s just so much more dynamic involved when you have to worry about ambushes in alleyways and snipers in windows as opposed to wide open sprawling fields. Besides map design, weapons look superb. My only complaint in this area is the player uniforms. I don’t think they’re unique enough to distinguish at distance friend from foe. Something I’m sure they’re working on to improve.
Overall the game is fantastic within reason. It’s not perfect, but what is? I’m pleasantly surprised by the playability offered by the beta. I truly went in expecting the worse, as many beta’s have been far worse than this. I was very happy to talk with Maximilian regarding the issues during the test. I can really see that the developers truly care for this game and want great things for it. This weekend wasn’t enough to scratch my itch, it only made it worse! Hell Let Loose is shaping up to be an outstanding addition to the Squad-based shooter genre. Slated for a release on steam June 6th, look forward to more coverage of Hell Let Loose in the future!
Below is a some gameplay footage of my sniper play over the weekend along with the early access trailer, Enjoy!
Our key was provided by Black Matter for review purposes.