Saibot Studios has succeeded in capturing the feel and gameplay of the first-person shooters created in the 90s. The nostalgia is strong with this one. I almost immediately felt like I was playing a similar game from that time but with the updated graphics and performance of a more modern title. Unfortunately, Hellbound lacks certain elements that set similar games like Doom, Quake, and the Serious Sam series apart. This is our Hellbound review.
In Hellbound, you play a cloned hero who has anger issues and swears a lot. The story is straight forward where your character is going back to his homeworld to defeat the demonic invaders and close a portal at the center of it all. To be expected, you start with a base weapon, as you progress through the campaign better weapons “unlock”: club, triple shotgun, Gatling gun, and rocket launcher. Each one has a secondary ability controlled by the right mouse button. Otherwise, it is point and fire at the enemy with the left mouse button while running to get out of the way. Oh yeah, and a lot of jumping! You know, pretty standard fare from the 90s.
Graphics are updated but not anything I would rave over, lots of gore included though. The team does a great job of capturing the classic feel. My opinion on the sound effects are about the same, they match up well enough with the weapons/actions/events but fall a bit flat otherwise. The team also did well keeping the UI simple and true to the original feel from the 90s, but still managed to update its appearance with some new graphic effects. The music meanwhile is pulse-pounding but very limited and becomes repetitive quickly. I turned it off after the first hour and put on my music in the background.
The gunplay itself is decent, lots of fast-paced action, and when combined with the music gives the player the urge to keep the momentum going. I would have loved to see a kill count, combo count, or point bonus to encourage keeping this momentum going even more. Once I completed the campaign on normal difficulty, I enjoyed tinkering with the survival mode as well. The gameplay was addictive and fun enough that after a day I went back to do another run through the campaign, I am just not ready to attempt the next difficultly level yet.
Now those classic games from the 90s always had something that set them apart, for Quake it was level design and rocket jump while Serious Sam had humor and the sheer number of enemies in certain encounters to the point of being ridiculous. Hellbound doesn’t have this, which is where it starts to fall short of being a great experience, it does recreate most of the classic experience but lacks that one thing to leave a mark on the player. Like, using a BFG for the first time or listening to Sam’s off the wall comments while holding down the fire button in front of the oncoming hordes.
In Hellbound, there is an attempt at a small amount of humor, but it ends up being not funny at all and feels forced. The story campaign is short, I finish my first run in under 3 hours, and the survival mode currently only has four maps. The level design is OK but certain areas can be unnecessarily confusing and most of the levels are also are not very large or engaging. The weapons feel unbalanced, the devs almost have them spot on but they are still not quite there. I also noticed that when shooting ground targets to take out different groups of enemies, the area of effect is large, larger than I would have expected. (Yes, I am being nitpicky on this last one but it stuck out for me as something that was off.)
I am happy to say that during my playtime I only encountered minor bugs. Whenever I came across a gate or barred opening with enemies on the other side, it never failed that at least one of the enemies would phase through the bars. On one occasion, my audio settings would not apply and save. Another bug, I found annoying to no end, was the animation of a leaping enemy that would almost freeze midair as they slid/jumped towards you. Now, to be honest I am not sure if this was a bug or by design since I do remember the same animation in Serious Sam from the large skeletal enemies that raised their hands/claws as they jumped.
Hellbound feels like it would be great for doing speedruns with more maps and the already included leaderboards are a nice touch. If you are wearing your rose-colored glasses, looking to evoke the feel of a classic 90s first-person shooter, then I expect that some may rate this game quite highly with an 8 or even a 9 out of 10. But the more I played, I could not get that missing one thing out of my head and the smaller stuff added up. There is nothing here that makes me say, “Ahha, this is Hellbound!” With some extra content to increase the replay value and at least one or two unique touches, this could turn into a great game. If you are looking for some nostalgia, even if it is not a perfect 90s experience, the price on Steam is just about right at $14.99 US with an additional 20% off at the time of writing this review.
A game key was provided for the purpose of review.
Compare to: Doom, Quake, Serious Sam