Something that becomes abundantly clear in the opening 30 minutes of Hell Let Loose’s pre-release trial is that war is hell. If there is a second thing to be concluded it is that writing netcode for something this ambitious must also be hell.
Set during World War II, across 9 maps that include Utah beach landings, Omaha beach storming and defenses of Sainte-Mere-Eglise. It is a first-person shooter with giant 50 versus 50 battles, in which a single bullet can end your life.
Kill counts are largely irrelevant and it is all about controlling zones and specific points on the map.
To do this, and to make the carnage more manageable, players split up into one of four squad types: Recon, Armoured, Command and Infantry. Apart from Command, each squad gets a unit leader and subordinates that need to fit into roles (sniper, spotter, riflemen, engineer etc). The command squad consists of one person who will take on the role of people management. Their role is unique in that they will be in charge of calling down airstrikes, providing supplies and attempting to convince unit leaders to move to designated points. Even though they have a physical presence in the battlefield, a large part of what they do is look at the 2D map and make strategic calls.
When in the game as a grunt or unit leader, mobilisation to battle points is supported by fantastic sound design. My first foray involved marching to the frontline, with only my character’s panting and footsteps accompanying me. As I got closer, explosions and gunfire started to sound off in the distance – they were muffled but ominous. By the time I was on the verge of a fire fight, stray bullets were whistling past my head or impacting walls and trees around me. Once in the middle of it, it is a terrifying experience of complete disorientation.
This disorientation is further accelerated by the ‘suppression effect’. This occurs when under fire, and the screen will blur and reduce the field of view, when a heavy machinegun opens up on a position you have ducked into, it feels like you are being blinded and deafened.
There is no point to grand standing in this game and communication is essential for a chance at victory. Squads need to be talking to their unit leader, and unit leaders need to be informing their commander. Good use of supplies and makeshift spawn points (built by unit leaders) is important for creating supply trains. Learning when to draw fire and when to flank can only done by passing information along.
Unfortunately, although Hell Let Loose has gone full release, this game is not ready. Using in-game chat is frequently buggy, with it being unclear who can hear who. Getting into the game proved to be very challenging pre-release, and a nightmare during the launch date, with frequent drops, long loading times, and regular crashes and hangs.
Hell Let Loose is a deeply ambitious title, and its gameplay stands out as a genre almost unto its own. I truly hope that it finds success so that developers can work on fixes and iterate on what I consider to be a winning formula.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.