SEATTLE – Remember when first-person shooters were about running and gunning rather than hiding behind cover and whittling down enemy health bars? Developers Terri Vellman and Doesone do, and they want you to remember, too.
High Hell, the studio’s new stripped-down FPS, promises and delivers exactly one thing: a high-octane shooter where “one shot, one kill” applies to both you and your enemies, and failure is just an encouragement to try again.
I played through a few levels of High Hell at PAX West 2017. A developer described it to me as “the Hotline Miami of first-person shooters,” and I could immediately tell why. Like Hotline Miami, High Hell is all about short, trippy levels where both you and your enemies die in one hit. Kill everything that moves, burn any money you come across, then jump off a building and parachute to safety once you’re done. If a level takes more than five minutes, you’re doing it wrong.
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The premise of the game is equally absurd and unserious. You play as a nameless employee who rebels against an evil corporation – one that turns out to be run by none other than Satan himself. During my time with the game, I spray-painted a picture of the old boss, did battle with his mind-controlled chimpanzees (a throwback to the evil monkeys of Goldeneye on the N64) and took down his evil scientist boss minions. In the full game, each level will hold a secret, which will unlock the true ending once found.
There’s not too much else to say about High Hell, except that it came out of nowhere and commanded my attention for every second I played it. The game’s publisher, Devolver Digital, took a similar chance on Hotline Miami a few years ago, and the gamble paid off in spades. High Hell may be a familiar formula, but at least it’s one from an entirely new perspective.