It’s been a while since we’ve seen a World War II-based shooter! Call of Duty hasn’t taken place in this setting for a whole four years now, for instance, and since then it’s mostly moved over to a near-future sort of situation with Warzone as well as last year’s Cold War. WWII is a classic, though, and it’s no surprise to see developers heading back to that conflict for more inspiration. In fact, a game like Hell Let Loose results in a more unique take on WWII by encouraging teamwork and cooperation over sending off lone soldiers to Rambo their way to victory.
Hell Let Loose goes for a slower, more tactical experience than your typical low-time-to-kill shooter. I’m not going to claim to be an expert at this sort of game, particularly given my usual preference for a faster pace, but it’s not hard to appreciate the artistry here. A group of players working together over voice chat to execute maneuvers is a thing of beauty, especially considering how many of their foes are doing the same thing all on the same battlefield.
You’ve got two primary modes here: Offensive and Warfare, with around 100 players in each match. Offensive’s got teams on offense and defense, while Warfare’s more of a simultaneous offense sort of affair. Both teams battle to capture zones, acquire points and complete objectives in order to claim victory for their team. Each battle takes place on an absolutely massive map with fields, buildings, ravines and more; the scale of it all is staggering at times.
You’ve got an absurd fourteen roles to choose from, split between officers (including an actual Officer class) and the rank and file, and they’ve each got their own specialties. A given side will have their soldiers split up into units and squads, with a built-in chain of command where players follow their Squad Leaders and Squad Leaders follow the orders of the team’s Commander. Communication is vital.
It’s worth noting that unlike many games with this sort of conceit, Officers and Commanders are controlled by players and thus have a physical presence on the battlefield. This means they can absolutely be killed should they lead from the front or catch the wrong end of a Sniper or armor unit’s attention – and cutting off the enemy army’s leadership makes for the center of many strategies as one would expect in warfare.
As for what you’ll be doing, that’s obviously going to depend on your role and, in turn, your unit. In an infantry unit, Officers will need to place new spawn points for their army and coordinate their units of Riflemen, Medics, Machine Gunners and so on to ensure peak performance – meanwhile, the rank-and-file soldiers in an infantry unit need to do their best to lay waste to their foes. Combat is harsh and lethal in Hell Let Loose; weapons are satisfyingly powerful and an engagement is typically won based on tactics and the element of surprise versus quick reflexes.
Armor consists of a Tank Commander spotting and a pair of Crewmen, a gunner and driver, working together to, er, tank the enemy for all they’ve done. Tanks are naturally a centerpiece of the battlefield, but this is both a blessing and a curse, as while you’re able to draw fire away from your squishier allies you’ve also got all that fire coming at you instead. These aren’t Halo tanks, of course, so cooperation is a must, as otherwise everyone’s going to be firing and driving blind. It’s tough, but landing a solid hit with the tank’s main gun is worthwhile.
Recon teams have a Spotter and Sniper working together in classic All Ghillied Up fashion. The Spotter needs to help the Sniper maintain positional awareness, pointing out baddies and potential threats that the Sniper can neutralize with their powerful rifle. Naturally, actual recon is a part of this role as well, as the Recon team is key to helping the Commander make sense of what’s happening on the battlefield.
If all of this sounds complicated and overwhelming…it is! Very much so, in fact. If you’re after one of those hop-in-and-get-going games you’ll find yourself overwhelmed pretty quickly; you’ll want to stay with your squad and work with them, but beyond that it can help to look around for a Discord server with veterans willing to take a new player under their wing.
I’d also say that voice capability goes from a nice-to-have to a must in a game like this, so get that headset hooked up before diving in if you want to have the ideal experience – otherwise you’re probably best picking a rank-and-file infantry role on a squad that doesn’t expect VOIP and following your officer’s orders to the best of your ability. Oh, and assuming you aren’t playing with friends, you’ll want to hope your teammates have mics as well. Good luck with that!
Hell Let Loose looks absolutely fantastic, making it one of the more visually impressive games at the Indie Games Show at E3 2020. It does require a pretty beefy PC to fully let loose this hell, of course. Soundwise, well, it’s WWII. Explosions, the harsh snap of firearms and the like are the order of the day and it’s all well-represented here.
Hell Let Loose isn’t quite as complex as something like ARMA 3, but that’s the kind of clientele this game’s aiming for. FPS fans who just want to get in and get blasting will appreciate the gunplay here, but there’s so much more going on that the gunplay can feel like a secondary concern at times, with flanking, squad maneuvers and area control taking the wheel instead. On the other hand, if you’ve got friends, a hankering for a shooter that’s a little bit more cerebral than the norm, and, for goodness sakes, a microphone…this one’s worth checking out.