Diving into WW2.
Developer: Black Matter Pty Ltd
Release date: 27 July, 2021
You spawn, rifle in hand. Immediately, bullets start passing over your head: you crouch just to see an allied machine gunner near your position falling for a gunshot, fired from god-knows-where. You try to understand your position, where the allies are and where the enemy front is located. You think you grasped it: you rise above your cover, trying to spot enemy soldiers. You see an enemy Panther pointing at you. You crouch. You respawn, rifle in hand.
Welcome to Hell Let Loose: a realistic take on WW2 in the form of a multiplayer FPS with mechanics similar to those of games like Squad. If you’re searching for a more arcade experience, you can look away now, because this title can have a pretty unforgiving gameplay.
Axis and Allies
Hell Let Loose features three main factions, divided in the usual Axis and Allies: the Axis is represented by Germany, while the Allies are instead represented by the USA and the USSR. This means that the fighting takes place on two fronts: the western front in France and the eastern front in Russia. This means that maps go all the way from Utaha Beach to Kursk, always re-created in a very realistic way, some more than others: the Sainte-Mere-Eglise map, according to the devs, is a 1:1 recreation of the original 1944 battlefield, which is surely impressive.
The first experience with a game like this is never easy and Hell Let Loose is no exception. Get prepared for a tough fight and forget Battlefield’s run and gun: you first hour(s) in Hell Let Loose will be mostly spent understanding from which direction the bullets are coming from, which isn’t always obvious. Then, you’ll have to understand the game mechanics, how resources work (yes, the game features actual supply chains where you have to move resources from your main bases to your FOBs), how respawns work and so on. There’s a lot to learn about and, with the growing experience gathered by playing the game, you will really feel like going from a conscript to becoming a veteran of the game (which hasn’t happened to me, yet).
Command and Insubordination
Hell Let Loose’s squad system divides the fighting factions into 6 players detachments, with limited class availability: this means that, inside a squad, the only fighting role that can be picked at will is the base rifleman. Every other class is capped at one or two maximum picks, forcing players to cover different roles. The diversity created by this makes for greater realism and, unlike other games like Battlefield, you do not see packs of 20 medics running around the map. Oh, and people tend to cover their roles instead of just shooting the enemy. Fantastic!
Squads are also divided into three categories: infantry, mechanized and recon. Infantry is the one I just described: a squad made to fight on foot, cover diverse roles like rifleman, machine gunner, medic and AT. The mechanized squads are instead those able to drive and repair tanks and are limited to three men (one driver, one gunner and one tank commander). Recon squads are composed instead by two men, one sniper and one spotter. Fortunately (and unfortunately), recon squads are capped at 2 per faction, so you don’t see factions entirely made by snipers. This also means that if you actually want to play as a recon squad, it’s basically impossible to do it, since they always get rushed before spawning at the start of the match.
This squad-based organization has a small hierarchy: squads are captained by squad leaders, which can talk via radio to other squad leaders and the faction leader. The faction leader is a key figure in a match, since he is able to direct the various detachments inside the faction and also to call-in recon planes, tanks, bombardments and supply drops. Obviously, this is not an easy role to play, which means that you can have incredibly fun and immersive matches when the faction leader and the squads are playing properly, but also incredibly frustrating and boring ones if squads are just doing whatever they want. Considering Hell Let Loose’s nature between a realistic shooter and an arcade one, unfortunately the latter is more protending, making for unbalanced matches where the more organized faction usually stomps the opposing one. While this is not a problem caused by the game, it can become frustrating very quickly and has sometimes made judge the goodness of the game against similar titles.
Thanks to Tanks
Hell Let Loose’s technical compartment definitely has its highs and lows: weapons models and textures are very detailed, along with vehicles like trucks or tanks. Another incredibly well-implemented aspect, graphically speaking, are explosions which, along with an impressive sounds design, can make the experience very immersive: finding yourself in or near an artillery barrage can be a truly terrifying experience!
This goodness is unfortunately sometimes overshadowed by an optimization that could definitely some improvements, which is capable of going down to 40fps with my RTX3070 at 1440p. Note that this happens in random situations and not necessarily when very complex situations are being shown on screen. Another immersion-breaking problem is the LOD, which often shows objects that are not too far away in a distinctive low-poly way. This happens especially with trees, which are often shown as weird paper-like objects, even if the Load Object Distance is set to Epic.
Another weird aspect of the game is the non-management of destructibility in the game maps: while the game couldn’t obviously have managed something on the scale of a Battlefield title, I would at least expect tanks to destroy little wood enclosures and not passing through them like ghosts.
Hell Let Loose is a strategical FPS that can quickly immerse you into WW2 thanks to its visuals, maps and sound effects. Unfortunately, it is not a perfect experience, but besides some technical difficulties, the game’s problems are more tied to its community than to the title itself.