HellSign Early Access Preview – I’m scared of horror

This title is exclusive to PC and was previewed as such.

I think I’ve mentioned in the past that, when it comes to the horror genre, I am something of a wimp. My hands shake, my heart pounds and I startle easily. Despite this aversion to the spooky, I found myself thoroughly enjoying HellSign; possibly because I was hunting, rather than the one being hunted! HellSign, developed by Ballistic Interactive, is a supernatural detective game in which you must solve the mysteries you come across (often a grisly murder) and then hunt and kill the perpetrator – usually one of a number of different paranormal beings. For fans of Supernatural or Ghost Busters, this game puts you in the position of hunter – you have to find clues, research your opponents and make connections among the local community in order to best take down whatever monster awaits you, and in order to work out your own forgotten past.

Gameplay

Gameplay in HellSign is based on two key things: intel and survival. When faced with a new mystery, you must explore through the level to figure out what happened there; you have several tools (such as an EMF meter and a blacklight, among others) to help you comb over your surroundings and find the clues you need to figure out what it is you (and other hunters who hire you) are up against. Research is also an important part of the game and knowing the kind of monster you are up against as well as what kind of tools and weapons you are going to need will be the difference between life and death.

This game is still in Early Access and so not all of the research in your journal is actually readable at the moment, but if the devs follow through it promises to be a brilliant collection of paranormal lore. Sometimes the job is much simpler – you’re sent in as an exterminator to clear out the monsters, rather than as a detective figuring out what kind of monster it is. Regardless of whether you are the one working things out or the one taking things out, it’s a good idea to be as prepared as you can to maximize your chances of success.

A prepared hunter is a smart hunter, and there is a lot of fascinating monster lore to read up on

Music and Sound

The sound effects used in HellSign are what you would expect from a horror game; there are long silences littered with scuttling or the odd screech, depending on the setting and what you are up against. Overall sound effects are done really well and help to solidify the creepy feeling of the game; though the majority of sound effects used are commonplace for the horror genre the soundscape fits the job and does it very well, sparking a jolt of terror or a growing sense of dread with just the right choice in sound.

However, stepping away from the horror-based sounds, there was another aspect of sound in HellSign that stood out for me, and that was the music used in the local bar. The classic rock music was done very well and immediately helped to solidify the setting and the kinds of characters we would find there. I found myself tapping my foot as I talked to NPCs, and the blurred muttering of the crowd took me back to nights spent at my own local pub. All in all, sound in this game is done effectively and I’m looking forward to seeing (hearing) more upon the full release.

The music in the local bar sets the tone really well

Graphics and Visuals

This is a dark game with a strong emphasis on dramatic lighting and shadows. Inevitably, you end up exploring the different levels at night time (this is a horror/action game after all!) and so the majority of your screen will remain dark until a light source – such as your torch or black light – is introduced. The shadows thrown when your torch lights upon an object only add to the unnerving feeling as you explore through derelict buildings.

The levels themselves are well designed and have lots of little details throughout that help to pull the mystery together, and when you come across an item that might be a clue a swarm of thoughts raises above your head, not unlike the depiction of Sherlock Holmes’ deductive process in BBC’s Sherlock. The dark lighting combined with the detailed setting helps to create a loaded atmosphere, the game seeming to have one foot set in reality, and the other firmly in the supernatural. It’s a combination that works for HellSign and helps to create a unique vibe to this paranormal mystery game.

This is a dark game and light sources are important tools

Verdict

This is a game that has a heap of potential – what the devs have created so far and what they will hopefully follow through with is a game with a unique atmosphere and fantastic world building. The best possible thing for this game will be variety – both in the kinds of missions available and the monsters that you face. Visually this game is great, and though the soundscape used isn’t anything new it still delivers in spades. At the moment, HellSign is in Early Access; though it is currently playable and enjoyable, I’m certain that with a bit more polishing of the controls (particularly the aiming system, which can quite literally be a bit hit and miss) and working out those last few bugs, this game could become something really killer.

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