Thursday, 28 Sep 2023

I’m Too White For Metal: Hellsinger

They say that white people dance to the lyrics while Black people dance to the beat – this poses a problem for me, a white girl, playing Metal: Hellsinger. You don’t unlock the vocals until you reach the x16 multiplier, which means most of the time I’m working off the beat. And let me get this straight, I’m not just ‘a white girl’. My most played artist is Taylor Swift, who has as much as the other top five (Miranda Lambert, Haim, Kacey Musgraves, and Phoebe Bridgers) combined. When you picture ‘white girl music taste (derogatory)’, you’re picturing me. And unfortunately I am simply too white for this game.

As the name implies, Metal: Hellsinger focuses on the metal genre. When you think of your typical metal fan, you probably picture a white person. Male, long hair, scraggly beard, tattoos everywhere, physically imposing but actually super sweet, that whole deal. All music is for everyone, but there are some genres with roots in Black culture, like rap, jazz, hip hop, and rhythm & blues. While Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley, and other early rockers ripped off Black sounds, heavy metal is not a genre we typically consider white peoples to be outsiders in. The vast majority of artists featured on Metal: Hellsinger are white. And still I am too white for it.

There are mods available for the game now, and I could replace the thrashing guitars with All Too Well, The Wire, or Kyoto, but would that help when I’m grooving to the lyrics, not Danielle Haim’s drumbeat? I might as well just listen to whatever song I want through my phone and blast away at random – that’s pretty much what I do know, only with the quiet screeches of an electric guitar whining in my ears.

I cannot overstate how bad I am at this game. The music, the core selling point of the game, actively puts me off. I have been turning it down low and going entirely off the flashes of light on the screen which act as a ‘shoot now!’ hint. Once I get into a groove, I can keep a steady rhythm for a while, but the fact you need to use different buttons to activate special attacks, switch weapons, and perform finishers throws me off my game. It all results in my thumbs doing an impression of that clip of Taylor Swift dancing at the VMAs in 2014 (the fact that I can call this clip to mind instantly is further proof that I am adrift in a sea of whiteness).

Metal: Hellsinger is a solid game still. I’m enjoying it enough, especially on the more forgiving Lamb difficulty. I don’t like heavy metals or shooters much, so it’s not exactly my cup of tea anyway. Make an adult contemporary sadgirl narrative adventure and I’m all in, but then Life is Strange is one of my all-timers so I suppose that already exists. I can see the appeal, and it feels more refined than BPM, it’s just not really in my wheelhouse. The aesthetics are gorgeously twisted and it feels satisfying to explode your enemies into pools of gore, while it clearly revels in metal’s penchant for theatrics and spectacle. It’s a pyrotechnic wonderland of blood and bullets and power chords.

The game has garnered a lot of praise from those who do like both metal and shooters (our own Ben Sledge gave 4.5 stars), and while I’ve bounced off games before both big and small and been able to point out where I feel the game is flawed. This time, it’s not you, it’s me. I’m fine with my spite and my tears and my beers and my candles.

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