Hell is Others is a unique extraction overhead shooter where you explore a city looking for loot. Developed by Strelka Games, Yonder and published by A List Games, is Hell is Others worthy of your time or the definition of insanity?
Hell is Others takes place in noir-inspired Century City, a limbo-like place that may not even exist. In it, you play as Adam Smithson, who lives in an apartment in the city.
One day he is given a bonsai tree to care for. The plant requires blood to survive. Adam decides to explore the city to take the hearts of the monsters that inhabit the streets below. From these hearts, blood to nourish his precious tree is acquired.
In the game, you complete quests to progress the story and become stronger. You can customise your character by modifying the furniture in your apartment. You can also grow modifiable ammunition by growing plants in plant pots and feeding them blood and monster bits.
If you playing online other players have the same quests and goals. Similar to other games like Escape from Tarkov or Call of Duty.
I found the story engaging enough to make me want to keep playing. Even if the quests usually involve finding items and giving them to different NPCs. You can multitask so you feel like you are thinking cleverly about your progress.
Hell is Others is designed as a multiplayer game, but after being unable to find a match, I decided to play the game offline. The online and offline modes are separate saves, so you cannot switch them. Once you have chosen, there is no real reason to try the other. Unless you like repeating the same quests and story.
This review is about the single-player mode, which was released last month. A good move by the developer and something most people would like more of these games to have.
If you are familiar with other extraction-style games, you will be familiar with the gameplay loop. You enter the city and go around looting and killing before “extracting” in an elevator. If you die, you lose everything you are carrying.
You will spend most of your time running around and looking in containers for items, with the occasional gunfight. You will want to avoid combat, but the game makes you participate. This is because monsters drop hearts, and kills give you player experience and the only way to level up. While your level isn’t that important to progression, it and the story is linked to it on certain occasions.
Each run is in the same city, where you have twelve minutes to leave before the darkness kills you. Around the six-minute mark, an elevator will appear somewhere on the map. You then have the rest of the time to reach it, call it and leave. I usually make my way in that direction when it appears. You will be surprised how long it can take to cross the city.
On each run, the loot and enemy placement is randomly placed. While items are usually located in similar areas, they won’t be in the same place each time. For example, if you need food items, you can search a fridge, it will probably have some, but it might not contain any or have something completely different.
The camera is over the head in the city and 2D in the apartment. The city gameplay plays in some ways like Hotline Miami, if slower. You have a line of sight, and different guns have aim distances. You will always have a handgun, and ammo can be taken from flower pots in your apartment. It is always worth checking your ammo as you can quickly run out.
Stopping you feel like you are wasting your time are a few mechanics to prevent this. You have a pocket that can store one item you won’t lose even if you die. You also have an extra item slot that you can use to keep one set of keys.
Century City has a bank building where you can store your cash and some items. Money is used to buy items, furniture and to complete story quests. It and your apartment add value to your “Estate.” Your Estate value determines a few factors, and increasing it is required to progress in the story.
As you complete quests, you will upgrade your limited inventory space slowly. A talking wall crack occasionally increases inventory space in exchange for blood. Between runs in the city, you can sell items to a merchant (only on certain days) and store the rest in your apartment.
A good thing about Hell is Others is that it introduces its various mechanics and NPC characters over time. You will meet all the different characters that offer services and help you learn how the game works.
You will spend most of your time running around and looking in containers for items, with the occasional gunfight. You will want to avoid combat, but the game makes you participate.
Regarding NPCs, each one is located in a place in the city. There is a bar, hospital, church, cafe, gun shops, supermarket, and more points of interest. Each contains an NPC who provides services once they have been included in the story. Each one has quests, and once these are completed will unlock more items for sale in their shop.
I found the NPCs creepy and gross looking. The design is on purpose to be odd looking to match the setting but feels too weird in most cases. There is also a large number of anthropomorphic rabbits for some reason. Maybe a reference to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? Also, the story involves an AI computer which I didn’t fully discover its overall involvement in the game.
The enemies you face are black silhouette monsters that remind me of the ones from Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. They are a few different types with different attack patterns, drops and health totals. If you are playing offline, you will face Others, humanoid monsters that rush you and a replacement for real-life players.
I died countless times in Hell is Others, but I never felt it was the game’s fault. Most of it was because I underestimated the range of an explosive, got greedy, or didn’t exit the map when I should.
The gameplay can sometimes feel stiff. I do not know if this is because I played with a keyboard or mouse instead of a controller, and sometimes I wish the movement felt more fluid. Yet it adds to the theme and gameplay tension. Yet the anxiety isn’t the same in single-player as you don’t need to worry about other players.
Hell is Others isn’t the most eye-catching or vibrant game. It purposely has a dark comic or newspaper style. It suits the theme and game but often makes it feel like a Super Nintendo Entertainment System game. Despite this, I like the way it looks. While the NPCs are peculiar looking and the colours are odd in places, they grew on me and fit the style.
That is not to say people will not dislike the look of it. I can see people not trying the game based on its looks alone. I feel the overhead visuals are better than the 2D section art. The 2D areas look more like from an adventure game but don’t fit well in the way they look.
All icons and items are different looking and distinguishable. Which is good in an extraction game. You will instantly know the difference between weapons, healing items, ammo, and loot while searching the many containers.
The music is pretty sparse in Hell is Others. The is less than a handful of music tracks. You will be hearing the ambient sounds of the city mostly. This means you can listen to something else as you play the game.
One sounds to be wary of is the noise of the monsters. Each monster makes a unique sound so you can easier identify them as they approach. This can help when searching for certain ones or ones to avoid.
The world makes sounds as you would expect. Smashing in a window makes noise, walking over metal makes noise, firing your weapons, and calling the elevator will also make noise. However, in the single-player mode, the noises don’t affect the world.
Enemies don’t respond to sound except maybe the Others. If you were playing the multiplayer mode, I could see sneaking about being more common. In the game, sight is more crucial. If an enemy sees you, they will chase you.
Hell is Others is like a lot of similar games. You will not replay it. Once you have made it in one mode, you will not start again in the other.
There is plenty of content to get through and a story that stretches over several acts. I wasn’t able to complete it all. I got to the middle of Act IV. Which I believe is probably three-fourths the way through the story. Once you complete the narrative, I can see the game letting you play on to level up and increase the value of your Estate.
You are getting a lot of value in the game. Since they have released a single-player mode. Even though the game isn’t old, the online component is dead. The only reason to get the game now is to play single-player or maybe co-op. However, I am not sure that would even work without other players outside your group.
There is one piece of DLC for the game called the Good Neighbor Pack, which add several furniture items, a unique health bar, printable items like a map, some wallpapers and the soundtrack. Yet this DLC costs the same amount as the base game, which seems crazily too much.
There is a lot to like in Hell is Others, and with the recently added single-player mode, there is plenty of reasons to try it. Even if you don’t like the idea of extraction modes, the offline gameplay is basically like any other single-player experience.
If you don’t like the repetitive nature of games like Hell is Others, then I would avoid this game. You will be playing the same gameplay loop and doing the same actions often, dying a lot and losing progress.
Seeing as the developers have added a single-player mode, it would be good to see them add more to the game that takes advantage of this. However, I don’t see that happening any time soon.
Developer: Strelka Games and Yonder.
Publisher: A List Games.
Release: 20th October 2022.