If you listen to the doomsayers and critics out there you’d be forgiven for thinking there is nothing new or original in the world anymore. Originality can still be found in gaming, whether it’s a new take on an old theme or a novel blend of ideas and mechanics. BPM falls squarely in the latter camp as it’s rhythmical take on the FPS feels like an inspired fusion of Crypt of the Necrodancer (or Cadence of Hyrule) and modern Doom. Having had a chance to spend some time with a preview build, I’m happy to say that it’s shaping up pretty nicely, despite my newly discovered lack of rhythm.
The twist to the arcade shooting of BPM is that you need to carry out moves on the beat, whether it be shooting, reloading, or jumping and dodging. The result is a terrifically immersive and adrenaline-pumping experience, albeit one that is currently lacking in variety and is perhaps a little too hard.
The preview build includes the first level, set in Asgard, which sees your chosen Valkyrie blast their way through the assorted enemies for the sheer hell of it. Narrative takes a back seat here, as the roguelite procedurally generated levels make sure that the focus is on the gunplay. The finished game will have a choice of characters and take you through a series of techno-flavoured Norse environments, all to a thumping hard rock soundtrack.
The aesthetic approach here has the potential to be quite divisive. Everything in the Asgard levels looks like a red filter has been slathered over the screen. This is certainly distinctive, but feels quite repetitive after a while. When combined with the lack of pure level design that is the unfortunate side effect of procedural generation, this does make runs blur into one another. Enemies are nicely designed and pretty varied, so using some more building blocks in the level design should improve this. To be fair, though, this is as much a criticism of the genre as it is of BPM in particular.
Given the focus on shooting to the rhythm, it’s pretty obvious that the music plays a massive part here. The preview build includes one main track (at least as far as I was able to get) although that isn’t as limited as it sounds. The track reminded me of the fabulous Mick Gordon Doom soundtrack as it adapted to the action – although that could have been a side-effect of my levels of concentration rather than any actual changes in the music itself. It remains to be seen whether the music ends up being linked to the level or the character choice though. The downside, of course, is that hearing the same track will get repetitive, though changing it too much could make hitting the beat more difficult, even if the BPM stays the same.
My overriding impression of BPM is that it is tough; I haven’t yet managed to beat the first boss after multiple runs. There is a real brick wall to your first few runs as you adjust to playing on the beat, and until you get the hang of it there will be more than a few deaths as your pistol clicks impotently. Once you get into the rhythm of things, the gunplay is solid and enjoyable and has a level of engagement over and above the usual FPS fare.
BPM is shaping up to be a really interesting twist on the FPS and is certainly one to keep an eye on. I hope that the finished build tightens up the level design and lessens that red shifting filter, but the core game is a refreshingly metal take on monster shooting that’ll have your head banging and your trigger finger twitching to the beat. As Gloria Estefan prophesised in the 1980s, the rhythm is gonna get ya.