I love a good first person shooter—and I’ve played hundreds of them. I also love rhythm games, with Beat Saber still on my regular line-up and probably a thousand hours spent strumming a plastic guitar for Rock Band and Guitar Hero. So when BPM: Bullets Per Minute and their first person shooter meets rhythm game was announced, I was immediately thrilled at the prospect. I finally got my hands on a preview build of BPM, so I can give some hands-on impressions.
In BPM: Bullets Per Minute you play as a Valkyrie fighting off hellish invaders as they try to breach the walls of Asgard. Armed with a gun, a dash, and a sense of rhythm, you’re tasked with going from room-to-room clearing out enemies, collecting coins and keys, and finding power-ups, weapons, etc. in a setup that would be familiar with anyone who has ever played a roguelike. In fact, the room setup, and even the types of rooms you can find, reminded me heavily of The Binding of Isaac from a first person perspective.
Playing a first person shooter as a rhythm game is hard. I consider myself good at shooters, and I consider myself good at rhythm games, but when I mixed the two, I felt like I was learning something new for the first time. You can’t shoot, reload, or dodge unless you do it on the beat–something I thought would be easy, but struggled with mightily. Hitting the beat is fine, shooting targets is fine, but when I mixed the two, it was like I’ve never played either genre before. Of course, you don’t have to hit right on the beat to fire—some weapons allow you to fire on off-beats, so if you have a good sense of rhythm, you can really lay down some lead.
Learning curve aside, once it clicked, it really clicked. One thing that helped was the discovery that the default pistol has an absurdly short range. There is a visual indicator for when the beat will hit which is represented by chevrons moving towards your center reticle—this indicator was mostly useless for me, and served only to remind me that I’m supposed to be hitting the beat.
Weapon range, damage, magazine size and more can be upgraded if you find the proper shrine or power-up to activate. Sometimes activating them costs health, other times you have to give up a key or coins. Keys can further be used to open chests and doors, usually containing some power-up with absurd abilities. One run I found a special that allowed me to sap the health from enemies–any enemy, at any time, with a short cooldown—I was essentially invincible. It was fun.
BPM was inspired by retro-shooters, which is the way most developers are saying “I really liked what Doom 2016 did.” Or at least if that wasn’t developer Awe Interactive’s goal, they certainly did a good job putting my mind in that space. It’s probably the absurdly overdone red stylized filter that the entire game seems to have. And BPM looks like a shooter before a rhythm game. Except for the reticle, there isn’t much indicating that it is a rhythm game, with them playing up the rhythm nature of the game in only a few sections, like when my character picked up a shotgun and they strummed it like a guitar for a moment.
In the build I played, I only got to play as two players, with my main being the Valkyrie, but there appears to be at least three other characters that will be unlocked in the future. Also, the build I was able to play only had two levels and two bosses—but a few minibosses and a bunch of enemy types to play around with. The enemy types, thankfully, are pretty diverse. It isn’t just creatures that make a straight line for you. Instead, there are those that lunge, or shoot, etc. And the two bosses I had a chance to fight were interesting, even if the fights were over pretty quickly. And each boss, when you finish, stands stunned as you shoot a few finishing shots into them as the music rises into an explosive metal-worthy finale.
BPM: Bullets Per Minute is metal as hell, and the music that goes along with it is pretty damn good, which is important, because the music is the backbone of the action. And playing as an angry Valkyrie fighting against demonic forces to a heavy guitar background is about as metal as you can get.
BPM: Bullets Per Minute has a September release date for PCs, and will be released for consoles in 2021.
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