GamingReview: BPM: Bullets Per Minute

Review: BPM: Bullets Per Minute

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Do ya’ feel funky? Well, do ya, punk?

Emerging from the depths of hell comes BPM: Bullets Per Minute, an innovative and punishing Rhythm FPS roguelike that requires you blast to the beat of its guitar-shredding soundtrack while teetering on a knife-edge difficulty.

If you ever thought that the standard Doom formula need a bit of shake up, then BPM is for you, as it reduces Doom down to its 90s core and shoves it into a randomizer. While the goal in BPM is to clear each grungy room and defeat the main boss of each dungeon, everything else – the rooms, the enemies, their drops, the number of ways to get potential abilities, equipment, and stat boosts – is completely random. 

This makes every playthrough different – as you’ll rarely see the same upgrades and abilities in consecutive playthroughs – and requires you to adapt your plan of attack based on the arsenal available to you. If you have a revolver or a semi-automatic gun that requires frequent reloading, then you’ll need to be more evasive in your movement when planning your shots. Starting off with revolvers, you’ll unlock weapons (through the shop or in treasure chests) that extend to equipment such as laser guns, shotguns and rocket launchers, all of which handle wildly different.

The dark and environs clearly an ode to the 90s shooters of old.

Abilities and standard stats round off the trifecta of essential elements that dictate whether or not you even escape the first dungeon. Once you are lucky enough to happen upon some effective abilities, such as a regenerative ability, explosive shots and a great weapon, the real thrill of the game kicks in, with its high octane action and overpowered weapons combining with a motivating soundtrack to make you feel invincible.

In my experience, though, expecting an epic combination of abilities is like playing against the house – you are going to end up empty handed, and more often than not you’ll find yourself at the mercy of it. When you inevitably lose your one and only life, all of the equipment and abilities you’ve gained are lost. Knowing that you won’t see be able to pick-up that equipment again for hours is more than enough to make you want to throw your controller across the room.

For better or worse, this forces you to think about giving up on your current run and instead consider spending your coins in the equipment shops to potentially see better weapons in future runs (unlocked from your accrued loyalty points).

One of the shops that becomes more of an investment over time due to the many, many failures you’ll come to experience.

Keeping your heart’s BPM up and your headbanging is the game’s soundtrack, but shooting to its beat is also no walk in the park. Developing a calm trigger finger to follow the beat and lining up the enemy in your crosshairs takes practice, while getting this wrong will cause your gun to jam, and will lead you to flail around in circles even more than normal. The developers were kind enough to provide an option to disable this feature for those without a rhythmic bone in their body – like me – but they also ramped up the difficulty and lowered the points you can generate in said mode, making its benefit mute. 

A nice offering after tossing a few coins into the pot. I should note that there are other levels with different designs, but well, I didn’t take any screenshots of when I was there and well, I never was able to return….

There are 10 playable characters with different abilities, 4 difficulty modes and a challenge mode which add depth to the product for those looking for more from the shooter, but the big attraction is certainly in its main mode.

It’s as clear as day that there is an enjoyable game hidden within BPM, but it might take a very specific audience to fully enjoy it. The system that strips you of your abilities upon death while offering no extra lives, for example, might be par the course for hardcore games, but linking your entire fate to the pick-ups rather than any skill you can develop, is a little too extreme for my liking. You could argue that this what the developer was looking for, and that this does indeed feel like emerging from hell as it isn’t possible to ease into the game or build momentum for more than a few minutes.

A boss. Hello.

The emerging Rhythm FPS subgenre changes up the FPS in ways I hadn’t thought possible, and is a genre that I hope continues to grow, adding a tremendous twist to the standard shooting mechanic. BPM does a decent job integrating this system, but then shoots itself in the foot centering the game around equipment drop rates rather than graded difficulty levels. While this keeps the dungeons feeling fresh from the beginning as the difficulty level is essentially static, you lose any sense of control over the events in the game and it feels like you are dicing with an invisible and overly sadistic 8-ball rather than a specific enemy.

Another element that isn’t quite so perfect are the controls, which demand a speed and accuracy that I’m not sure the PS4 controller is best suited for regardless of how sensitive you adjust the aiming settings for the joysticks, which makes me believe the PC version, which the difficulty was made for, might be slightly easier to pick up. 

With its randomized playthroughs and victimizing difficulty BPM will humble even the cockiest of revolver-wielding Cliff Eastwood wannabes, but once you are able to find your groove with the rhythm mechanic, its appeal makes a bit more sense, just know that you aren’t playing BPM – it’s playing you.  

SUMMARY

+Innovative and satisfying rhythm shooting
+Banging soundtrack
+Great variety of weapons, pickups and abilities translating into a different experience each time
-Repetitive visuals and dungeons
-The difficulty is linked your equipment but the chance for decent drops is low, making it very tough
-Console controls

Played on PS4. Available on Xbox One and PC.
Alex Chessun
Alex Chessun
Currently obsessed with the Yakuza series (minus no.7), Alex is an avid fan of immersive Open World games, quick pick-up-and-play arcade experiences and pretty much anything else good. He also desperately wants Shenmue 4 to happen - a lot.

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Review: BPM: Bullets Per Minute+Innovative and satisfying rhythm shooting <br/> +Banging soundtrack <br/> +Great variety of weapons, pickups and abilities translating into a different experience each time <br/> -Repetitive visuals and dungeons <br/> -The difficulty is linked your equipment but the chance for decent drops is low, making it very tough<br/> -Console controls <br/> <br/> Played on PS4. Available on Xbox One and PC.