PC (version tested), PS4, Xbox One; Awe Interactive
Awe Interactive’s hellbound original finds the music at the heart of the first-person shooter
Shooter games have always had a sneaking love affair with rhythm. Players of classics such as Halo operate as much by ear as eye, internalising the cadences of fire rates and reload times. Awe Interactive’s BPM: Bullets Per Minute borrows from actual music games by having you perform every action besides movement to a background beat, as indicated by a collapsing diamond reticule. Miss a beat and you’ll misfire, falling behind enemies whose attacks are also synced to the score. It might sound terrifying if, like me, you have all the natural tempo of a tumble dryer, but it’s irresistible in action.
BPM is theoretically about valkyries purging Asgard of demon invaders, but really it’s a cunningly disguised drum kit simulator, drenched in raw, oversaturated colours and set to an easily-grasped 4/4 time signature. Shooting and reloading are your snares and toms. Secondary abilities such as lightning spells are your bass drum and cymbals. To fight is to improvise on top of the electronic rock soundtrack, all the while circling hordes of lava bats and scorpion women. Each gun has its own brutal music: shotguns must be pumped on the off-beat, while Gatling guns start slow and build to an apocalyptic drum roll. The beat-matching element takes some mastering, but it lends serious thrill to what might otherwise be a vivid but unremarkable blaster.