It’s not often that we review something twice. This isn’t necessarily a good thing either. Just because a title is brilliant and receives rave reviews on one platform doesn’t automatically mean it’s going to port well onto another one. With this in mind, I’ve been playing the PS4 version of BPM: Bullets Per Minute, a game that I know did incredibly well on PC when it was released last year. This is obviously just my ten cents. I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion if they’ve already played the PC version and loved, (or hated,) it. I just wanted to see how the PS4 port would stack up against the original release.
If you want to read what we thought about the PC version of BPM you can absolutely do this here. For those of you that already have experience in the rhythm-based roguelike shooter I probably don’t need to tell you too much about what’s going on. New shooter fans looking for something to cut their teeth on might want to listen up though.
BPM: Bullets Per Minute places you in the shoes of one of several unlockable valkyries and starts you in the realm of Asgard, which you have to protect from a hoard of rampaging demons. From there you’ll chase the forces of Helheim and try and put them back where they belong. In true shooter style, you must then head out blasting nasties to bits and finding loot as you go. This is also a rogue-lite so you can expect a different run every time you head back into the game. Certain rooms will reappear most of the time, (shops for instance,) and you can expect to find a mini-boss and challenge room somewhere on the level. Other than this and the inevitable boss encounter you’ll need to be on your toes because your memory isn’t going to do squat for you.
What makes BPM stand out is that it’s a rhythm game in that you’re firing and reloading to the beat. Personally, I don’t think this necessarily helps play. I know that this mechanic is the heart and soul of the game and that everything else is built from this but for me at least it was virtually impossible to get my head around. This is a frantic enough game as it is without adding in something that feels slightly alien. This probably wouldn’t be the case with a decent tutorial but I felt rather thrown into the mix and there was a lot happening all at once for me to really get to grips with the rhythm aspect of the game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not complicated, it just feels very odd as part of a rogue-lite when things are always going to be action-packed.
This is purely a personal thing, but I don’t like first-person action games of this sort. As we all know, anything with “rogue” in its genre descriptor is designed to be hard as hell with an awful lot being thrown at you. This means that it’s best to see everything that’s going on so you can plan on the fly. This is why isometric and third-person points of view work so nicely with roguelike games. In first-person you’re limited to your field of vision and when you’re getting absolutely mobbed this can make things a bit tricky. Strafing out of the way of something in front of you is always a good idea as long as you know what’s coming at you from behind. I died so many times simply because I backed into an enemy.
I think this was the big put-off for me with BPM. I spent virtually all of my time watching the game reload because I’d been killed. I’m not lacking in skill but I never really felt like I properly warmed into the action. It’s so off-putting when no matter how hard you try you can’t get anywhere in a game because you just can’t stay alive long enough to enjoy it. I know this is a personal thing but I’m generally pretty good at this genre. I’m used to getting everything including the kitchen sink thrown at me. With BPM though, it felt like too much, too fast.
Your aim needs to be pretty hot for any game of this type. It’s important to be able to dispatch your enemies quickly and efficiently. In BMP I just saw my bullets flying past the enemy and while I was concentrating on aiming I wasn’t concentration on firing and reloading to the rhythm of the game. This left the core mechanic completely redundant because even if I was firing in time to the music I wasn’t hitting what I was aiming at. To add to this you can’t just stand there and shoot unless you want to be monster fodder and when your aim is already off moving at the same time just makes things worse.
I understand that every title needs a difficulty curve but it also needs to feel comfy to play and, for me at least, BPM just didn’t. In addition to this, the controls themselves are pretty simple and effective and the UI is fairly tight. My issue isn’t necessarily that this is a difficult title to get to grips with movement-wise, rather, that it’s a series of factors coming together that makes it all feel a bit awkward.
The question of action games having a story is a fairly open one. This is an arcade shooter so I completely get that it doesn’t need a deep and well-rounded plot to carry the player. You just want to get in and get your kill on. I do think there needs to be something there, though, to give you a reason for doing what you’re doing and hold the game together. BPM has virtually no story at all other than the fairly self-explanatory basis of the game that I mentioned earlier. I’m not going to be too harsh on this because, once again, it’s an action title, but in my opinion, it’s not something that can be overlooked entirely either.
When it comes to graphics and sound BPM is stellar. The game is dark and moody and gives you everything you’d expect from a dungeon kill-fest. Musically, the heavy metal soundtrack that thumps along in the background is absolutely perfect and probably couldn’t have been done any better. With this being a rhythm game, the music should be one of the things being pushed to the fore and that has definitely been done here.
After all, I’ve just said you’re probably thinking that I hate this game. The fact is that I love all the things that this game could be and I absolutely adore the idea. What BPM does well it does near-perfectly and if you’re a fan of first-person action games you’ll probably have a very good time here. Weirdly, I’m not sure how many favors the rhythm aspect of this title is doing the game. I think if you can get to grips with it straight away you’ll probably be golden. If you can’t it feels like more of a hindrance in a game that’s already difficult enough on its own. If you’re a roguelike fan that is up for the challenge and is curious to see how a rhythm game can be made into an action title BPM is still worth a try. You’d better have a decent amount of skill though or you’ll likely have more of a headache than a harmonious experience.
The odd bum note
Not quite hitting all the notes
BPM: Bullets Per Minute is an odd one for me. This title sounds like a riot on paper but there’s a series of things that come together that make gameplay feel a little weird and awkward. If you can get over the difficulty level and get used to the rhythm mechanic you’ll probably be fine. I’d recommend doing it quickly, though, or you’re experience is likely to be a frustrating one.