May 22, 2022

BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE – PC Review

Shoot To The Beat, Or Die Trying

Both developed and published by Awe Interactive, BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE is a rhythm FPS Rogue-like for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Going into this one blind, I was delightfully surprised by what I’d experienced in my testing. While not perfect, BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE is an enthralling and addicting beat-based game, let’s review.

How one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated and should be taken with a grain of salt (this included). So let’s review BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE through the lens of more objective metrics such as; graphical fidelity, characters & story, content & length, controls & gameplay, then finally, sound design & cinematics. This product was evaluated on a 1050Ti 4Gb, 8GB Ram, with an i5-7300HQ, for full transparency: using a provided copy.

Graphical Fidelity

Visually speaking environments have very interesting textures and outlines. The light use results in a sepia-esque painted look on some surfaces, it’s a bit strange at first if I’m honest but it grows on one quickly. There are occasions of conflicting/blending colour schemes in the 3rd location, but by then players should know what to expect and shouldn’t be reliant on colour coordination to find their loot. Weapon models look excellent (an important detail for shooters), though the animations themselves are slightly less so. Their fluidity is often dependant on player responsiveness, however, it’s the “loading no bullets” part that breaks immersion for me. A small nitpick to be sure. Enemy models look far sharper against their less emboldened backgrounds, and it often helps them pop out from the environment for easy target acquisition.

Graphical settings are fairly standard, as is usual Motion Blur is off because eww. Everything else is set to ultra or high, on 1920×1080 locked to 60FPS. Options are honestly pretty slim, with control over post-process, shadows, anti-aliasing, but not a whole bunch else.

At times performance is where BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE falters marginally. It runs on Unreal Engine 4, but things got a little interesting. This is a weird one, but I almost wrote BPM off as not working. Initially, when loading the game after the Awe Interactive logo, the game screen would turn black and then… nothing… for 1 minute and 17 seconds (I timed it). It will run, it just takes a while. And a loading screen might not be such a bad idea to reassure players that rest assured: all is well. So maybe you should install this one on an SSD, and maybe I should free up some space. Occasionally when panning player view, white cracks tend to split through corners or edges. Although after a while it becomes natural to tune out, It is an issue nonetheless.

Heads up displays and UIs are clean and direct, never leaving a player questioning how much health they have left. The top left corner supplies a simple yet functional map tool, and ammo/gun icons are at the bottom right. Nothing out of the ordinary here, and it all works just fine

Characters & Story

Overall, there aren’t any real “Characters” per se, outside of the 5 playable Valkyries being: Goll, Freyr, Hildr, Njord, and Odr. BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE uses the Norse mythos as a basis for its setting, characters, and some enemies. Fans of Thor, or recent God of War may have passing familiarity. Given the pace and form which the game provides its content (which we’ll talk about momentarily), BPM doesn’t require much of a story. Not that some contextualization wouldn’t be nice, just that it’s not essential for BPM to work as a product.

Last but not least, I can’t not mention how much I adore the chocobo-like, halo-donning Huginn, and the iron-clad metal AF Muninn. Even though they’re just merchants, they add exceptional personality and charm to BPM.

Content & Length

Being a Rogue-like one could say BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE is near endlessly replayable. To “beat” BPM players only need defeat 8 bosses and their respective zones – sounds easy right? Well, difficulty is usually a hefty factor in a Rogue-like and it rings true here too. Area modifiers such as “Space, Frozen, Infested”, etc, make things either easier or more difficult depending on the player – while adding variety (the spice of life). Though there are 8 zones, there are 4 realms players go to, being Asgard, Vanaheim, Svartalheim, and finally Helheim, each with a secondary zone. This helps add longevity, as does the steeped difficulty. In addition to this, BPM employs procedural generation to craft its level design randomizing layouts, enemies, items, etc. for a fresh experience each run. Enemy variety does a fair amount to keep things from going stale. Starting with dopey worms, spiders and bats, eventually types turn to threatening shield-bearers, reapers, and mini-bosses. Foe do a decent job of keeping players on their toes, at times pushing them into reactive play, delicately balanced with their precise timings.

When players ‘beat’ the game on Easy they’ll unlock an additional character and ability with others under specific conditions. After beating a run on Hard, players will unlock Odr who acts more as BPM’s ultimate endgame rather than a playstyle variant. Odr will die in one hit, although is equipped with a blink ability so bring your A-game (just in case you really like a challenge). Then to help pad across the long runs, players have access to stored ‘coin’ currency in the bank. You may store 10 each visit and it really helps player retention, as well as loyalty points with each shop (Huginn and Muninn) that carry permanently. Lastly, there are actual Challenges that add modifiers to the game itself such as a Retro mode, Full Auto, and Boss Rush to name a few, but not spoil them all.

BPM contains no multiplayer or coop. This is a strictly single-player endeavor.

Controls & Gameplay

BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE handles fairly standard for what we’ve come to expect from FPS’ on PC. You’ll use WASD to move, spacebar to jump, with shift to dash (holding to sprint). There are no aiming down sights, as the right click is reserved for secondary abilities. Players will use the “E” key for Ultimate abilities and R for reloading, pretty crazy stuff right here. “Tab” will open stats and item descriptions, and that’s about all for mappings. Everything mouse and keyboard is re-bindable, except controllers. While their use is available, they appear to be bound to preset mappings.

Imagine Crypt of the NecroDancer, but first person with guns. Here’s the gist, players may only shoot (most guns) on the quarter beat. Player actions may only occur at certain timings in accordance with the rhythm of the music. What eases players into this is the unique crosshair that pulses inwards to the beat, not gonna lie, it’s mesmerizing at times. Players may jump whenever they want, but may only double jump on off-beats, this is a very, very interesting concept and for the most part, I love its execution. There are, however, times where if players don’t re-bind the reload key they cant move right and reload simultaneously due to the multiple needed presses. This is sometimes painful, but I genuinely liked the player interaction with the reload as it brings with it a sense of immersion. Some guns reload with entire clips, some single bullets, but they all have different patterns to adjust to. Overall I really enjoy the concept of only allowing certain actions on quarter, half, and full beats as it forces the player to allow themselves to be drawn in. And when I let myself, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only had I been tapping my foot to the beat – but it had made me a better player. When it all comes together it’s so bloody satisfying. You feel like you’re orchestrating melodic death at the tips of your fingers with each perfectly timed click, click, boom.

As per usual with most Rogue-likes, BPM has a variety of stats, equipment, abilities and modifiers. Players acquire coins from downed enemies to purchase health, equipment or other items from Huginn, and weapons and clip upgrades from the metal Muninn. Players will also find keys to unlock chests and doors throughout their runs, unlocking other abilities, modifiers and ultimates (stored in libraries). A detail I enjoyed was each room’s inherent activity or interaction. See, any non-merchant/boss room contains either a “blessing” costing one coin for a free stat (damage, range, precision, luck, speed, and ability), or a difference of damage/money trade, 1/3 random chest choices etc.. variety truly is the spice of life. Lastly in relation to ingame mechanics, player choice of character will affect stats, starting weapons, abilities and more. But before I detail or spoil every single gameplay mechanic BPM has on offer, let’s move on.

For those who may have difficulties with rhythm based products, there are fantastic assisting settings and even auto beat/rhythym detection modifiers and variants. This includes the crosshair which is used to visually keep track of timings. After players clear a room (to varying degrees of okay, good and flawless success) a flare will indicate the direction of that rooms loot, with a redish-orange skybeam that (as previously mentioned) gets drowned into the colour scheme of Svartalheim.

Sound Design & Cinematics

As a self-proclaimed “rhythm-action FPS”, arguably, BPM’s most essential aspect should be its sound design and OST. There is no doubt about it that Awe Interactive nailed it in this department. The tunes and tone of BPM are excellent, and clearly perfect choices for the style of game. While I would argue that some levels could use one more song just for long-term playability, I understand that consistency may be easier for some players. Nonetheless, the music is outstanding – especially for Huginn and Muninn. It’s wholesome music that doesn’t let down the beat and keeps your foot tapping while simultaneously offering a moment of reprieve. Finally, in regards to music: the heavy, headbanging, melodic guitar, drums and sometimes operatic melodies make me want to wedge in bold comparisons to DOOM’s Mick Gordon, but that’s a small stretch.

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There is very little-to-no voice acting involved in this game. The most one can consider would be the occasional grunts when a character gets hurt. That being said as a function, no subtitles, no problem with no dialogue to distract from the shreddy music.

As far as cinematics are concerned, the most that can be considered are when players enter a boss room and they do a spookie tough-guy dance. So realistically speaking, nothing out of game-engine. With BPM not being a story-focused game this is to be expected.

Conclusion

When all is said and done, through its flaws I thoroughly enjoyed BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE. Here’s a game that embraces its strengths and rolls with them in the best of ways, sure RNG can be as much a factor as skill, but as is the case with most Rogue-Likes. I’d recommend picking up BPM for players who enjoy rhythm-based games, are hardcore into shooters – or maybe both. BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE is available for purchase on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Well deserve 7.8/10, pending some technical issues

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An Enthralling And Addicting Experience
  • 7.8/10
    Score - 7.8/10
7.8/10

Overview

+ Delightful Gameplay

+ Great Soundtrack

+ Fun Build Variety

– Frustratingly Steep Difficulty Curve

– Visuals Take Some Getting Used To

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