When I play a fast-paced shooter, I often find myself in an accidental rhythm. In Doom Eternal, for instance, I tend to enter a flow state where I’m almost moving and shooting to the beat of the game’s metal music. It’s never intentional, but I feel subconsciously compelled to keep up with the music and let it guide my rampage.
In Gun Jam, a new title from Jaw Drop Games, that experience becomes an intended mechanic. The first-person rhythm shooter takes the frenetic pace of Doom and turns it into a deliberate rhythm game, like Guitar Hero. I played through a full song while at GDC and found that the pairing made perfect sense, unlocking the secret beat that’s usually hidden in action games.
Gun Jam is incredibly easy to explain and understand. On its surface, it’s a basic first-person shooter where players traverse through linear levels and take down every enemy in their path. There are buttons to shoot, melee, and dash. There are no secondary abilities or ultimate attacks to juggle — controls are as streamlined as can be.
The twist is that players attack along to the beat of a song. As a piece of music plays, icons scroll up the screen. Like many rhythm games, the goal is to hit the button once it hits the right point on screen. Players can use any action on those beats to trigger them, whether that be firing a gunshot or dashing.
Different colored beat icons cause players to automatically swap to a different gun. When the icons are popping up strictly on a 4/4 downbeat, players are generally shooting single shots from a basic pistol. Though during my song, the beat would suddenly flip into a triplet pattern as I switched over to a quicker rifle capable of firing off a quick bang bang bang along to the music.
I quickly found myself lost in the music. My leg started tapping out the beat, acting as a physical metronome to my trigger finger. Gunshots even have a percussive quality to them, naturally slotting into the score as if they were always part of it. Executing a level perfectly didn’t just mean I had killed all the bad guys as fast as possible; it meant that I had successfully found and followed the natural rhythm of the action. It’s what I already do in Doom, but with an on-screen meter to keep me on pace.
The game features original music by composer James Wrigley and tunes will come in three flavors: Trap, metal, and EDM. While I was already bopping along to the bit of music I heard, the more exciting aspect of the game is the potential for modding. Considering that it’s a PC release, I imagine that the game’s community will quickly find a way to upload their own songs to the game in no time. While the developers don’t have specific plans for custom tools at launch, they seem to support that potential wholeheartedly.
What Gun Jam will launch with is a story mode and an arcade mode where players can focus on setting high scores on individual tracks. Based on my brief time with it, I’m excited to dig into those modes further and hear what else the game has to offer. The developers say there’s still tweaking to be done (like adding better feedback to tell players when they’re on or off beat), but the core loop is already satisfying enough. It’s a literal symphony of destruction.
Gun Jam doesn’t have a release date yet, but it’ll launch on PC first with a potential console release later.
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