Harmonix is charting new territory yet again. The studio that birthed both Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and the only third-party game-development house that created a successful Kinect franchise (Dance Central), announced a new game today: Chroma. Unlike the studio's last several games, Chroma is headed exclusively to the PC (via Steam) as a free-to-play title. Also unlike Harmonix's last several games, Chroma is wildly experimental, blending first-person shooting with pulsing electronic beats and garish visuals. The music game studio is even working with an outside team, Hidden Path Entertainment: the same folks behind critically acclaimed shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
If you're still wondering what type of game Chroma is at this point, that's understandable: There's no such thing as a music-based first-person shooter. That is not a thing that exists (well, unless you wanna count Midway's terribly amazing Revolution X). So let's break it down: In Chroma, you play one of five classes (standard FPS fare, from basic assault to heavy "tank"), with weapons and abilities varying based on the class you choose. In the two game modes we played at DICE 2014, we were on a team with other writers battling for control of various points within a level or battling for control of a cart being pushed one way or another (think: Team Fortress 2). Pretty normal shooter stuff so far, right?
The musical wrinkle comes into play whenever you shoot or jump. Fire a sniper rifle shot on the downbeat and connect? That's a one-hit kill. Jump on the downbeat? You'll go a little higher. Better yet, jump on a downbeat on a jump pad and chain your button presses to the beat to continuously jump from pad to pad (this all makes more sense in Chroma's stylized future-world setting, promise). You can fire most guns whenever you want, and jump at any time, but timing actions to the beat makes a world of difference. That is Chroma's bizarre, fascinating premise.