Review – Gun Jam

BPM: Bullets per Minute and Metal: Hellsinger were two games released in recent times which mixed two of my favorite gaming genres into one: music-based rhythm and neanderthal, balls-to-the-wall first-person shooting (or, as the kids like to call them, “boomer shooters”). Naturally, any other game featuring said hybridization of elements would be something I’d be interesting in giving a shot, so I was looking forward to playing Gun Jam, which promised to blend both genres even further, being basically “Quake meets Guitar Hero“, as some have mentioned during its Early Access cycle. A bold claim, one I can’t particularly see blending well together, but hey, I was still keeping an open mind for it.

Gun Jam Cel-Shaded Graphics

It’s not Hi-Fi Rush or Borderlands, but it gets the job done when it comes to its visuals.

They weren’t kidding about the Guitar Hero part. Other rhythm-shooter hybrids were more of a simple take on the first-person shooter genre, where you were given the opportunity to deal extra damage if you so decided to shoot according to the beat. Gun Jam has none of that. Either you click the mouse exactly when the prompt tells you so, or you won’t shoot at all. It is a rhythm game first, shooter second. In fact, it doesn’t even want you to bother paying attention to ammo or weapon types; it changes weapons for you. It just wants you to shoot accordingly… all while moving like in a traditional, fast-paced, old-school shooter. Here lies my main issue with it.

I don’t think this excessive emphasis on rhythm does Gun Jam any favors. Sure, it’s innovative, but having to move around an arena (of which there are only four), look for enemies, avoid said enemies’ attacks, and still perform shots according to the prompts thrown onscreen. It’s not just following the beat, you have to be precise. It’s too much to do all at once, and while the controls were responsive, I didn’t think that resulted in a fun experience. Plus, the game features a single mode, which outstays its welcome really quickly due to lack of level and content variety.

Gun Jam Notes

These semi transparent notes don’t need to be hit if you just keep the mouse button pressed… but you’ll only get points if you’ve pressed the first note in the sequence beforehand.

The soundtrack featured in the game is average at best. It features just ten songs: a few metal ones, a few hip hop ones, and some electronic tunes. If that was all Gun Jam had to offer, that would have just added insult to injury, but the game has a really unique feature: a beat generator. Just add any MP3 you might have in your computer (though that’s easier said than done in the streaming age) and the game will generate a beat layout accordingly.

I tried that out with the DOOM soundtrack. You know, the masterpiece composed by Mick Gordon. I do think that was a big mistake, since those songs in particular don’t have a fixed BPM throughout their entire runtime. That resulted in botched beats to follow. If you decide to try this generator out, I think it’s best to stick to songs where the tempo barely changes at all. EDM and rap songs will most certainly be a highlight in this regard. While I do appreciate the inclusion of this beat generator in order to exponentially increase Gun Jam‘s paltry amount of content, it does need a patch or two.

Gun Jam Gameplay

Getting a “perfect” message all while being hit by enemy fire. The duality of gaming.

Maybe I just expected more from Gun Jam because every other rhythm-based action game released over the past years ended up being such a banger. It’s not bad at all, as it features a decent cel-shaded presentation, runs like a dream, and features really responsive controls. Sadly, even though the foundations are solid, its main gimmick is a bit too clunky and confusing. I love shooters, and I love Guitar Hero… but combining these two games, without leeways, resulted in a messy experience.


Graphics: 7.5

It might possibly be the game’s highlight. It’s not the most visually appealing cel-shaded art style I’ve ever seen, and it suffers from an overall lack of visual variety, but it still looks quite good. It also runs like a dream.

Gameplay: 7.0

The controls themselves and the framerate are excellent. I have no complaints in that regard. The problem lies with the main gameplay loop. The excessive emphasis on being a precision rhythm game hinders Gun Jam‘s overall appeal.

Sound: 7.5

The songs included in the game are decent enough, but are very limited. Gun Jam only comes with ten songs in its setlist. Be sure to grab some MP3s before buying this game, as it features an automated beat creator in order to expand its lasting appeal.

Fun Factor: 6.5

Retro shooters are fun. Guitar Hero is fun. Gun Jam tried to mix as much of these two vastly different worlds as it could, even more than other recently released games, resulting in an occasional fun, but really messy experience.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Gun Jam is available now on PC

Reviewed on Intel i7-12700H, 16GB RAM, RTX 3060 6GB.

A copy of Gun Jam was provided by the publisher.