‘Gun Jam’ review: time to face the music

This shallow package struggles to strike a chord

a lightning-fast first-person shooter where every shot must be timed to the beat, Gun Jam disappointingly contains nowhere near the number of guns or jams necessary to hold your attention for more than an hour. Developer Jaw Drop Games has managed to craft some solid foundations here, especially when it comes to the slick shooting, but the lack of any substantial maps or modes leaves the overall package feeling frustratingly shallow and seriously underbaked. Gun Jam might have some of the raw ingredients of a chart-topping hit, but its fleeting length and sloppy presentation has more in common with a forgettable warm-up act.

At its core, Gun Jam has all the gripping gunplay of the recent Doom reboot, expertly melded with the intense button-mashing challenges found in rhythm giants like Guitar Hero. While the concept of a rhythm-based shooter is by no means unique, Gun Jam sets itself apart through its refreshingly challenging approach to combat. Presenting something of a decent middle ground between the more lenient musical brawls found in the likes of Metal: Hellsinger or BPM: Bullets Per Minute and the trickier timing of more traditional rhythm titles, almost all of its appeal lies in one major departure from the mechanics of those two games. Rather than simply rewarding a well-timed shot with bonus damage and additional score, you are entirely restricted to shooting in time with the music. It sounds small on paper, but the result is a staggering change in the overall flow and feel of every fight. Its competition may be more accessible, but the combat here is deeper and highly rewarding.

While you are free to move around the environment at will, each beat also offers the opportunity to dash, sacrificing your current shot for a quick burst of forward momentum. Chaining successful shots and dashes not only keeps your speed up, helping to avoid pesky enemy projectiles, but contributes to a combo meter for better high scores as well. With a finite number of actions at your disposal, determined by the number of beats in each song’s unique beatmap, precision and forward planning is key to success. Missing a single shot or dash can often make the difference between life and death, and being forced to constantly weigh up the choice between increased mobility and sheer damage output opens the door to some seriously meaty strategy.

Gun Jam
Credit: Jaw Drop Games


Unfortunately, these promising combat fundamentals are overshadowed by the barebones nature of almost every other element in Gun Jam. For every run, you have just four weapons at your disposal: a shotgun, rocket launcher, railgun, and plasma rifle. These switch automatically, alternating with each new beat, and while the shotgun and rocket launcher both pack a fair punch and make for a gratifying way to clear hordes of enemies, the two laser weapons are unsatisfying. With next to no animation and very little tangible impact on your foes, collectively they are about as rewarding as trying to take on a brick wall with a water pistol. The impact of each weapon might not be your biggest concern when you’re bouncing around neon-lit arenas at 180 bpm, but for a small selection to only contain two winners is a huge shame.

There is also no story mode of any kind, and, with a grand total of ten tracks to choose from, you’re going to run out of options quickly. Each track is adequate, though none are particularly memorable, and the choice to focus exclusively on three genres (EDM, traphop, and metal) means that what little is here soon feels samey. Thankfully, there is still some potential in the ability to import custom music, and being able to drag and drop sound files into the game’s directory for the automatic generation of a beatmap is undeniably somewhat impressive. Sadly, its potential is often hampered by inconsistent results. While I had great success with EDM tracks in 4/4 signature, attempting to play with almost any other genre proved to be unpredictable at best. If your life-long dream has been to blast away at waves of enemies to the pounding beat of Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’, you’re in luck. For anything else, you’re better off elsewhere.

Even in a hypothetical scenario where all of your desired songs translate into beatmaps flawlessly, the miserly selection of maps is still inevitably going to dampen your enjoyment. There are just four available, three of which are near-identical arenas that seem completely indistinguishable in all but aesthetics. These maps are wide-open featureless spaces that wear out their welcome after the first few minutes. The fourth, on the other hand, offers an enjoyable linear challenge that has you clearing out cramped rooms against a strict time limit. It’s a much-needed change of pace, but the decision to have just one map like this is, frankly, mystifying. The addition of two more in this style would go a long way in evening out the package.

Perhaps most egregiously of all, however, is the fact that there is no tutorial of any kind. Without access to the eleven-page guide document distributed to members of the press, I would have had no hope of understanding many of the key mechanics. The discovery of vital information, like the fact that certain weapons allow some notes to be held for additional score or that characters have unique health attributes, relies on a frustrating degree of trial and error. From the minute you launch Gun Jam, you are on your own, and there isn’t even an attempt made to explain the basics of the controls.

Despite the strong combat, it’s safe to say that the time it would take to learn the intricacies would probably be better spent playing almost anything else given the slim scope of everything on offer here.

Gun Jam is out now for PC.


Devoid of any substantial content, Gun Jam is a painfully underbaked offering that squanders the potential of its promising combat.


  • The shooting is sound and offers some depth
  • Importing custom songs can add additional playtime


  • Just 10 songs included out of the box
  • Only four maps, three of which are painfully basic
  • No tutorial or guidance of any kind

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