As with movies, the music running through a modern video game can help define the pace, atmosphere and overall feel of gameplay. The latest offering from the folks who brought us such addictive free-time-eaters as Rock Band and Dance Central, however, moves the soundtrack from a supporting role in the background to become central to the game itself. Getting down with the beat in the new Chroma First Person Shooter from Harmonix Music Systems will be rewarded with faster movement or the chance to cause more damage. The music can even change the very landscape of the battlefield.

Developed in partnership with Hidden Path Entertainment (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Defense Grid: The Awakening) and powered by Epic's Unreal Engine technology, Chroma has just been released as a limited Closed Alpha. Players who take part will not only get an early look at the game, but will also be able to offer feedback to the creative team and help shape its future development.

Given that the game is still very much in its infancy, much of the gameplay detail is a bit foggy at the moment. Players will battle for control of "The Signal" and use music as a weapon. Or as the publicity materials put it, "From deep wobbling bass to the crunch of an electric guitar, crushing metal drums to poppy synths, choose a weapon load-out that reflects your musical tastes and personal style and take your sounds into battle." The arena-style battlefield can also dramatically change at certain points in songs, with "change-ups" providing useful cover or raising sniper towers, all in time with the music.

Seasoned FPS players will find much that's familiar in Chroma, including multiple classes, primary and secondary weapons, and multiplayer and team elements. But since game mechanics are closely linked to its soundtrack, those with a keen sense of rhythm or Rock Band-like beat-matching skills are sure to get the most from the experience. That doesn't necessarily mean the musically-challenged won't be able to do battle, though.

"We’re still prototyping and concepting out a lot of gameplay, but our goal is to make it so that the gameplay and the music are fundamentally linked to one another in meaningful ways," Nick Chester from Harmonix explains. "One example is our rhythmic traversal pad system – there will be traversal pads placed around a map and players can bounce between them, on the beat of the music, to quickly move from place to place."

"Another example is the rhythmic attack input of one of our classes, The Engineer, who wields two pistols – players can fire this pistol by following a repeating beatmatch pattern that is tied to the music," he continues. "Other classes feature weapons that don’t require rhythmic input, for those who aren’t rhythmically or musically inclined – some of these weapons simply fire beams/streams of music that react to and with the music."

"These are just a few examples, but there are many more," Chester says. "The goal is to try to create a game that shooter players and rhythm gamers will be comfortable in, by offering up a variety of play styles that all work together. We’re still working to find that balance, something we hope players can offer insight into during the Closed Alpha phase."

The free-to-play Chroma is due to be released on Valve's Steam platform later in the year.

Have a look at the trailer video below for a brief taste of things to come.

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