Audica is one of those magical games that you play when you get home from work, find a smidge of free time after class or just play until its 3 AM in the morning.
Believe it or not, Harmonix’ Audica actually started out as a completely different game. In 2014, Harmonix announced Chroma, a first-person musical shooter. It featured gunplay that required timing-based shot patterns where you could only shoot, reload or deploy items as long as you tapped in time with the rhythm. There was a lot of excitement for this arena-based shooter, especially from rhythm game fans looking for something new. Harmonix ran a closed alpha for players to get in and test out the unique gameplay mechanics, but overall, there were a lot of mixed feelings about how the game worked. Inevitably, the game was cancelled, much to the disappointment of their many fans.
Audica takes the core gameplay from the failed, or rather repurposed, Chroma — gunfire timed to music — and kicks it up a notch. Movement is no longer a factor in gameplay, so instead of choosing from one of five distinct classes of characters, your disembodied hands handle all of the dirty work. You have two glistening, reflective guns with neon accents — a blue one in your left hand, an orange one in your right — that you use to shoot an abundance of targets flying at you from the sky. It’s how these targets are shot and the crazy gun acrobatics required to do it that makes the game as fun as it is.
Shootable targets come at you in five different forms: single targets, sideways targets, sustainable or held targets, dual targets and pathed targets. Single targets are just one and done shots that fly toward you and are hit on the beat, and sideways shots have you physically turning your gun to the side to shoot the notes. Sustained targets require you to hold your trigger down, making your gun send out an arc of electricity where the entire gun vibrates, making electrifying notes that usually represent heavy bass lines extremely satisfying to fire.
Dual targets are fired at by both of your sonic pistols, and sometimes held notes are found in this configuration as well. Pathed targets may be the most interesting, as they they require you to hold down the trigger after hitting the first note and ‘draw a path’ through the bullet points. Additionally, there are also melee objects that look like silver versions of the mushrooms from Centipede; these require you to physically smash them as they come at you — a task often made difficult, as you are doing this while firing seemingly in four different directions at once.
It may not be noticeable from the trailer, but all of these targets and melee objects you are hitting are scored by accuracy. Your ability to shoot in the middle of each target, timed with the beat, is essential to getting a high score on the leaderboards — something that is intertwined with the collective interface of the game and ultimately your goaled focus. This makes every shot count, and the game actually recommends and counts more points if you extend your arms out to ensure accurate gunfire. It’s a fair system that encourages proper firing hand positioning and ultimately makes you feel more like you are taking on a tremendous challenge.
Music is the soul and essence of the game, and thankfully, Harmonix pulled some of its weight — being a massive influence in the rhythm game industry over the years — to deliver a grade A soundtrack. In the Early Access version, there are ten tracks, each featuring a prominent artist in the electronic scene, such as Afrojack and Alison Wonderland. Each track just feels good — both to listen and shoot targets to — and overall rounds out the EDM-fueled game with various genres between.
The game is a blast — both literally and figuratively — and looks amazing. The neon ‘cosmic arena’ is colorful but is muted enough to let the targets pop off the background, not to mention the depth added by it being a VR-only game. Audica’s combination of osu!-similar placement of note objects for you to shoot around the arena and rhythm-adhered timings of Rock Band with the addition of 3D makes it a perfect fit for VR and overall an exhilarating game to play.
Check out Audica for yourself now on PC in Early Access on Steam and the Oculus Store, and follow Harmonix on Twitter for more information. The full version of the game featuring more than twenty-five tracks is scheduled to be released this Fall.