Chroma is a music-based first-person shooter from Harmonix

For many, Harmonix is synonymous with "music." Their games have defined the genre, with iconic hits like Karaoke Revolution, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Dance Central under their belt. While creating new ways of experiencing interactive music is the company's modus operandi, it's difficult not to be completely taken aback by their latest title: Chroma is a music first-person shooter. Before explaining how Harmonix plans on integrating music into the shooter genre, it's important to point out that it is a FPS first, music game second. In fact, Harmonix is co-developing Chroma with Hidden Path Entertainment, the team that most recently made Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. That's to ensure that the admittedly-inexperienced Harmonix ensures that shooting feels right and good. focalbox Chroma is best summed up as a class-based multiplayer game of point-capture, with two teams trying to hold onto as many points on the map as they can. The individual abilities of each class are what make Chroma a music-shooter, and not just any ol' shooter. For example, the Engineer's gun will only fire if you're able to follow along to a beatmatch path similar to something from Rock Band. Other classes will be largely familiar to shooter players, but they all feature musical tweaks. The "Sneak" class features a sniper rifle that can shoot at any time, but doles much more damage when fired on the down beat. The "Tank" class has a guided rocket launcher whose missile can change trajectory on every down beat, making it a tricky weapon to avoid. Finally, the Assault class--while largely geared towards gamers most comfortable with shooters--features grenades that only explode on the downbeat. Unfortunately for Chroma, while the musical twists are novel, Harmonix hasn't done enough to really push the musical aspect of the game. Instead of being a shooter first, it should be a music game first--otherwise, one can't help shake the "me too" feeling of the game. There are a lot of multiplayer shooters out there, and Chroma doesn't feel inventive enough to stand out yet--even with its musical gimmick.

Chroma looks a bit like Tron right now, but the look will evolve

One complaint I had while playing the early alpha is the lack of genuine team play. I noted that there isn't a feeling like you're "part of a band." The abilities of each class don't necessarily compliment each other, and the Support class doesn't offer anything new at all. As expected, Support can heal other players--but wouldn't it be more interesting if they could alter the music in some way? Harmonix is not unaware of the hurdles Chroma will face as they try to find the right balance between music and shooter. And that's why they're pursuing Early Access: to get feedback from players early on in the game's development. A closed alpha will begin this month, with a public beta opening later this year. The goal is to have a wide release "this fall," whilst incorporating feedback from critics and fans. Chroma will also introduce yet another milestone for Harmonix. Not only is the company breaking new ground with a new genre, but the game will be free-to-play. Of course, the team promises to avoid "pay-to-win" scenarios, but the economy is something that the team will undoubtedly experiment with during the beta. What's clear is that there's even more potential for "cosmetic" goods in Chroma than in other shooters. Not only should you be able to buy new ways to look, but you should be able to buy new ways to sound on the battlefield. While our first glimpse at Chroma was very unpolished, it's fascinating to see Harmonix take such a bold leap for their next game. A music shooter is something I've long thought about--and it's exciting to see someone take a stab at it, while bringing all of us along for the ride.