If you have played Beat Hazard in the past few weeks you might have noticed that it has received a bit of a makeover. New game modes like competitive and cooperative multiplayer were added, as well as many small fixes to the overall game. Then a couple weeks ago Beat Hazard Ultra was released. This $5 DLC gives you different enemies, different bosses, and more intense action overall. This affordable piece of downloadable content breathes even more life into a game that is already great to begin with.
For those of you not familiar with Beat Hazard, it is a top-down shooter similar to Geometry Wars and Super Stardust HD. You can use either your mouse and keyboard, or an Xbox 360 controller if you prefer the dual stick style. The game runs on your own music, so instead of following a story all you do is pick a track and start playing. Both the power of your guns and the enemy’s speed will fluctuate depending on the speed and intensity of the song, so if you’re playing a song by Dragonforce or something similar, you better stay sharp.
If you are expecting cutting edge graphics, you won’t find them here. However, Beat Hazard Ultra is still a very pretty game. The background flashes to the beat of your music and sometimes it can get intense to the point where it’s hard to tell what’s going on. I flew into many an enemy ship when the music was at full volume. Speaking of enemies, there are plenty of new ones this time around so you won’t be fighting the same old ships over and over. Some of them can be pretty nasty too.
It is entirely up to you whether you like the soundtrack or not in Beat Hazard. The whole point of the game is to use your own songs, and it definitely succeeds in that aspect. However, there are a few sound effects here and there, although you aren’t likely to hear many of them in the heat of battle. One that I have grown fond of is an alarm sound that goes off when an enemy ship is getting too close, but it also seems to go off when nothing is happening as well.
As expected, Beat Hazard Ultra plays very similar to Beat Hazard. You choose a game mode and a song, and you start playing. The point is to get the highest score possible, so score multipliers and power-ups drop when you defeat enemies. The game play is very similar to the other top-down shooters on the market, but that doesn’t stop it from being any less fun.
Since Ultra is an expansion, there are some new things thrown in. The first thing you will notice are the two new game modes called Boss Rush and Chill Out. Boss Rush stays true to its name and pits you against waves of the game’s various bosses. There is a time limit for each wave, so if you don’t kill one in the amount of time given, the next one will just barge right in and crash your party. Chill Out is for when you don’t want to worry about your pesky lives ruining your fun. You have unlimited lives, a lot of power-ups and the songs keep cycling until you quit. This also acts as a nice training mode to get used to the new weapons. While the spotlight might still shine on survival and the single song games, Boss Rush can get really intense when you start getting into the upper waves, and Chill Out is a nice addition for players who might just want to listen to a new album.
The next thing you will notice are the new enemy ships hell bent on taking you out. Instead of fighting one or two types of ships for an entire song, you will be greeted by some new regular enemies, as well as new bosses. For example, there are ships that will drop homing mines that will zero in on your ship unless you destroy them, and there are enemies that will try to pull you toward them with a tractor beam if you get too close. As far as bosses go, the standard ships are boasting some new weapons, but the serpent boss is the new kid on the block and he is actually pretty intimidating the first time you see him.
When you start playing Ultra you might not see much of a difference in terms of your arsenal. You have your standard guns and your super bombs, but you have to unlock the rest of your weapons via the perks menu. Along with the weapons, the perks also include things like more multipliers dropping and other things to enhance your game. Once you unlock the weapons and get used them Ultra becomes a completely new game. Boss giving you trouble? Hit it with an ultra beam and take out a couple guns. Surrounded by enemies? Send out your homing missiles and take out a good amount of them. Overall, the additions added to Ultra really give new life to the game.
In addition to the added content, Beat Hazard has also received an update that does not require. This update features online play as well as some tweaks here and there. Online play works well, but so far it seems like people aren’t rushing to play online. Your best bet is to play single player and wait for a notification that says someone is waiting to play online and all you do it press a button to join them. The only downside is that both people have to have the same song to be able to play it. Mostly it boils down to playing the tracks that come with the game, so you’re going to be listening to a lot of techno and electronic music. While that’s a downer, I can understand them not wanting to get into any legal trouble.
As far as tweaks go, there are a couple of changes to the game play. On a low note, they had to tweak the scoring system, so you have to either delete your old score and start fresh, making perks easier to unlock, or divide your score by a certain percent and maintain your position on the scoreboards. It’s not a huge deal to me, but it might be for someone who holds a high score. On a high note, the enemies now move to the speed of your song, so you will be able to visibly see them speed up and slow down as the song changes tempo. Also, the controls have been changed, so the ship feels less “floaty,” giving you more precise movement.
Beat Hazard Ultra adds a sizable amount of content for five dollars. The new game modes, enemies and weapons make what was already a fun game even better. The new game play mechanics don’t hurt either. Even though the online feels limited and the old scores got washed away, Beat Hazard Ultra is still a lot of fun, and fans of the game won’t have any problems getting their old scores back.