Posted April 28, 2017 by Daniel Kizana in Feature

STRAFE Hands-On Preview

1996 has been a BIG year in gaming. Those of us who could afford to shell out for an N64 have been playing Super Mario 64 non-stop since release, while Sony Playstation fans have had their hands full with Crash Bandicoot and Resident Evil, both making a splash on debut. Shoot-em-up enthusiasts have been spoiled for choice with Quake hitting the scene this year, as well as the glorious, three-dimensional return of everyone’s favourite badass, Duke Nukem. Wooah! Radical!

Seems like that’s all 1996 has to offer… not! If that’s what you think, you’d better talk to the hand ‘coz the face ain’t listenin’ (alright, I’ll stop). Bursting onto the scene at mach speed is STRAFE; an ultra-violent combat simulator with state-of-the-art graphics that will melt your face and some of the fastest, most gnarliest, most goriest gameplay ever seen on your CRT.

All jokes aside, debutant developers Pixel Titans have put an enormous amount of effort into recreating a 90’s gaming experience in STRAFE, borrowing the audio/visual fidelity and simplistic, purely skill-based gameplay of early FPS titles, but polishing the whole experience with some of the subtle enhancements and design finesse that have been developed in the 20 years since the game’s fictional release date.

I spent about 12 hours hands-on with STRAFE. That might seem longer than necessary, but I genuinely didn’t want to stop playing even once I’d seen enough for a preview.

The premise is simple; start fully equipped with armour and weapons, and trudge through multiple, procedurally generated levels filled with countless enemies to massacre. Along the way there are items, power-ups and secrets to find. Once you die (and believe me, you will die), you’re given a summary of how long you survived and how many enemies you killed, and then it starts all over again. Sounds pretty straight-forward, right?

I was immediately drawn into STRAFE‘s combat experience; a frenetic challenge in which I tried desperately to survive against hordes of enemies that charged, surrounded and overwhelmed me. Varied enemy designs and attack styles kept things fresh and forced me to develop a new mix of tactics for each engagement.

At the beginning of each run, I was gifted the choice between 3 basic weapons; essentially an Assault Rifle, a Shotgun and a Rail Gun. Each of these plays into their stereotypical firing style and are different enough that you’ll likely find one that works best for you and stick with it. Later in the run you’ll find a much wider variety of weapons scattered around the levels. These drops come with minimal ammo but offer a short-term variation in tactics that bailed me out of sticky situations later.. ‘My first-choice shotgun is useless at long range, good thing I have a few rail-gun rounds left.’ That sort of thing.

Controls are tight, responsive and an absolute joy to work with. Designed in homage to classic FPS games that worried less about realism and more about letting you sprint-jump around the place like a violent acrobat, STRAFE‘s control system offered the speed and fluidity needed to fling my character through its levels, escape dangerous situations and, with a bit of practice, dominate your opponents from all angles and elevations. Devs and community members have also hinted at the possibility of rocket-jumps and something called ‘plasma-climbing’, which I am not skilled or committed enough to recreate. However, if you’re that way inclined, the options are there.

Each of my runs through STRAFE played out slightly differently, as levels are procedurally generated every time. Forget titles of the past whose procedural generation resulted in a maze of identical passageways and flavourless rooms. STRAFE‘s levels are wildly varied, multi-story floor plans that are not only completely unique each time, but also retain a sense of intelligent design in that they are logically spaced out and easily navigated with landmarks.

Thanks to Pixel Titan’s attention to detail and passion for the genre, STRAFE is shaping up to be a hugely entertaining FPS romp that benefits from suitably lo-fi graphics, a synth driven power-metal soundtrack and combat torn straight from the classics. For those who, like me, grew up playing DOOM on their father’s lap, STRAFE harks back to a simpler time when we just wanted to blow shit up and laugh about how cool it was. I think that’s fantastic, and I’m glad someone is making this game.

Give it a go when it releases May 10th on Steam!

Our next preview will focus on Diablo, a new RPG title from a small, indy dev called Blizzard Entertainment. Not sure if it’s any good but we’ll see! Until then, take a chill pill, loser (I’m so sorry)!

Daniel Kizana



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