Strafe is a first person shooter game that pays homage (if not royalties) to the original Doom and Quake. Players take on the roll of a “scrapper” aboard a ship known as the Icarus. Things have gone horribly awry, of course. It’s up to the player to blast his or her way out, spilling as much alien blood as possible, using a variety of weapons.
Check out the 1990’s style graphics and physics. The game’s creators, Devolver Digital and Pixel Titans, repeatedly reference 1996. So I reckon it’s riffing more on Quake than Doom. The former was released in 1996 while the latter came out in 1993.
Strafe is so last century. It’s almost as basic as BASIC. Players start with a choice of three weapons: shotgun, assault rifle or a laser sniper thing. The base gun never runs out of ammo and inflicts decent damage.
After choosing your main weapon you use a jump portal to enter the mission areas to begin the splatterfest. And I do mean splatter; the game rates you on gallons of blood spilled.
The storyline is only slightly more complicated than Tetris. You start on a smallish level, shoot enemies and splatter your way to the end. Jump to the next, larger level and repeat.
Strafe lacks the lore found in ye olde video games. Players face nameless enemies wielding generic weapons. There’s no HyperBlaster or Railgun to nerd out about.
Like the games it’s meant to emulate, Strafe is extremely fast-paced. And thanks to today’s technology, you don’t have to wait for Godot while it loads.
Older gamers will notice there aren’t many useful items lying around (like it usta be). No armor shards or health packs. Fear not! An obliterated enemy may drop scrap parts. Stuff these bits into a machine et voila! You create armor, health ammo and other helpful upgrades.
The recycler thingie is cool but it’s a bit of a pain. Given the game’s speed, you have to clear the area before you make armor or whatever. Otherwise, a horde of pixilated baddies will tear you apart from behind. Wait. That doesn’t sound right . . .
Another technology-related upate: bullet casings remain on the floor and blood drenched walls that stay drenched. That’s a step up from the earlier games (i.e. Quake). And yes, those things to the right of the assault rifle that look like square versions of the Combos you grabbed from the gas station are, in fact, ejecting casings.
Enemies come as a variety of rapidly moving creatures and machines or permanently fixed items. The main enemy: a fast-moving humanoid with mutated orangutan arms that does melee damage. That thing is supported by walking turrets and some other guys wielding an energy pistol. Not to mention some weird vent-like objects on walls that release a crystal that follows you and does damage on contact.
Players who came of game in the 21st century may be surprised to learn that Strafe isn’t linear. Every time you die and re-enter the combat area, the map has changed. You can’t save your progress. You die, you start over. So your goal is to survive as long as you can. I haven’t made it to the end so I can’t tell you exactly how the endgame works.
Guns and Gear
Like the game’s predecessors and similar to the more recent arena-style Quake games, upgrade weapons can be found scattered around the levels. These weapons include a very powerful nail pistol, grenade launcher, rocket launcher, a green orb throwing energy weapon and probably some others that I haven’t discovered.
Once you pick up a weapon you can switch between that weapon and your base weapon at will — until you run out of ammo in the “pick up gun.” At that point, you can use your secondary weapon to beat the living crap out of your enemies. In some cases, you can throw the empty weapon at the bastards, whereupon the weapon will explode like a grenade.
Explosives in Strafe do significant splash damage, including you if you’re stupid enough to deploy them at close range. Other than that, weapons aren’t modifiable.
Bottom line: Strafe looks like Minecraft met Psycho but it works in a cheesy, over-the-top throwback kind of way. The kind of game that’s best used to blow off some steam with relatively mindless violence, rather than worry about plot, strategy,
Authors: Devolver Digital and Pixel Titans
Release Date: 9 May, 2017
DLC Content: Soundtrack $6.99
Platforms: Windows, Mac, PS4 (If you can find one of the 1000 “Windows box” editions rather than downloading the game on steam it comes with 10 Pogs, cheesy sunglasses, a 3.5″ floppy disk, the soundtrack on a cassette and some other swag. As noted repeatedly before, these dudes REALLY love 1996 and based fact that you get none of that swag with the PS4 version they
Price: $19.96 (See how much they love the 90’s?)
Ratings (out of five stars):
1996 level with minimal upgrades. Amusingly, sometimes textures are better than they should be.
Think Quake 2 but upgraded. Slightly smoother than the original but basically geared for fast paced splatter of your enemies. I haven’t been able to get it just right but a double jump may be possible.
Story: * *
Pretty basic. Trapped on a spacecraft, gib everything.
Playability: * * * * *
It’s a throwback and it’s darn well done.
Customize This: 0
Again, at best, Quake 2. Throwback folks…throwback.
Weapons: * * *
Disappointingly generic, but they work as expected.
Balance: * * * *
Strafe is difficult to master due to the lack of unattended armor and med kits. (Food dispensers are few and far between and don’t heal much). The recycling device is a cool and PC (geddit?), but players are rarely flush with health and armor.
Overall: * * *
Strafe lacks the immersive feel of Quake and Doom. There’s a reason games have evolved beyond simply shooting attackers and blowing shit up. Then again, at $20. Strafe’s celebration of pixilated gore qualifies as cheap thrills. On every level.