Feature Article

Fast-Paced Quake-Style Shooter Strafe Doesn't Skimp on the Gore

Strafe turns a Quake-like shooter into a roguelike.

Numerous genres have gotten their version of the Spelunky-style roguelike, and mid-90s first-person shooters are next. Strafe combines the fast pace of Quake--developer Pixel Titans' primary inspiration--with the one-death-and-you-restart tension of roguelikes to create a game that is satisfying to play from the get-go.

Strafe opens with you choosing one of three weapons before jumping into a series of randomly generated levels for some fast, old-school, strafe-jumping FPS action. The weapons, all of which have alternate fire modes (like the machine gun's grenade launcher), are upgraded over the course of your run. These upgrades last only until you die, though; you start each run from scratch. The only thing linking your sessions is the progress you make toward unlocking shortcuts to later areas of the game, a la Spelunky.

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While I didn't get to see or play around with a huge number of weapons, those that were present were great fun to use. I wasn't able to play enough to get a sense for how impactful the upgrades will be. Even without them, I was still able to rip through the waves enemies I encountered. Using the super shotgun is particularly enjoyable thanks to Strafe's terrific ragdoll effects that see enemies go flying backwards, head over heels.

Although levels (including layout, enemy placement, and so on) are dynamically generated, that doesn't mean what you're coming across is entirely random. There are locales upon which each set of levels is based, and these come in a specific order. Pixel Titans hopes this will provide a sense of narrative progression to your otherwise randomized journey.

Damaged enemies spew blood everywhere, quickly covering almost every inch of rooms and corridors. Both blood and the gibs that deceased enemies leave behind are persistent, which serves to provide the game with some of its over-the-top style. More importantly, it also marks where you've already been--if you get lost, you can use these player-created landmarks to help orient yourself in the level. As an added bonus, those gibs can be shot into even smaller bits, and they'll sometimes get stuck to walls where they slowly slide down to the ground.

Enemies, too, have more going on than you might realize at first glance. The blood spilled throughout a level is a key part of Strafe's aesthetic, but it does have a function beyond that and serving as a sort of waypoint for where you've been. Certain enemies explode when killed and cover areas with what is essentially poisonous yellow blood. Touch it and you'll take damage. You can, however, avoid this damage by killing these enemies first and then killing other enemies with regular blood afterward, causing their harmless red insides to cover up the dangerous stuff.

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There are other elements that, on the surface, sound like expected features but have some sort of twist. There are exploding barrels, sure, but these can be picked up, carried around, and thrown like a grenade at enemies. (This poses a risk, however, as being shot causes it to explode, putting you on the other end of the familiar exploding-barrel dynamic.) Weapon upgrades are scattered around, but you'll have to shoot containers to get them, causing them to leap into the air for you to collect. Special weapons like a powerful pistol can be found around the map, but they have a limited amount of ammo. Use up all of the pistol's ammo and you can then throw the gun itself at an enemy to kill it.

It would be easy to look quickly at Strafe and assume it has little going on beyond recreating the feel of Quake inside the framework of a roguelike. In fact, there's a lot more going on, and it does everything it sets out to do well. Strafe's developers laid out its three core pillars as speed, gore, and secrets. From what I've played, it nails the first two. Secrets weren't on display, but if they're up to par, Strafe should turn out to be a great, highly replayable package.

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mrblondex

Chris Pereira

Chris Pereira is GameSpot's senior editor and global head of news. He likes Twin Peaks, The X-Files (before it was bad), and serial commas.

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