Warstride Challenges is an ultra fast FPS with a rally racing spirit
Take this in your stride
Warstride Challenges is an early access FPS that takes the retro shoot 'em up and straps it in a rally car. Each level is a course with straights and corners and demons. You must cross the finish line as fast as you possibly can, but the chequered flag only springs up if you've turned every demon along the way into a red paste.
The game is an FPS for perfectionists and speed junkies who want to look cool. It's quite literally a time attack with a learning curve that's worth investing in. Sure, the littlest mistakes can mean disaster, but when you take time to master a course, it's a payoff you'll remember.
Rally games like WRC 10 or DiRT Rally 2.0 are more complex than you'd think. The sheer speed of the whole affair is, well, fast, but it's what's going on under the hood that really gets my gear stick shifting. Speed isn't determined by hard you smash the gas, it's about micro-management: how to brake efficiently, how you approach corners, preparation. You must listen to the bloke barking pace notes into your ear, his "four right long, tightens", and heed his warnings.
My first experiences with WRC 10 line-up almost perfectly with Warstride Challenges, which isn't all that surprising, really. Warstride is an FPS where you're forever engaged in a sprint finish. Levels are sporting events, unconcerned with story and character development and whatever else. It looks those pretensions in the face and declares "bore off!". You're a dude with a gun and you must reach the end of the course as fast as you can on one condition, which is that you must leave every demon dead in your wake.
Retro-inspired movement is the game's accelerator pedal. Bunny-hopping (well-timed consecutive jumps) is essential to blaze through stages at pace, as airtime lets you steer through winding corridors and across platforms faster than, say, a gentle jog. And you're not getting anywhere without precision aim. As you skid through levels, you'll need to down demons with a point and a single click.
If all this sounds intimidating, that's because it is. But don't worry! The game has some nice tutorial stages to get you well acquainted with the mechanics of movement. Aim isn't catered for at all, though, so that's something it hopes you'll pick up as you play. Which you will, as the game's perfectly tuned to bring out the competitive side in us all.
Mistime a shot or subtly clip a wall and it can totally derail your run. But with a quick press of tab, you'll instantly be warped back to the beginning to give things another whirl. This undo button is a perfectionist's dream, as it lets you master certain slices of a course and shave precious milliseconds off them. Maybe you'll shoot demons in a different order, or alter your jumps, or swap weapons. Do a quick slide, then jump, and you'll spring forwards with even greater momentum – maybe that's the key?
Everything comes back to preparation. Once you've learned a level's twists and turns, you trigger slow-mo there and... there! In longer runs, reloads become a calculated decision as you optimise magazine exchanges in the briefest pockets of free time. Weapon swaps become gear shifts, as large lads succumb better to shotgun shells or distant demons require rifling. When it all comes together on one magical run, the feeling of elation is unrivalled.
Especially if you've beaten your rival. Mine was a bot named Patrick, who I vowed to beat no matter how unfeeling or unthinking he may have been. I even raced against his ghost, just to motivate myself even more. And with my back in shrimp mode and my eyes bulging in their sockets, I kept challenging Patrick over and over again. Even in early access, the game has a bountiful number of levels and bonus stages, with new additions like buttons that activate doors, or smaller demons, or new weapons, to keep things interesting.
What's most impressive about Warstride is how it remains fluid, no matter what obstacle it chucks at you next. Movement is a joy, the weapons feel weighty, and the demons aren't so much enemies as they are carefully designed bullseyes. Everything works in tandem to make the game a gauntlet you want to invest yourself in.
Even if the slight mistake I made above ruined my day...