There's been resurgence in classically-inspired shooters recently. Doom released in all its blood-soaked glory, Quake's return was announced during E3's press conferences, and games like Overwatch and Battleborn borrow classic ideas enhanced with their own flair.
Strafe is another such game drawing heavy inspiration from classic FPS games. It is presented with a flat, low-res visual style similar to PC shooters of the '90s, is built on levels consisting of winding corridors, has a wide range of enemies with varied attacks, and arms the player with a handful of powerful weapons.
During my demo, the developers were very careful to stress that Strafe was not a game fueled solely by nostalgia. And after watching it for a solid 30 minutes, it's clear what they mean.
Strafe is a combination of old and new, a genre mash-up of ideas and styles that, when combined, create a brilliantly energetic and fun experience.
It's a rogue like, meaning levels are randomly generated and players lose all progress upon dying, but slowly procure upgrades over time.
There's also a story to it, although it was stressed to me that story was more emergent than front-and-center. With a sci-fi backdrop, Strafe's enemies are a varied bunch made up of demons, robots, and other creatures with their own distinct personalities and specialties. Some rush the player immediately, while others stay back and launch projectiles.
They all have their own sense of dynamism, and many can be used to cause added mayhem in combat. One enemy with a spiky exterior shields itself as a rock, only activated when the player walks past, and when it begins smashing the ground with a vicious pounding move, it can potentially obliterate surrounding creatures. Small bugs will latch onto the walks and spit acid onto the floor, which causes attrition damage to the player if walked over. Everything serves a purpose, and the risk-reward factor of Strafe is a large part of what makes it so supremely rewarding.
Strafe's greatest strength is its mix of old sensibilities and modern ideas. It has a generous gore system--so much so that the player is rewarded with a number of gallons of blood spilled at the end of a level--whose penchant for painting the walls, floors, and ceilings with blood and viscera lends it the air of being a macabre Splatoon.
But the gore, like anything else, serves a purpose. Referencing classic shooters like Turok, the developers explained they wanted to mark up the walls to serve as a bread crumb trail for players to follow when navigating a level.
It's also equally dynamic. When body parts hit the wall, they stick and slowly drop down to the floor. Bodies can be further dismembered once they're dead, and the dark stains painting the walls helps to build up its brutal, tongue-in-cheek atmosphere. Strafe is a frenetic, awesome shooter whose timing and core philosophies could not be better.