For a not-so-brief period in the 2000s, FPS games completely dominated the games industry. Everyone was trying to create their own shooter to chase the popularity of the genre, but not many really pushed the boundaries beyond the modern military shooter style that most games chased. Luckily, these days the industry is a bit more diverse, and we’ve seen every style of FPS game explored at one point or another. Warstride Challenges is an FPS with the very specific style of being broken into sections that last no longer than 30 seconds unless you’re really bad at it.
Warstride Challenges comes to us from new indie developer Dream Power Games and was published by Focus Entertainment, which is at least a little bit interesting. This game purports to be a combination of Doom and Trackmania, and Focus Entertainment is the company that published the Trackmania games originally but doesn’t anymore. Either this is a weird coincidence, or someone at Focus Entertainment is trying to prank Ubisoft (and who can blame them.)
When it comes to the storyline there’s not too much to tell. There technically is a storyline going on, but it’s barely present at all, and effectively doesn’t really matter. You’re here to play short bursts of level as quickly as possible, not to follow a complex narrative. Each map is relatively small, and your only goal is to get to the end of the map as quickly as possible, taking out every enemy on the way. To aid you with these, you automatically run, but go even faster during sliding or leaping. You also have a variety of weapons at your disposal, from pistols to assault rifle, as well as various special abilities.
The main goal in Warstride Challenges is to finish each of the levels as quickly as possible, with each level typically only lasting a few seconds if you do it right. There’s a minimum goal that you have to meet to succeed at the level, and some of these time limits can be pretty tight. You basically have to make sure that you’re moving at top speed as soon as the level starts, and that you actually hit and kill an enemy with almost every shot that you’re firing off and even then you’re only going to get bronze. Luckily, the process of restarting the level is immediate and you can do it by just tapping tab, so there’s plenty of room for you to experiment with your approach to each specific challenge.
As you unlock more levels, you gain access to different weapons and more powerful abilities. When you start the game you’re basically running and jumping through levels, picking off basic enemies with a pistol. A few levels in, you’re having to swap between a pistol, rifle, and shotgun, as well as make good use of your ability to slow down time and force-push enemies or doors to make it through ever-more-complex levels. The levels and enemies themselves aren’t anything particularly to write home about, but the main point here is supposed to be the gameplay, and that works incredibly well.
If you’re the sort of person who is very good at FPS games, this is going to be a dream game for you. Getting everything right in a level feels fantastic, especially as you leapfrog through rooms in a split second, head-shotting every enemy before landing and blasting a powerful enemy in the chest with your shotgun. It’s almost like beating a tough boss in a FromSoftware game, or getting by some of the later levels of classic Castlevania titles. You have an enormous rush of satisfaction with success, despite the hours that you’ve spent perfecting each individual level.
All that said, there is one part of the gameplay that I personally feel lets Warstride Challenges down a bit, and that’s the speed mechanics. As I mentioned above, you have to jump or slide to get your top speed. So when you’re in the air or sliding under an obstacle, you’re moving much faster than you can run. If you’re the sort of person who spent the early 2000s bunnyhopping through Blood Gulch, then you’ll probably have no problems with this. However, it just ends up feeling like you don’t have enough control over your character as you play the game. It’s difficult to line up headshots and accurately predict distances between obstacles during gameplay thanks to needing to be in the air at every possible second and it just ended up feeling annoying. I really wish that the game had a ‘run’ only mode where you could just stay on the ground and focus on lining up shooting correctly.
These issues are exacerbated by the jump mechanics themselves. When you start the game, you have to choose between variable jump distance, and fixed jump distance. With variable distance, you’ll go further in the air the longer that you hold down the button, while with fixed distance you’ll always jump the same amount no matter how long you press the button, and neither of these are great solutions. Variable distance makes it impossible to get a handle on how far you can jump, while fixed distances make it much more likely that you’ll accidentally jump into a ravine on an otherwise perfect run.
So, aside from the gameplay, does Warstride Challenges have anything else to offer? Not really, but the gameplay is strong enough that the lack of anything else isn’t the negative point it might otherwise have been. The enemy design is sort of bland, as is the environmental design, but since it’s effectively just set-dressing to make your run-and-gun gameplay experience more enjoyable, it’s not liable to cause you an issue. Bear in mind, that you’ll probably be speeding past most of these guys anyway, so as long as you can use their unique silhouettes to identify what type of enemy you’re dealing with, then you should probably be fine in the end.
Personal issue with gameplay choices aside, Warstride Challenges has the potential to take the hardcore FPS community by storm. Watching someone who has truly mastered the gameplay run through a map in this title is going to be insane, and in many ways, this feels like a game that was designed to be just as enjoyable to watch as it is to play, maybe even more enjoyable in some cases. No matter what, the game shows a lot of promise from a new developer, and they’re surely going to be a group you want to keep your eye on in the future.
TechRaptor covered Warstride Challenges on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.