I kind of wish Warstride Challenges was just called Warstride. It’s cooler, punchier, snappier, and that suits Dream Powered Games’ FPS much better. It’s a game about doing everything with haste and precision. It’s a speedrunner’s paradise – immediate, brutal, precise, and addictive.
I previewed the game on PC when it first entered early access and, while I could see the potential, it was lacking in options and variety. Now hitting consoles as well as PC for the full release, it’s a much beefier package and a ridiculously moreish game. Warstride Challenges most closely resembles Doom Eternal in terms of visuals and mechanics, but it’s kind of that boiled down to just the meat and steam. There’s no real story, no real context beyond a gruff drill sergeant type shouting at you in between tutorial missions and when you unlock a new chapter or game mode.
Warstride Challenges is a first person shooter with an onus on speed. Each chapter is broken down into bite-sized courses that take no more than 15 – 90 seconds to complete. Your goal is usually to kill every demon you see and get through the green exit door. Sometimes you’ll need to find a switch first, or activate a series of levers to clear the path, but the short stages are intelligently laid out so that repeated runs to improve your time and get better medals don’t feel annoying. You feel yourself getting faster, cleverer, more efficient with each attempt.
Jumping and sliding increase your speed, so you’ll be chaining these moves together along with a few little tricks such as a time-slowing mechanic and a shock wave that blasts through rickety doors, and instantly squibs enemies. Certain stages make different weapons available such as a shotgun, carbine, sniper rifle and assault rifle.
Completing a set number of levels in a chapter will make the next difficulty level available. You will need to play these to unlock enough medals to proceed, but thankfully there’s more to it than just tougher enemies. Higher difficulties add extra enemies, hazards and conditions, so perfecting a run on normal won’t necessarily translate to an easier time on Hard, and so on. There are also special stages that add new objectives like killing a set number of enemies, finding collectibles, blowing up barrels on moving platforms, or a combination of various goals to mix it up. These, too, come in various difficulty levels. The coolest element for me are the BFL stages. Big Fun Levels (a nod to Doom there) stitch the previous four or five stages together into one long run, and feel insanely satisfying to complete.
Repeating a level to beat your score will pitch you against a ghost of yourself, or you can create a Nemesis ghost who nails it almost perfectly and gives you something to chase. Failing that, multiplayer lets you race against the ghosts of friends or strangers from all over the world. The multiplayer mode also feels unique, as you compete not against players getting in your way, but rather against their ghosts. You’ll always know who you’re behind and ahead of, without meaty bodies soaking up your shotgun shells. Progressing your profile unlocks skins for you and your weapons or ghosts, as well as banners and profile images to equip just for the hell of it.
Warstride Challenges also looks gorgeous. The environments are pretty low rent, and you’ll be moving too fast to care about the enemy design (I genuinely can’t remember any of them bar the little explodey spider bastards), but the scattering of neon lights, ominous red glows, and sparkly particle effects work well against the grim backdrops to create an impressive aesthetic. Add to that a pounding, relentlessly aggressive soundtrack and you’ve got what essentially boils down to a time trial mode for Doom. And yet, Warstride Challenges doesn’t feel like it’s imitating anything.
Although level design isn’t my bag, there’s a whole mode here for those who love to design their own courses and set challenges for their friends. It’s a hugely comprehensive suite with which to build environments and set enemy patrols, traps, obstacles and locks. Whether you choose to build them or not, you can opt to play custom levels at any time from the main menu if, even if you just fancy a change.
If I have any complaints it’s that you are forced to replay levels a lot for medals. And while the set ups change on higher difficulties, the aesthetic of each chapter doesn’t, so the visuals can feel a little samey after a while. Also, having the slide mapped to L1 is weird, and I lost track of the times I wasted a Shockwave pressing Circle, or did an instant 360 because I pressed L3. Of course, you can instantly restart any level by hitting the track pad, and it does this with zero loading, just as Ghostrunner and Neon White do. It means that even when you mess up, you kind of don’t mind. Progression isn’t super hard either, as you can mostly get by on Silvers if you play every available level in a Chapter. But Golds and Platinums are much more satisfying.
Warstride Challenges is not just a boomer shooter, despite appearances. It’s an insanely tight and precise FPS speedrunner with great music, flashy visuals and one of the most addictive gameplay loops I’ve seen in the genre. The fact it’s not yet another pixel-art keycard-hunter also adds to the appeal. There’s a little too much visual repetition, but apart from that Warstride Challenges is just immensely compelling and endlessly fun – and an absolute must-play for FPS fans.
Fast and cathartic
Great, bite-size level design
Environments feel a bit samey