Every year I watch Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) and every year I am mesmerised by the skill on show. Did you see the speedrun of Resident Evil 2 done on hardcore without being hit?
But every year I also say to myself, I’d love to try something like that one day. So, imagine my delight when I got the chance to play a game that has been fully designed for speedrunning? A game you can speedrun without having to learn the intricacies or every minute detail? Now that sounds much more like my kind of thing.
Warstride Challenges borrows heavily from DOOM (2016) in having you running around with reckless abandon, shooting all manner of aliens in the face. On top of this is a speedrun mechanic that really entices you to improve your best times and compare them against the rest of the world. But there are also worthy AI opponents to fill your leaderboards up if you don’t have any real friends playing along.
Most levels take less than two minutes to complete, with the earliest ones clocking in at shorter than ten seconds. To keep that momentum going, Warstride Challenges doesn’t bombard you with tutorials to begin with. Instead, you are given a gun and a single enemy, and it builds up from there. You will unlock new enemies, abilities and of course, weapons as you progress, each with a handy tutorial beforehand to help you get to grips with it.
Even said tutorials will grade you on how quickly you complete them. Levels are all graded with bronze, silver, gold and DPG medals. My understanding is a DPG medal is one of the developer’s best times and stands for Dream Powered Games, the name of the creators. With a bit of practice though, even these times are attainable.
And practice you will get as each level has five tiers of difficulty for you to play through. These difficulty options do keep things varied enough by changing enemy placement or having you play a mirror of an earlier difficulty. The issue arises though when the game forces you into playing these before allowing you to progress. Each of the three chapters has a Special and Arena level after every five levels but these are blocked until you unlock enough medals. These can be any colour, but you will need more than you would earn by simply playing each level once. In a game where momentum and going forward is key, these gating methods feel more noticeable.
Speaking of momentum, simply running through the levels will not be enough. Not many first person shooters include a speedometer, but Warstride Challenges does. Running is good, but jumping and sliding is even better. And once you learn a route through a level and when you can throw a jump or a slide in, your movement becomes quite rhythmic, with the occasional tap to fire your gun in order to blast an alien’s head off.
The medals you earn and the collectible skulls you find also feed into unlocking other levels. As well as the three main chapters set in different environments and five variations of each level, there are also replayable tutorials, specially designed Big Fun Levels and challenging Bonus Levels all to discover. You’re talking easily over 200 levels to go at, so having a good UI to navigate them easily is a must. However, it’s where Warstride Challenges biggest issue is.
It is clear that Warstride Challenges was designed for PC first, and we know that because the menus are a bit of a mess. Cycling through which level you want can only be done using left and right, choosing the difficulty is done by moving up and down on the highlighted level, and then viewing the leaderboard is on the right stick only. All this information is visible at the same time, but without the use of a mouse to easily navigate it, the UI feels bloated when using a controller.
Also, the pop-ups announcing on screen a new enemy or a weapon feel a bit like a free-to-play mobile title. Cheap and cheesy, but with the added annoyance that you can still navigate the menus behind them and sometimes select the wrong level because of not being able to see properly.
If over 200 levels doesn’t feel like enough, Warstride Challenges also features community made levels from the PC version. Or it would do if many had been produced. As of writing, I was able to download one level but now the list is completely empty. It also doesn’t look like console players can create levels themselves.
There is also a multiplayer mode too, where you can select a curated playlist and play with up to seven others. Each level has a time limit where you can repeat the run as often as you like to post your best time. After each round points are awarded for those with the best times. It has the potential to be a lot of fun, but unfortunately, the servers are lacking players at the moment.
For fans of the recent DOOM games, BPM: Bullets Per Minute and Metal: Hellsinger, Warstride Challenges is very much in the same vein: Heavy weaponry against aliens that are wanting to be blown to pieces all whilst some tasty metal rings through your eardrums. The speedrun element of Warstride Challenges helps differentiate it, but it is lacking in polish compared to others. Clunky menus are the big issue on console but the lack of online players also hinders the game. Although that is far from the fault of the developers.
Warstride Challenges is worth trying if you like others in the genre, or if you are looking for a gateway into the world of speedrunning.