STAFF REVIEW of Warstride Challenges (Xbox Series X)

Friday, December 8, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Warstride Challenges Box art If you’ve been yearning for a fast paced twitch-like shooter akin to the new DOOM games or even classic Quake, then you’re going to want to take a hard look at Warstride Challenges. With speedrunning as its backbone and fast reaction times an essential skill, strap in for a new type of challenge, 3 to 30 seconds at a time.

It’s you versus the clock in bite sized challenge rooms back to back. Blast enemies, traverse jumps, hit switches and make it to the end before time runs out. You’re competing to not just finish levels, but to do so in the quickest time possible, proving your skills with online leaderboards for bragging rights. With some levels only a couple seconds long, can you master it and find the most optimal path? Every fraction of a second counts.

There’s no need to worry about remembering some big story or reason as to why you’re doing what you’re doing, Warstride Challenges keeps things simple and pits you versus levels back to back. That’s it. There’s no story whatsoever, so just focus on beating levels as you unlock them to continue forward towards harder challenges. It’s all about climbing those online leaderboards, proving you’re the best there is on each level, if that’s your thing of course. With speedrunning being its main focus, you’ll simply focus on that, honing your reflexes and memorization of levels as you move from one to the next.

Each level’s premise is simple, to unlock the exit you need to kill every enemy and hit all the switches. That’s it. Sounds easy right? You’d think so when levels are generally anywhere from 3 to 30 seconds long, but there’s some serious challenge here, especially if you’re actively trying to reach the top of the leaderboards. Each fraction of a second counts, so the slightest non-optimal shot or movement can destroy your ranking. There are a few bonus stages later, like surviving waves of enemies and such, but the majority of your time is going from stage to stage, as each one unlocks when the previous is completed or you have enough medals to progress.

If it was as simple as simply running to the exit as fast as possible, that’d be no problem, but since you have to ensure every enemy is killed first, then things get a little trickier, especially when harder enemies appear in the later stages. Stages start out simple enough, almost being a straight corridor, maybe with a corner or two, but blast the enemy near the door and boom, you’re done. Later on though you’ll need to search for levers to pull, opening up new paths and having more enemies assault you before you can head to the exit.

There’s a variety of weapons you unlock along the way, from standard pistols to rifles, SMG’s and more. Do you quickly swap out your better gun as you leap across a chasm to save your limited ammo of your better guns for harder enemies, or shoot multiple grunts by maybe exploding a barrel nearby? While your goal is to simply get from A to B, everything in between is what will determine your time, even down to the smallest choices.

If you’ve played the previous DOOM reboots, you’ll have an idea as to the overall feel of the game, blasting any demons and monsters in your way. Add the classic Quake twitch-like reflexes needed and that’s what Warstride Challenges is essentially. Bunny hopping allows you to gain a quicker momentum, but you need to time these mini jumps to not hit a wall and lose your speed or possibly overshoot your jump across a gap. You can slide through low pathways, blast blocked doorways, swing across chasms and more, all at breakneck speed.

When you inevitably die or run out of time, simply retry the level again, working to better your time. Maybe you beat the level but only got a bronze medal for your time. Feel free to reply any level as much as you want, especially if you want to crack the coveted top 10 of the online leaderboards, but goodluck, those speedruns are on a whole other skill level.

Even if you’re like me and don’t have the quickest reaction time any more, you can still enjoy Warstride Challenges. Sure I wasn’t competing for any top 10 leaderboards, and sometimes I was happy simply getting through a level in time, but those that are highly competitive will surely have plenty of content to get through. ‘Easy to pick up, hard to master’ certainly applies here. Thankfully there’s also a limited ‘slow-mo’ you can use that not only slows down the movement speed, but time as well, so you can perfectly aim a difficult shot if needed.

I will say, when you have a run that goes well where you’re picking off enemies from afar with single headshots, making jumps smoothly, and getting those great times, the game feels fantastic. Once you get on that ‘zone’ and hone in on a level after memorizing where all the enemies and switches are, you feel like a pro when things just go right.

Most levels will unlock the next once completed, though you’ll eventually reach stages that you’ll need a certain amount of medals to unlock, forcing you to go back to previous stages to better your times on the harder difficulties. That’s right, each of the levels has a number of different difficulties, slightly remixing each stage, not simply making the time requirements shorter. Even though you’re replaying levels, they feel new on each difficulty, so it doesn’t become as tedious as I expected.

Maybe you need a break and need something different to do as a change of pace? Every level has a hidden skull to find that will unlock bonus levels, so there’s always a reason to go back to older levels. I will say though, after an hour or so playing straight, I felt exhausted. You’re constantly moving at a breakneck speed and I was so hyper focused that it weighed on me after a while. My fingers certainly felt it, because you know, pressing the buttons harder clearly is how you’re supposed to do it. The difficulty generally ramps up slowly, but there were certainly a few spikes out of nowhere that took a dozen or so restarts to complete as I did my best to memorize every enemy and lever placement.

Shoot, duck, bunnyhop, jump, swing, use powers, slow-mo and even utilizing a dedicated 180 degree turn button means you’ll constantly be moving, lining up shots, swings, slides and jumps. Combat feels exhilarating when you get into that groove and you feel like a pro when it goes how you intended. For every stage completion like that though, you can expect a few dozen restarts, crashing into walls, falling into pits, or not finding that last enemy, unable to finish the level and running out of time.

The later stages do become quite difficult, not just with the time constraints, but having to shoot enemies while swinging, or doing a 180 to blast a monster that spawned behind you as you’re in the air. Sure it becomes frustrating trying to do this a few dozen times in a row, failing each time, but once successful, it feels incredibly rewarding. Quite a few times I felt like there was absolutely no way a level could have been completed any quicker, only to be humbled by seeing the online leaderboards.

While there’s no direct multiplayer, the Nemesis Mode is a very clever way to compete against friends and the community. You can choose a handful of different players, add them to your Nemesis list, and every stage you play, you’ll see their ghost in your game. You could even add your favorite streamers or anyone you know that plays to compete directly against them. I did this more to see what paths and routes they took, improving my strategies. Knowing I was slightly ahead of a nemesis felt rewarding, or seeing one ahead of me forced me to focus just that bit harder to be better. There’s no better feeling than beating a nemesis of a friend by a fraction of a second, knowing they’ll probably try and do the same to you afterwards.

Warstride Challenges visually is impressive with its corridors filled with monsters that plays at a smooth framerate, though it’s honestly hard to appreciate much of it when you’re only playing levels for 30 seconds at a time, so hyper focused on your aim and jumping. Between stages you’ll head to a menu where you choose your Chapter and stage, though the menus are a bit bland. Audio on the other hand is fantastic, with a metal/rock theme soundtrack akin to DOOM, though not quite at the same level of kick-ass. The weapons feel impactful with every shot and you feel hyped when the music kicks in at the right time, especially on a smooth run.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Warstride Challenges, but it’s a well-polished speedrunner for those that really care about climbing leaderboards and shaving fractions of a second off of runs. While it’ll be a little much for novices and those that don’t necessarily have lightning quick reflexes, those craving to run stages repeatedly to become the best in the world will surely have plenty of content to work towards for some time.

**Warstride Challenges was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.7 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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