I knew very little about STRAFE coming into PAX this year. Joey was kind enough to send me the 90s themed trailer ahead of time to get me ready for our first appointment of the weekend. I wasn’t ready for what I was about to watch. Feel free to search for that trailer at your own risk.

Check out STRAFE’s official website, the setup they were running on the show floor, and their other gameplay videos. You’ll catch on to the shtick pretty quickly. Marketing gimmicks don’t translate to in-game ones, though. This game is an over the top lover letter to the old school shooters we grew up with.

The guys over at Pixel Titans remember a day before game developers decided shooting while sprinting was no longer fun. Realism be damned. There’s no reduction in accuracy, or crazy camera shaking as you pick up speed in their game.

Despite the purposefully dated graphics (which allows for higher performance, and a faster turnover time for content), the game is rather gruesome. If it weren’t for the speed and freedom of movement, the experience would be entirely different.

If you removed the strafe hopping, and replaced it with cover fire, the game would be gritty, tiresome, and flat.

Thankfully there’s no time to think about the insane amount of blood splatter as you hop along, ripping off shotgun blasts and tossing exploding barrels at groups of enemies. Game Designer Thom Glunt mentioned wanting to make the game feel like a playground, and I completely agree.

I was happy to experiment and take risks early in our play session, just to test the limits of what I could do. Failing didn’t feel so bad when I came back through and realized how much damage I’d done.

There are only three main types of weapons to start with, a machine gun, shotgun, and railgun. Each one can be upgraded multiple times including secondary fire modes. This adds to the sense of play as you explore and expand on each weapon.

Keeping up with one of the themes of PAX this year, the levels in STRAFE are randomized to keep each run feeling unique. To help you avoid getting completely lost, blood splatter and corpses are persistent so you know where you’ve been.

The idea is to always keep you moving forward. Power-up crates can be shot before you reach them, propelling the item into the air so you can catch them mid-stride.

The well thought out, and wonderfully executed mechanics combined with the small details express Pixel Titans’ love for the genre. Seeing their game first set the perfect tone for the rest of the weekend.

STRAFE is slated for an early 2017 release on PC and Mac.