Combat is fast and frenetic. You'll be dodging acid-spewing enemies and melee attackers as you try to take out robots and spacemen aiming to gun you down, and the enclosed spaces you'll spend most of your time fighting in mean you'll regularly be jumping over crowds of enemies, trying to get some distance between yourself and the horde. Some of the game's more interesting mechanics don't reveal themselves early on, like the ability to hock an explosive barrel down a corridor at the advancing tide or the multiple modifications to the different ways weapons can fire, whether that's making your submachine gun fire three shots at a time or making the rounds explode at short range. These upgrades differ from weapon to weapon, and like everything else in the game, they're randomly scattered around the place.
One of the more interesting mechanics is that every enemy you kill remains where they fall, spraying blood all over the place. This serves as a handy map to navigate the warren-like maze of the levels but also acts as an antidote to a poisonous orange acid that many opponents will spew onto the floor. The game hides this detail away, as with most of its good bits, giving the impression that the game is much worse than it is. It’s to the game’s detriment, because despite a tedious mediocrity that hangs oppressively over the game's design and the nostalgia it's trying to smother you with, it remains satisfying to jump on for a brief 15-minute stint and try to wrestle your way through a couple of levels.
It's a tough game, too, which won't necessarily do it any favours, and the randomness combined with poor signposting and the fact the game seems nearly obsessed with hiding its cool features away from players initially makes it a tough game to love. It's hard to really work out, after several hours, which strategies, weapons, or tactics yield the best results. Worse, it's nearly impossible to work out any metric that might lead to players being able to strategise for better results outside of sheer performance.
Strafe then, is a curio. A shooter out of time boasting to pair 90s nostalgia with modern sensibilities. It's a game with a gender slider in the options but also one that allows you to select a video option that boastfully tells you it will make the game look worse — and it does.
It's interesting, but fans of the modern shooter would be better served with 2016's Doom. Those of you hoping for a return to the classic era of FPS games will find that Strafe just isn't "enough" to draw you in. The controls aren't tight enough, the levels aren't well-designed enough, and ultimately the game just isn't good enough.
But you'll get an evening of fun out of it, at least. It's inferior to the games it's looking to ape, but you will at least get to circle-strafe to your heart's content.