As a sideline appreciator if not regular player of Beat Saber and Pistol Whip, Against gave me a glimpse of what I was missing out on.
Turns out all I needed was a pair of brass knuckles, buckets of blood, and the ability to chop enemies in two. Who knew?
Against is another instantly arresting idea from Stride developer Joy Way, a studio that seems to have a penchant for building fast-fire, wholly engaging prototypes. It’s Beat Saber by way of Sin City – a gritty neo-noir art style sees you relieving enemies of their limbs and painting the town the wrong sort of red.
While the ultra-violence might be what catches your eye, it’s Against’s curious mix of gameplay styles — mixed with a pretty killer demo track — that gives it legs. When stationary, bad guys either charge towards their inevitable slaughter or attack from afar with dodgeable throwing axes and bullets that need to be sliced. But, just when you think you’ve got it figured out, the game sets its sights on Pistol Whip, launching the player forward and alternating between melee attacks with knuckles and timed shots with pistols. Again, an obvious imitation, but Joy Way then borrows from itself with Stride’s wall-running and jumping thrown into the mix.
Not especially innovative, no, but the Steam Next Fest demo is still a lethally good time when you get into the flow and the riffs kick in. Against feels frenetic and effortless at the same time, oozing style and knowing exactly when to push you a little further than you’ve already been.
Perhaps its best moment, though, is the end level boss with a giant spider – the animation for which is incredibly impressive. It suggests that Joy Way is working towards something more targetted and personalized than just a set of new tracks; a rhythm-based action game in which each level introduces its own unique set of challenges.
Not a bad set of first impressions, then, but I wonder just how much capacity Joy Way has to sustain it. The developer is still working on the Early Access and Quest versions of Stride and is also working on another prototype for Steam Next Fest called Outlier. While it’s impressive to see the team rapidly iterate like this, I’d prefer that Stride was seen through to completion and then Against given the team’s full attention.
For now, Against is due to release later this year on Steam. You can try out the demo for yourself right here.