Arena shooters seem to be slowly making their way back into mainstream vogue. Quake Live (though controversial) certainly has its fans, while Epic Games recently got us all excited with the announcement of a fourth Unreal Tournament. Still, we certainly don’t object to more choices, and with that in mind a wild new shooter has appeared in the form of Toxikk.
Built using the Unreal Engine, the game prides itself on taking cues from shooters from the late ’90s to the early 2000s, and deliberately eschews gimmicks, classes, realism or anything “military”-inspired. There’s no cover system or auto-healing, no one-shot kills and “realistic” damage; it’s an old-fashioned frag-fest which relies on player skill and item-hunting, just like in the days of Unreal Tournament LANs.
Of course, no arena shooter is worth its salt unless it has a sadistic arsenal of completely goofy, over-the-top weapons, and thankfully this is where Toxikk shines. Though generic names such as “shotgun” and “pistol” are avoided, what we have here are the standard tropes of this genre, including grenade launchers, sniper rifles, rocket launchers and even a pretty sweet flamethrower. All weapons have alternate fire modes and there’s no arbitrary carrying limit. A rather nifty little touch is that weapon spawn spots are marked, complete with a timer indicating when the firearm will reappear. It’s good for players unfamiliar with a particular map, even better for campers and best for ambushers.
So the shooting’s fine, but how does the environment pan out? Pretty good, from what I’ve seen: from wide open spaces to typical cramped corridors, the maps feature the kind of flow that was present in the very best levels that Quake had to offer. Behind every filigree, inlay and nook there’s an item, a weapon, a jump pad or just a chance to escape. You’ll always be on the run, and much like Unreal Tournament, players can augment their movement with double-jumps and dodges, executed by the very same key combinations. There are even vehicles to use, so if you fancy yourself an Unreal aficionado and you know how to handle yourself in Epic’s shooter, you’ll feel right at home in Toxikk.
There’s just one snag. As of this writing, there are only two maps and three game modes in the Early Access release, two of which are simply deathmatch and team deathmatch whilst the third is a CTF (Capture the Flag) set in a snowy gorge complete with futuristic vehicles. Granted, the maps are truly pretty and expertly-rendered, but still, the current asking price of $19 (around R200) seems a bit steep for such little content. Nonetheless, I recommend keeping an eye on this one, as it looks really promising and is updated on a regular basis. The developers promise many more maps, game modes and mutators, and are keen to listen to fan suggestions. Check out its Steam page here, but be advised it’s Windows-only.