For arena shooter adepts, Toxikk embodies the form, brazenly seating its appeal right beside hallowed greats such as Unreal Tournament and Quake. For everyone else, it looks like a bunch of trigger-happy space marines jumping around and caroming off everything like a martial arts film. However it’s perceived, the result is gunplay in its most primal form and—among other hopefuls—a promising continuation of decades-old FPS fundamentals of smart shooting and savvy strafing.
$19/£13 on Early Access currently gets you a pretty meat-and-potatoes selection of free-for-all and team deathmatch modes hosted on a single map named Foundation. Rounds support up to 16 players, but I’d say a good sweet spot hovers around eight—just enough chaotic firepower to balance moments of downtime to recover and strategize.
Toxikk seems threadbare, but I wager this was a deliberate decision by developer Reakktor Studios to entice vets and beginners alike with refined classic gameplay before unveiling further modes and additional battlegrounds in the future. That’s a development pattern both recognizable for Early Access games and something I’ve seen not work out well for full launches such as NS2: Combat. Still, Reakktor pleasingly swung into gear after launch, pushing out small patches (such as a recent weapons tweak) and sticking to a release roadmap.
But for now, one map is all that makes up Toxikk’s name. Foundation boasts wonderfully visible design as a collection of seedy interlocking alleyways twisting throughout a Hong Kong slum. It’s a recognizable cyberpunk theme of urban grime, towering skyscrapers, and neon signs blaring Chinese slogans. The Unreal Engine thrives on densely packed environments like this; on my 3.5GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 2GB GTX 670 home PC, I easily clocked frames in the 40-60 range with max settings during heavy combat and when just gawking around. I’m anxious to see what the larger, vehicle-based arenas will look like—the sample map, Twin Peaks, previewed on the official website already looks impressive.
Foundation’s layout also acts as an important proving ground for picking up basic movement and jumping skills necessary for topping scoreboards. Vantage points and crucial armor vests tucked into lofty corners are accessible by boringly running to them, but mastering moves such as double jumping and strafe dodging shortcuts a quicker path around. The latter serves particularly important use as a snap juke for avoiding fire, but it might take time to get used to the keyboard trickery: jump against a wall, then double jump away at the exact moment for the dodge. Pull it off, and you get to look really cool while nailing a multi-kill streak with your ninja reflexes. Bonus!
Most battles concentrate around glowing weapon spawns, as the starting Raven pistol works in a pinch but feels paltry compared to the punchier Violator assault rifle or Dragoneer flamethrower. Toxikk’s armory holds fast to the arena shooter mixture of ballistic, energy, explosive, and a single BFG-esque mega-gun. They’re all deadly enough, but I found frags came easiest when concentrating on a few weapons with mid-range power and good mobility. I greatly enjoyed using the Bullcraft shotgun and coupling its super-shot secondary fire with key strafe jumps to get into someone’s face. I liked swapping to the accurate Stingray plasma rifle for flick headshots against skilled opponents.
Yes, Toxikk also has a rocket launcher. The Cerberus will probably be the most fought-over spawn in small maps, as the splash is devastating in close quarters and slugging a rocket directly into a poor foe while dodging like a maniac always feels godly. Such easily accessible power is unquestionably attractive, so I spotted frequent camping behavior in the alcove where the Cerberus appears—antithetical for a high-movement FPS but a glorious scenario for flanking practice.
Equally fun to the mayhem was the breadth of keyboard and mouse control options available for fine-tuning. Tweaking dodge key tap delay (a nifty setting for reducing or increasing how fast you need to double tap a key to dodge) and mouse acceleration or sensitivity brought extra competitive edge where needed. There’s even the choice to dampen acceleration with an offset slider so the crosshairs won’t fly everywhere if used. The FOV can go up to 120, which should cover most visual preferences and monitor setups. Sadly, options are inaccessible during a match, an annoying inconvenience if I wanted to rapidly adjust something. It’s definitely a downside having to back out completely to the main menu to get to the preferences again, but hopefully a later patch will remedy this.
At this point, Toxikk stands as a strong but basic FPS. I wouldn’t say it’s deserving of a pedestal next to UT or Quake just yet, but I wouldn’t discount its potential either. When more modes and maps eventually appear, it’ll start standing out more strongly. Its reverence for old-school shooters makes for one of the best-looking deathmatch primers of today, so I and my smoking shotgun barrels are eager for more.