Ratz is a pure, simple little game that’s aim is to relive the glory days of the twitch shooter.
The term ‘Instagib’ hearkens back to the time of Quake and Unreal Tournament – especially the latter, in which a mutator of the same name was available – turning every shot into a one-hit-kill (instant giblets). This, combined with the Shock Rifle, spawned almost an entire new game unto itself as droves of custom lobbies sprouted up allowing only primary fire Shock Rifles with the Instagib mutator. Even the current Unreal Tournament in development has lobbies dedicated to it.
The Shock Rifle, for those unaware, has a primary fire mode which is both unlimited in range and hitscanning – making it the perfect choice for Instagib. Whatever is under your cross-hair when you fire, no matter how far away it is, dies.
This is Ratz. The entire game is built around that pure concept of the ultimate in twitch FPS gaming – and it’s bloody good fun. The only divergence from this formula is the addition of ‘rocket jumping’ as a secondary fire for your gun. Rocket Jumping is another throwback to the Quake era – the art of shooting a rocket at the ground just as you leave it for a jump to use the blast to propel yourself into the air. Done right it can be used to throw you onto far-flung objectives and get the jump on enemies – and on Ratz it is the difference between an average player and a great one. It gives a freedom of movement not felt in shooters for a long while without the use of jetpack gimmicks. Offenders, you know who you are.
The game runs extremely smoothly despite being quite attractive; especially if you like neon. Really like neon. The maps are lovely, everything from scaled-up offices and children’s bedrooms to simple figure-of-eights with deadly water hazards. Plenty of terrain is around and every map takes advantage of the rocket jump mechanic.
Control and graphics settings are expansive, and I very much like the inclusion of a 90 to 150 FOV slider.
I didn’t check out controller support as it’s the sort of game where using a controller, no matter how good you are with one, will see you rarely leaving the bottom of the leaderboard.
There is a small amount of customisation and progression in the game, but purely in the form of aesthetics – such as changing the death animation dealt by your gun (all of which are brilliant) or the shape / colour of your beam. As much as I like unlocking things, I feel that this is enough as much more in the way of progression to soil the purity of the concept.
Ian and I had a good few games on each of the (surprisingly varied) game types, and it’s safe to say that I took quite a thrashing until I got my eye in during the last few games. The balance of it is beautiful – all the character models are exactly the same size and shape – so there can be no hitbox complaints – the netcode appears sound and all players wield the same weapon. Everything is purely down to skill. It does mean that the game has a pretty steep learning curve, especially when you’re new to it and you’re faced with some of the better players around.
My only complaint really stems from that – you will almost always find a player or two in your server who sit head and shoulders above the rest, simply due to the currently tiny playercount. This isn’t a failing of the game or the developers, it just needs more time for the playerbase to mature and more people to get online. It’s only going to get better going forwards. I could certainly see a competitive scene arise around the game, which would certainly help.
Ratz succeeds in it’s goal, presenting a very fun, challenging multiplayer experience that reminds the player of what a pure FPS game can be and how much enjoyment can be taken in it’s simplicity.