When we first saw images of Shockrods we got quite excited, considering we're talking about a Quake-inspired arena shooter featuring flashy-looking cars with guns on them. Moreover, it's coming from the developer that brought us Carmageddon. What's not to like about Shockrods in theory? Sadly, the concept sounds better than it is, with the remaining potential for fun evaporating with a practically non-existent player base.
In its core, Shockrods is a 6v6 or 12 player free-for-all multiplayer arena shooter that emphasizes fast-paced duels in a couple of bite-sized maps where victory is determined by quick aiming, dodging bullets and using your weapon pickups most effectively. We can see why the developer compares Shockrods to classics such as Quake and Unreal Tournament. The game is free of all of the usual modern additions to shooter games, such as elaborate class systems, progressive unlocks, loot boxes and a battle royale mode.
Shockrods keeps things simple throughout the game. You start out with a default car, which you can cosmetically enhance and there are lots of other cars to unlock with credits earned by playing. All of this is purely cosmetic, as any weapon upgrades need to be picked up during a game. Shockrods features five game modes: Death Match, Team Death Match, Capture the Flag, Shockball and Golden Ram. Shockball is a bit like Rocket League, where players need to protect the ball carrier and score at the opponent's goal. Golden Ram has all players fight over a ram pickup that lets you kill enemies and score points by ramming them.
So what's playing Shockrods like? The first thing we didn't expect is that the cars in the game don't actually move like cars. They're capable of strafing sideways and move pretty much equally fast in all directions. From a gameplay perspective, Shockrods could have left out the cars altogether and just pick regular characters instead. The weapon pickups aren't many, but everything you'd expect such as shotguns, railguns and rocket launchers is there. The six maps ranging from snow-themed to futuristic and underground are also nothing remarkable. They work and provide enough variety from an arena and scenery perspective.
Unfortunately, during our time playing the overall experience was kind of average: there's enough classic, fast-paced shooting action to be enjoyed, but the game never really gets interesting. Because the cars don't require steering like a normal car, as for example in Rocket League or the Twisted Metal series, the gameplay doesn't really feel like a car combat game. It also means there's no learning curve in playing Shockrods. Neither the weapons nor the game modes manage to really suck you in. It's all pretty straightforward and the way we're used to from other games.
The saddest part though is the fact that nobody seems to be playing Shockrods in the week after its Steam release. This means we were playing against bots all of the time. Now, AI-controlled bots can still make for a fun experience, but these are the kinds of bots that feel that driving in small circles holding your team's flag is a cunning strategy, or think pretending you don't exist will keep them alive in the Golden Ram mode. With an empty server, the game itself also feels empty with nothing to explore, really. Considering this is from the makers of Carmageddon, why aren't we battling in an arena where we can boost our weapons by running over a few grannies? That would be fun even when playing against bots.
All things considered, Shockrods fails to be enjoyable at its price point. It's a fairly average experience, suffering most from the fact that there's no one to play with online. Our experience might have been different in a fully-populated server. On the other hand, we feel there's just too little in Shockrods to justify its purchase at a relatively high price of 25 euros. It might fare better on Apple Arcade, where its relatively simple gameplay might suit mobile players more.
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