We love returning to the past to enjoy game genres as we did growing up. However, nostalgia sometimes can’t save these experiences from the lack of modern game design. When it comes to first-person shooters, classic DOOM brought the genre to a new age, but now it’s up to developers such as Bounding Box Software to take this blueprint and get it to a new era. Their title, Prodeus, is a gory action fest that delivers an addictive shooting experience and doesn’t slow down for a second.
Prodeus has a narrative, I think. The game shares bits of lore found throughout the campaign, but I don’t think anyone playing will care enough to pause the action to understand it. I suppose you can use the brief moments between stages to catch your breath, but the action rarely stops, and I believe that’s by design. Instead, you’re constantly moving forward in this adventure with the option to replay levels if only for a higher score or to find secrets and items.
With the main inspiration being games like DOOM and Star Wars Dark Forces, you’d think the developers would rely heavily on these gameplay elements to satisfy fans. But, instead, everything is turned up to 11, and players will find that inspiration is only the foundation of this over-the-top blood bath. Environments are brief but offer so much to discover for those with a bit of patience or a keen eye. While not every level was memorable, there’s always something to discover if you look around.
It’s ultimately these secrets that kept me on my toes. Many times, they’ll lead to Ruins and other items that are used to purchase new weapons. However, these also might contain different encounters that you weren’t expecting. I never felt like I went too far out of my way for a secret, and often, you are teased with a locked gate that you must figure out how to get past. Sadly, the stage design makes many early levels blend with little differentiation. I never felt like areas were reused, but the theme of hellish red and various dark corridors made it seem like I had been playing one stage for a long time.
The levels are quick; you’ll be running through guns blazing from the entrance to the exit. Sadly, not every stage is capped off with a boss encounter, and some just end with a hard stop, but it’s never a problem because seconds later, you’re in a new stage raining hellfire onto every demon in your path.
The gunplay in Prodeus is some of the best I have experienced in the genre. There are a few options in terms of difficulty and accessibility, which you may want to fine-tune depending on your skill level. This game can be exceptionally challenging. Throw in a bit of ammo scarcity and gangs of enemies that never stop trying to kill you. You have a heart-pounding experience that’s exceptionally difficult to look away from.
The player character’s mobility is fast, as if they’re gliding across the stage. This is needed for strafing or clearing a short platforming section. There’s an assist feature where players can lock onto enemies to make shooting more manageable. However, the range of weapons is questionable, as I can fire a shotgun and still hit a target from across the stage. The higher difficulties make things more challenging, but some liberties were taken regarding the effectiveness of the weapon types.
While ammo is limited, there are plenty of weapons to unlock and switch between. Dual machine guns, plasma rifles, snipers, rocket launchers, shotguns, and more. These guns are all good at clearing out enemies in style. I don’t think there was one weapon I didn’t enjoy using, and I appreciated how the developer crafted levels so that you can’t use the same weapon throughout the entire stage because you’ll run out of ammo at some point.
As gory and gloomy as Prodeus is, it’s an insanely pretty game. The graphics mirror retro shooters but with a 3D coat of paint. The particles fill the screen as you shoot down enemies. Sparks fly from your weapons, and blood splatters across the stage. All this happens while you listen to some of the most incredible tracks from composer Andrew Hulshult.
Other modes include co-op and competitive multiplayer with leaderboards to best your time and scores. A level editor is also available with tools to create maps to your heart’s content. However, given that I lack design skills, I opted to play through the community-created levels instead.
Prodeus is an excellent experience for modern and retro first-person shooter fans. The pure carnage of the gameplay and high replayable offered makes it a game that can be easily returned to in small bursts or long play sessions. The level themes may be limited, but if you’re here for a challenge and gallons of pixelated blood, you’ve just found one of the most addictive shooters of 2022.
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