“Prodeus” Review

 

As an old fool, I often like it when people kick it old school. Especially when those people are game designers making a first-person sci-fi shooter. But I also love modern conveniences. Which is why I was excited to try out Prodeus (Xbox Series X / S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC), which the good people at Bounding Box Software have described as being an old school shooter with modern touches.

Prodeus

Like many ’80s- and ’90s-style games…

that are actually made in the ’20s, Prodeus fully embraces the former’s old school visuals. So much so that, if you want, you can make the game look like it’s being played on a CRT TV. Though even when you choose the most modern options (and there are a lot of visual options), the game still looks a relic from another time. While you can opt to have the characters be 3D models, the default setting has them pixelated, and with such crude animation that they look like cardboard cutouts someone is pushing from behind.

Even funnier, while the characters are pixelated, the environments are far more detailed. So much so that Prodeus kind of looks like Doom 3 if they accidentally used the character models from Doom 2.

This is rather fitting given how Prodeus‘ action makes it a clone of both the original Doom and the 2016 reboot in much the same way Metal: Hellsinger is a clone of those games: they’re spiritually similar, and almost as much fun, but put enough of their own spin on things to be unique. Y’know, like how the Uncharted series owes a lot to the original Tomb Raider games…and how the later Tomb Raider games owe a lot to the Uncharted series. You glide around the world like an Olympic skater on a freshly frozen lake; you never have to reload; and you replenish your health and armor by running through brightly-colored icons, which you’re constantly on the hunt for given how you’re usually outnumbered to such an extent it’s a wonder how you made it past the first level. Even the HUD looks like it was made by someone paying homage to Doom.

The enemies in Prodeus

are also rather Doom-ish. Not only are there undead soldiers and demonic types who throw balls of energy at you, but there are also big floating spider-ish creatures who looks like Doom‘s Cacodemon’s second cousin twice removed. Though my personal favorites are the suicidal starfish.

Weapons in Prodeus also work in rather Doom-y ways, albeit more Doom Eternal than the original games. Like in that shooter, the left trigger is used for an alternate fire mode. The shotgun and the lightning-shooting Chaos Caster release more powerful charged shots, the Grenade Launcher switches from frag grenades to the sticky kind, while the pistol becomes a machine pistol.

Though there are some exceptions. When using the Shredders, a pair of submachine guns, the left trigger controls the left gun, though holding down the triggers does make them work differently than if you just pull one trigger once.

This is not to say Prodeus stole everything from Doom. For one thing, there are no power-ups, which means you never go berserk and use your bare hands to tear people apart like you’re Wolverine on a coke bender. You also don’t get to wound enemies to the point where they glow and then give you health and armor if you do some kind of finishing move.

Prodeus also differentiates itself…

from the older Doom games (though not the newer ones) by having some elaborate levels, which are not only multi-layered but also intricate and full of secrets.

More importantly, it does something Doom never did, pitting you against enemies that you can’t take out right away or easily. In one level, a sniper takes pot shots at you, and your only recourse is to wait for them to shoot, and then move from behind cover to another safe spot, while also taking out the enemies coming at you.

It even, in a nod to modern expectations, has a very slight (and totally optional) aim-assist, as well as the ability to careful adjust your controller’s sensitivity in ways you couldn’t do back in the day, at least not on console.

All of these elements — the modern controls, the old school visuals, and the action that seamlessly mixed elements from both eras — make Prodeus an exciting and engaging shooter. And while the developers clearly owe a debt of gratitude to the people who’ve made the Doom games, it is still unique enough to be more an homage than a rip-off.

So much so, in fact, that while I played this just days after finishing the equally Doom-esque Metal: Hellsinger, I never once felt like I was repeating myself.

And that was just from me mostly playing the campaign solo. You can also play it co-op with up to three friends, or take on those friends, and other people, in such multiplayer modes as “Team Deathmatch,” during which this takes on a rather Quake-like vibe of simple kill or be killed.

As fun as Prodeus may be, though,

it’s not without its problems…though none are all that problematic. For instance, while the default button layout doesn’t have the reload button in the usual place — “X” on the Xbox controller; square on the PlayStation — this is easily fixed in the option menu.

Unfortunately, you can’t fix the lack of a melee attack, or the inability to swap between your current weapon and your previous one with just a touch of a button. Though, thankfully, your character is smart enough to know they should automatically swap weapons when the one they’re using runs out of bullets.

Though this brings up an oddity about Prodeus: It really, really wants you to use your shotgun. Not only does it usually switch to it when you run out of ammo in any other gun, but you seem to find more shotgun shells lying around than any other ammo. Which isn’t terrible; the shotgun is an effective weapon. But so are the Shredders, the Chaos Caster, and your pistol when you use the auto-fire mode, and they’re a lot more fun to use.

The checkpoints are also annoyingly spread out, even if you play this on “Easy,” “Very Easy,” or “Ultra Easy.” Though I do appreciate that they not only included seven difficulty options, but that the “Easy” ones are actually easy, while the “Hard” ones — “Hard,” “Very hard,” and “Ultra Hard” — are really hard.

Prodeus also does a terrible job of telling its story. I still have no real idea who I was, where I was, why I was there, or what I was supposed to do aside from kill anyone who prevented me from getting from one level to the next. Not to sound like a bad actor, but what’s my motivation?

Prodeus

But, again, it hardly matters.

Thanks to its frantic but fluid combat, its tough but fair enemies, and how its multi-tiered levels mean attacks can come from anywhere, Prodeus is an old school shooter that doesn’t require you to be an old fool to appreciate.

SCORE: 8.0/10

 

 

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