For all of the retro-throwback FPS games that get made, it’s surprisingly uncommon to see ones that try to feel like Doom. They’ve been going after that Build Engine feel or trying to be like Quake a lot of the time, but the most famous entry in the genre often gets left alone. Prodeus thinks that’s stupid and is a hell of a lot like Doom. The game enters Early Access on November 9, and the developers promise an awful lot for Prodeus. Hellbound taught me to keep my expectations in check, but I didn’t really need to for this one. But the question stands: is it worth it?
Like a lot of games similar to Doom, I have very little idea of who you play as or what you’re doing in Prodeus. You’re some guy without a name who people will probably call Prodeus Guy, and you’re fighting in some kind of interdimensional war against demon-like entities and electric energy beings maybe? Who can say with any certainty? And I’m fine with that. It’s a ’90s styled FPS, so things can be kept simple without issue.
The game goes exactly like the classics all do. You’re dropped into a level and need to find the exit. Along the way you’ll fight hordes of gnarly enemies, pick up keys to unlock the path forward, and hunt for secrets. Levels are selected from a map screen that you can move around freely in. You can unlock shortcuts to other parts of the map by completing weapon-based challenges where you have to get through levels quickly while destroying all the targets. At this point in development though, there’s not much reason to worry about that. The current map just doesn’t take that long to navigate.
Pick your poison
Prodeus has strong level design, albeit not as strong as some recent stand-outs. They’re different enough from each other so that they’re memorable and have unique layouts though. The signposting is also very good, and it’s hard to get lost. At the same time, the levels are fairly large, but they tend to funnel you in specific directions. I played all of the available content and practically never had that classic Doom feeling of wandering around aimlessly until I happened to stumble on the way forward. It definitely feels like it was designed by professionals, which it clearly is.
The shooting is impressive, as is the handling of the guns. Prodeus is a quick game that gets downright hectic at times. The guns are all solid and fun to use, even if they can feel a bit too familiar at times. Nearly everything feels like a sort of machine gun, although each weapon has an alternate fire mapped to the right mouse button. One of the most interesting guns lets you land a beacon on a foe and then shoot it without aiming at it. It’s a riot. Everything feels snappy and accurate and the guns are fun to shoot, too. The sound effects are particularly excellent. The sound the twin submachine guns have is a highly satisfying report that feels substantial.
The visuals are much the same. Prodeus is fully 3D level-wise, but you shockingly have a choice between sprites and 3D models. I don’t have much of a preference between the two, although I suppose the sprites do fit the aesthetic better. The game aims for a lo-fi look and has all sorts of filters to lower the resolution. There’s also a HUD that shows your character’s helmet, but it can be turned off if desired. The game certainly allows for a lot of flexibility in regards to presentation. The enemies aren’t quite as interesting, however. They’re generally standard Doom-type enemies: zombies, dudes with guns, enemies that behave like imps, and pinkies. They’re reasonably fun to fight, but their designs aren’t memorable. They do explode into gallons of blood though, which gets everywhere. The game is relentlessly gory.
So, is worth it?
The only real negative I can levy towards the Early Access version of Prodeus is that it just doesn’t have much of its own identity. The setting, enemies, and weapons all look and feel rather generic, which doesn’t do the game a lot of favors. A couple of other things I would note are that when you select the campaign mode, it’s too easy to accidentally start a new game. I didn’t do that, but it’s on the top and I kept worrying that I was going to. Prodeus also has a weird checkpoint system. It works like Bioshock’s vita chambers. Once you hit a checkpoint, you’re sent back to it if you die. Everything stays as it was and you lose no progress. All you have to do to succeed is just keep going. There’s nothing that can stop you, which robs the game of a bit of its potential.
However, there are multiple optional challenges per level that require not dying and finishing under a certain time, killing every enemy, and finding every secret. These offer an incentive to replay levels if you’re so inclined, and the game seems like a good choice for speedrunning. There are also multiple difficulty options, so you can crank things up if you’d rather die more. The checkpoint system still lets air out of the tires, regardless. There is a single arena battle level with no checkpoints, however, which I appreciated. I hope they add in the option to use checkpoints like most other games do instead.
Even though Prodeus is only just now entering Early Access, it has a surprising amount of content. The available levels will likely take players five to six hours to get through, and there’s more on the way. You can also make custom levels if you like. Naturally, you can play other player’s custom levels as well. Weirdly, you’ll have to make an account to use any of those online features though, which I found strange.
Despite the more generic leanings and overall familiarity, it’s an entertaining, well-designed FPS that most people who are fond of the genre will have a good time playing. With more content to come, it’s very easy to recommend. I’d say the Early Access version of Prodeus is very much worth it. As long as you don’t mind making that account. Why can’t it just be tied to my Steam username, Bounding Box?