We’re back in the fantastical world of retro FPS, or what’s referred to by a majority of players as indie boomers shooters. Games that attempt to imitate the feeling of old school shooters while also offering a unique spin so that they can innovate and formulate their own identity. Last time we covered Dusk, and while it wasn’t particularly innovative it did a lot of things right. Combat was viscerally fast paced, the environments and atmosphere also kept you unnerved yet amazed, and it managed to present an interesting story there not really being one. Dusk is as close as you can get to shooter perfection and is one of the best first-person shooters I’ve played in recent memory. I needed to quench the thirst I had after beating Dusk, so I searched around for the next best boomer shooter worth looking into. A lot of people have been begging me to play Ultrakill, and while it certainly looks fantastic, I don’t know if I’m exactly ready for it. Better save that one up for last for when my shooter skills are just right. I kept looking around and little did I know physical copies for last year’s Prodeus came out two weeks ago. It wasn’t too expensive, and from what I’ve read this is considered one of the best entries in the genre since Dusk. I had to play it.
Picked Prodeus up last week and have been playing it for the past few days. Managed to beat the main campaign of normal mode and can I just say one thing? This is a f*cking good shooter! Is it as good as Dusk? Not quite, but I had an immensely fun time blasting through the damn thing. It’s incredibly well made, and you can tell the people who made care about the games that came before it. The two main developers behind Prodeus are Mike Voeller and Jason Mojica, both of whom were former devs at Raven Software. The studio behind titles like the Hexen series, the Heretic series, Jedi Knight, Quake 4, Singularity, and the 2009 reboot of Wolfenstien. Let’s try to forget they made that last one. At the time, Voeller and Mojica were helping out with Singularity and during development Voeller was having doubts about the company. Worrying about where it would go and the type of games they would make. Voeller left Raven Software and a few years later he got back in touch with Mojica to see if he was willing to work on an independent project of his. Voeller wanted to make a retro FPS similar to that of Quake and Doom. Two shooters that both of them extremely loved and respected. Mojica agreed, left Raven Software, and helped form independent studio Bounding Box Software. They got to work on their new retro FPS and along the way they managed to pick supporters willing to help. Josh O’Sullivan, a level designer for the Doom modding community, and Andrew Hulshult, who helped compose music for Dusk.
They started a Kickstarter for their new game, and it managed to gain a ton of support. They then launched it into early access in 2020, and ever since then they’ve been adding new content like new levels for the main campaign and much more. They even added in a level editor at launch so that players can use in-game assets and create their own gauntlet of doom. Their new game was titled Prodeus and when it finally came out in 2022, players were amazed. It was violent, dark, and above all extremely fun. Prodeus not only managed to become one of the best retro FPS in years, but one of the most promising ones. Standing tall since the early access release and adding in content no one was really expecting of it. Prodeus is a passion project much like all indie games trying to capture the feeling of all our older memories, and I’m happy I got the chance to play it. Today we’ll be talking about why Prodeus deserves your attention.
The war across dimensions has finally broken out. Two sides are leading the conflict and only one can prevail. The first is an army of demonic creatures that came from a burning hellhole. The second is a high-tech military led by an artificial intelligence named Prodeus. (By the way. Don’t go entirely off what I’m saying as some of this information may be incorrect.) Mankind is trying to fight as well but hopes of surviving are low as the foes they stand against are too low. You are one of many human beings attempting to survive. Fighting their way through every monstrosity thrown at you and even resorting to using your bare fist. Sadly, that’s enough as you are cut down by enemy fire. You awaken to find yourself somehow still alive. Reincarnated into the body of a high-tech soldier and being forced to fight for the enemy. You are a trooper for Prodeus and from now on you’ll be under his control. Fight, die, revive, and repeat. It’s a never-ending cycle of violence and you want nothing to deal with it. However, it looks like there’s still a bit of humanity left within you. Your free will still remains and you break from the chains of Prodeus. Using the tech of his soldiers against him and gunning down everything that stands in your way. Being the one-man army you are, you shall travel across the dimensions, locate Prodeus, and put a stop to him once and for all. All you need are guns, guns, bigger guns, and more guns.
Prodeus is a retro FPS and if you aren’t aware of how these games work then let me explain. You run around at high speeds and gun down every enemy surrounding you. Picking up a variety of items to maintain your ammo supplies, health, and defense. You have no regenerating health like a majority of other shooters, and due to how foes are always closing in on your position you can’t just hide in one spot or behind a wall. You have to keep moving and fight aggressively. To combat these ferocious enemies and lack of safety you carry a multitude of guns. Say goodbye to two weapon restrictions and say hello to an arsenal the size of a crazy hunter’s gun locker. Every gun functions differently than the last and when used during the right scenarios they can make easy work of enemies. The pistol is your starting weapon, but you unlock a combat shotgun good for close range combat. Dual assault rifles to move down a row of weaker enemies, a rapid-fire plasma rifle to electrify foes, a rocket launcher, and much more. Some guns are stronger variants of guns you used before and utilize the same ammo type. The chaingun may have a charge up spin and consume ammo quickly compared to the assault rifles, but they can dish out more damage faster and don’t have to be reloaded. The super shotgun has a smaller ammo capacity than the combat shotgun and a shorter range, but it’s stronger at a closer distance. Guns even have special mods and abilities attached to them similar to that of Doom Eternal or Half-Life. The super shotgun can fire four shells at once for one powerful blast, the rocket launcher has remote detonation, the grenade launcher has sticky bombs, and much more.
Levels are designed to be sprawling mazes where the pathway forward isn’t always unlocked. You may have to locate a button to press or a colored keycard to open the way forward. Expect there to be combat whenever a room is designed to be an open arena. Enemies come in a wide variety of flavors and a good handful of them can kill you quickly if you don’t know how to deal with them. You have these bull-like demons who charge at you like Pinky Demons in Doom, but if you use a close range weapon like the shotgun or just keep blasting away at them you can kill them easily. Snipers are best dealt with using a long range weapon, and chain gunners are dangerous to deal with close range so blow them up using explosives. Eventually they introduce these blue enemies and enemies with red shields, and you’ll have to use specific types of guns to cut down their defenses or deal increased damage. Combat isn’t the only thing Prodeus has to offer. You can drink around in each level and occasionally your dilly dallying will be rewarded. Hidden throughout each level are Ore Fragments and they can be spent at shops to purchase new guns and upgrades. The first things you can unlock are the super shotgun and plasma rifle, but you can pick up double jump boots or a dash module to dodge around. These upgrades are really expensive, so always be on the lookout for Ore Fragments or secret passageways that may lead somewhere. That’s about all I have to say for the gameplay. We’ll talk more about the design of Prodeus and why I love it during the last section of this review. Hopefully you may put an end to the eternal machine and be known across the dimensions.
Prodeus is an excellently designed first person shooter that kept me playing till the end. I had a lot of fun playing through the main campaign, and while there are a good handful of flaws that should be preventing me from giving it an excellent review score, what it did well was done so amazingly well it left a good impression overall. My first big complaint is that the main story is basically nonexistent. Well, that’s kind of a lie. There are descriptions before entering a new level that describe what is going on, but from what I’ve summarized it’s basically a retelling of Doom and Quake 4. A war occurring across the dimensions, you get transformed into a killing machine, and use your newfound powers to kill every single dimensional monstrosity that steps into your path. Same story we’ve seen before but told in a vaguer manner. The game doesn’t even have decent world building, presentation, or lore. Dusk had a very light narrative as well, but it managed to dive deep into a horrifying rabbit hole and get the player wondering what strange event or place they’ll end up next. All the while trying to understand what is going on and the mystery of the cult they are facing. Prodeus will have the occasional machine doing something in the distance and that’s about it. The story of Prodeus is not good, but that doesn’t hold the game back too much. All attention went to gameplay and for the most part it’s fantastic.
If you read my review of Dusk then expect my views on the combat of Prodeus to be just about the same. Giving the player access to multiple guns at once allows them to get creative or master the tools they favor the most. Arenas are open, but never feel too big or too small as they give the player enough space to move around in. Every enemy is dynamic and certain pairings will force the player to come up with new strategies on the fly. One minor aspect I appreciate that Prodeus does that Dusk didn’t was apply color to item pick ups. Items that restore health always glow blue. Shield pickups glow green and ammo refills have a yellow outline to them. Meaning if you need something you can just dart straight towards it without a second thought. Every single gun is really fun to use and packs a punch. My most favorite weapon in the game is the chaingun as you feel the weight of the barrel spinning violently and the bullets flying about. Prodeus has weapon reloading which is something I wasn’t expecting from a game such as this. The reason why boomer shooters don’t have weapon reloading is because it’s inconvenient and disrupts the flow of combat. However, in Prodeus it’s that big of a problem as it's quick and efficient. You get so much ammo back from a weapon reload that it shouldn’t be too big of a problem. So I think Prodeus lightly solved the problem of reloading, but it could have still been removed entirely.
The game has top notch level design as I never felt lost venturing through a level. They will get longer the deeper you get into the campaign, but to keep the pace up they always spawn enemies near the door in the passageway the player is supposed to take. Follow the combat, follow the fun, and follow where the game wants to take you so that you may not get lost and bored. I am very mixed on the whole Ore Fragment system though and how many upgrades can be unlocked with it. Everything you earn in Prodeus is great, but the cost for every item is extremely high. You need fifteen fragments for the first two guns in the shop each, and afterwards you may get character upgrades that cost up to twenty fragments. It’s hard enough looking for fragments as to a majority of players they are easy to miss. Significant upgrades such as the double jump and dash thrusters feel like they should have been picked up during your journey, but I have to say at least the levels aren’t built around them. You can stick to your starting guns, equipment, and still get really far into the campaign. No awkward platforming sections sprinkled in between fights or jumps that can’t be made without the double jump boots or thrusters.
I thought the environments were really bland at first. It’s the same industrial setting, gray color pattern, and darkness we’ve come to see from a lot of other shooters and including retro shooters. It did get impressive as the game went on. As I got dropped into these huge set pieces full of advanced machinery. Teleporting to alien worlds and seeing what has changed. Still depressingly dark and lifeless, but there were moments to be had. One big complaint I do have is with enemy sprites. I do think the sprite work for this game is amazing and how they tried to make them look as 3D as possible. My problem is how you can’t always tell exactly what they are from a long range. It also doesn’t help that a majority of enemies in this game use the same color pattern. I have a couple more complaints. I can tell the developers had fun making this the most violent shooter possible as blood splashes everywhere. Yet, this can be quite annoying when the screen is flooding with nothing but blood and you can’t see what is approaching you. Everything before the Prodeus Dimension was kind of easy in my opinion. I played normal mode which could explain a bit, but I didn’t die once during the first world’s stages. I thought it was consistently paced, but then I entered the Prodeus Dimension. This is when the difficulty started to curve, and the level quality started to dip. Enemies feel spongier during the Prodeus Dimension and afterward, and they flood you with wave after wave of foes in small arenas. It wasn’t too hard as I could infinitely resurrect myself nearby each time, but I could definitely see balancing issues. Speaking of resurrection, there seems to be no punishment for dying often. You don’t have to restart combat scenarios and can just pick off where you left off. You could say you won’t obtain the deathless achievement at the end of a level, but there seems to be no reward for obtaining bonus objectives. No fragments, nothing.
Prodeus isn’t perfect and I still prefer Dusk more for its aesthetic, presentation, level variety, and art direction, but I still really like Prodeus. Gunplay is great, combat is viscerally fun, and it didn’t overstay its welcome. It took me around five hours to beat the main campaign and I’d say that’s a good run for a chaotic shooter such as this. The game even has a multiplayer mode and map editor, which I won’t bother touching in the future, but I think is nice to have for players wanting to stick around. Bounding Box Software have done something special here and I hope they can improve with future games and any expansion they plan to add Prodeus which I know they will do. I strongly recommend Prodeus and in the end I give it a 9/10 for excellence at best.
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