PRODEUS REVIEW – The Gist of Games

Here’s the gist of Prodeus. This is a boomer-shooter style FPS for up to four players, more on that later, developed by Bounding Box Software and published under Humble Games indie project. It released for PC and your usual consoles in late September 2022 following about two years of early access. I even made a video way back before the world got sick talking about how excited I was for this release, and I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint. Loosely, the game’s plot centres on a corrupted soldier fighting their way out of an alien hellscape, but it probably

won’t surprise you to hear Prodeus’ lean is on its gameplay. It’s hard to describe how a retro-aesthetic doom-inspired shooter plays without sounding repetitive, but in terms of entrypoints, Prodeus stands as a great introduction. With a massive arsenal of weaponry, including several dual-wield options, you blast your way marathon-man style through hellscape and alien-steel levels, fighting off chaotic pixelated hoardes in search of powerups, secrets, and eventually the exit. Prodeus operates with standard first person shooter controls at high speed, including modern expectations of momentum and freelook. The aesthetic may be inspired by the raycasted shooters of yesteryear, but

the core gameplay feels timeless. Rocket launchers, laser cannons, a whole swath of firearms, each with an alternate fire that often changes its functionality. Making the shotgun into an explosive launcher, or

the laser into a railgun for sniping. I’ve said it plenty in the past, but my favourite part of these classic style shooters is bobbing and weaving through enemy attacks. Physically dodging fireballs and bullets instead of needing to take cover, speeding up combat to compliment bouts of exploration and secret-hunting. Hidden treasure troves in this game, unlike back in the day, tend to house hints to their

home. No shoving your head into every wall to find an invisible button, if you see an area that looks suspicious, chances are there’s something hidden there. In fact, in all ways, this game’s level design alone is noteworthy. Sure, aesthetically it’s the classic steel blocks and craggy rocks, but the deeper into the overworld you go, the more creative the maps get, both with visuals and layout. Peppered along the way with ‘trial’ levels, testing your proficiency with specific weapons or movement. Collectables in stages sans colour-coded keycards for doors, will carry over, generally speaking. So stocking up on

all your various ammo types, health, and armor is always a good thing. And rather than traditional checkpoints, you can sort of… save your location through Nexus Points. If you get ganked by an explosive barrel or boss monster or something, you’ll respawn at that point with full health, without losing any level progress. Enemies and map elements remain unchanged. As someone who doesn’t care for spamming quicksaves and quickloads in shooters, difficulty-wise I find this to be an excellent compromise between death being meaningless or losing progress entirely. And it gives the player, or players, a chance to experiment

with different approaches on troublesome areas. Prodeus’ maps feel as though they’re designed around showcasing an idea or mechanic, be it working with chokepoints through traincars, raising the water level for a vertical climb, hiding from a sniper as you snake your way towards the centre. In a strange way, this emphasis of trying something new every level, as opposed to mixing and matching a set of core elements, reminds me of the level design in Super Mario World. You may only see an enemy type or building block used in one single stage, but its explored thoroughly. Like a

showcase, which then encourages the player to use the built-in map creator to mix and match those mechanisms themself. There’s a workshop full of user-made levels on Steam, hell, Bounding Box even published a guide on how to port maps made by users on desktop over to consoles, since as of this recording the level editor is exclusive to the PC release. The importance placed on creativity, rather than JUST nostalgia, is what sets Prodeus aside from and above other games of its genre. On a more subjective level, the visuals strike the tune of quake or doom with a

more modern rendering technique. While the pixelated, clay-model esque sprites and low-rez filters may be a visual downgrade to some, to me they’re so beautifully and faithfully integrated as to capture the imagination of limitation in the 90s. Like an FPS version of Octopath Traveller or Live A Live’s art-style. And moreover, if it’s really a bother, the filtering can be fully disabled, or intensified if you’ve got a CRT to make use of. Having enemies be fully rendered models that are pixelated to replicate 2D sprites in a 3D environment, to me, is inspired. Even the bombastic soundtrack sports

a MIDI variant, for those truly looking to punish their ears and relive their better years. Now, I’ve been singing this game’s praises for a spell, which YouTube’s algorithm tells me is undesirable, so I’ll get a little harsh for a moment. Prodeus’ automap, is aesthetically pleasing, very in depth, and, frankly, UNUSABLE to me. There is so much visual clutter and semitransparent material that I can barely understand what I’m looking at. I find myself not needing a map, the level design doesn’t sing labyrinth crawl in the key of Doom 2. But nevertheless, I find the map to

be a nuisance. Maybe that’s just me. Now, at the time of making this video, Prodeus was still in early access, and only on release did the game’s four player co-op drop. So I can’t speak for its stability or functionality. If you’re looking to blast through a boomer shooter with friends, Prodeus should be able to scratch that itch. Though your mileage may vary. I wouldn’t exactly say Prodeus is… a difficult game, either. Between the power in the player’s hands and the generous checkpoint system, an experienced FPS player shouldn’t meet much resistance. So if you’re looking for

tough-as-nails oldschool difficulty, that’s not really the point here. Contrarily, frankly, sometimes this game can be a little much on the senses. As in, so much blood splatter, gibs, loud punchy sound effects, bright flashing light. As someone with photosensitivity, I can only play the game for about an hour or so before needing a break. Something to keep in mind. Regardless, at $25, or on Game Pass, Prodeus’ replayability, multiplayer, supply of usermade content, and inspiring creativity bring a new life to a frankly overbloated genre for a reasonable price, particularly given inflation. Both a timewarp to the best

memories and aspects of the boomer shooter, and an excellent place to onboard those new to retro FPSes, I’d recommend Prodeus to people who like the look and vibes of 90s shooters, with less intense challenge and better accessibility. And I still think it’s better than Doom Eternal, take it easy!

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