Prodeus Review – This Shooter’s the Crimson King
Developer: Bounding Box Software Inc.
Publisher: Humble Games
Available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S
Some things never go out of style. No, I’m not going to give any examples. Well… except for a very specific one; first-person shooters. I’ve been blasting away in first-person for over 25 years now, and when the pieces line up right, there’s nothing quite as savagely satisfying as a really good first-person shooter with a beefy weapon set, and smart level design. Duke Nukem 3D, the Quakes, Half-Life, Unreal Tournament, Timesplitters 2, Battlefield Bad Company 2, Bulletstorm, Titanfall 2, and DUSK have all captured that for me in some fashion over the years. Prodeus, by Bounding Box Software, joins those hallowed ranks.
What’s interesting about Prodeus is that it joins that list by dredging a variety of moods, styles, and dare I say, vibes, from a lot of the games I just mentioned. It effectively cuckoos its way into the family, but my, what a fucking spectacular cuckoo it is.
Prodeus is an intriguing beast. It has a modern look, but mixes it with retro pixel art. It plays like the classic PC shooters, but makes room for up-to-date sensibilities as well. This is the most literal version of what you could call a ‘Doom Clone’ because it has something from what Doom was and what modern DOOM added (which was basically turning it into Quake).
Don’t come here expecting a plot summary because you’ll be disappointed. Prodeus cares not for story in the traditional narrative sense. Sure, it’s there, but It’s mostly a soldier, getting guns, obliterating monsters, and moving on to the next thing. It does tell stories though. It’s just they are moments within levels that speak more to mechanical creativity and ingenuity than a literary one. There’s a craft to Prodeus’ levels that frankly embarrasses many modern shooters with budgets multiple times higher.
I realize that the way I’ve worded things so far makes my praise seem a little condescending, but I assure you, it’s the greatest of compliments to call it a copycat, a clone, a rehash, because it’s the best kind of version of that. It’s nostalgia made good. A throwback because it turns to the joy of making something enjoyable first and foremost without missing the point of the appeal.
And as I may have alluded to before, a big reason for that is the guns. Prodeus keeps it pretty simple on the weapon set (pistol, shotgun, SMG, rocket launcher, etc) but adds fun little twists on them. Oh, they also handle like a bloody dream and cause the most stupendously glorious gore fountains. I’m talking blood dripping off the ceiling and spattering the gun in your hand kind of glorious. Sure, it’s not the main selling point for Prodeus, but there’s no denying just how effective and satisfying that sublime gore makes the use of Prodeus’ arsenal. The jewel in the gore crown is the dismemberment system Prodeus has, which produces interesting results in the spraying of arterial juices. The first time you jump towards an enemy and blast their gnarly head off whilst still airborne, and witness the crimson fireworks that follow, you’ll know just how right Bounding Box got this.
The icing on the top of this particular cake is the soundtrack. Andrew Hulshult, whose DUSK soundtrack was a fine accomplice to the boomer shooter action, delivers a shifting score that screeches in pure metal, and slots into your actions with an unnerving choreography. I’m not kidding. If Metal Hellsinger (also very good by the way) is purposefully rhythmic to suit the mechanics, then Andrew Hulshult’s Prodeus score is essentially in the same ballpark (albeit with less emphasis on uniting them so closely). The ebb and flow of the heaviest rock matching your momentum is intoxicating.
In the spirit of the more iconic 90s PC shooters, Prodeus has the tools to grow into something bigger. There’s online play, which includes a 4-player co-op function for the campaign, which obviously gives it some legs gameplay-wise, but it’s the creation tools that have the most potential here. Players are able to create their own levels and challenges with a robust and fairly easy-to-use set of tools. This not only means custom campaigns but multiplayer maps and modes not already in the box. There are plenty of examples of this already in Prodeus thanks to its time in Early Access, and it’s just another way it brings back warm memories of going sunset to sunrise on the likes of Unreal Tournament with its grab-bag of chaotic maps, just a bit more refined structurally.
If I could have any serious complaint about Prodeus, then it’s that for all that is good and great in how it plays, it doesn’t also revert me back to my teenage years, with the energy to pull all-nighters. Oh, and I suppose the campaign structure, whilst full of great moments, does get dragged down by some trudging lulls. Relatively speaking, they aren’t that bad and are certainly infrequent, it’s just that it tends to betray the pace at times.
The most exciting thing about Prodeus for me is that it doesn’t end here. It could get better. The developer is already working on future campaigns and other extra tidbits, and with a dedicated enough community, the multiplayer could grow into something special. Lots of ifs and buts as is the norm in the ‘live service’ era, but there’s one hell of a solid base to work from.
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