The retro shooter revival has certainly been a wild ride, with a lot of inventive ideas mixed into the nostalgic vibes. Prodeus is part of that trend that doesn’t try to rock the boat too much. It’s very traditional, mixing together modern arena shooter trends (in part due to the developers having worked on Bioshock Infinite and Doom 2016, among others) with classic style and flow. It also may just be one of the best of this genre due entirely to how well it executes on every single idea and concept, making up for its derivative nature with tons of gibs and violence that never fail to pump one’s blood.
The premise of the game is that mankind is at war with both the monsters of the Chaos dimension, and the powerful Prodeus AI that created the world of mortals. You are the vessel, someone who has decided to fight against both forces and kick them out. Problem is the vessel starts the game pulling a move that balances power too far in the favor of Chaos, so they need to try and fix their mistake via shoot and bang (and some punch).
Prodeus has a nearly non-existent narrative outside vague hints and a handful of set-pieces that give some context to events in a few levels. What is there does the job of setting the stage for the carnage to come, really kicking in once the first of the Prodeus forces appear and you see Prodeus possessed monsters fighting their Chaos brethren. It’s mainly an excuse plot, but not wholly ignorable as it dresses up select moments and makes the campaign stand out more as a result.
The real reason you’re here is for that campaign, and it is clearly made by people who have a strong understanding of map design (down to getting map designers from the Doom modding community). Prodeus is a mostly linear affair, with some open areas for large scale fire fights, but there’s real attention paid to making memorable moments. For example, one map will have you dodging sniping from enemies in a central tower as you make your way there towards level end, then backtrack as Prodeus units enter the field and cause mass chaos. A late game level has you infiltrating a space station, causing the flow of the level to shift from area to area. Another had you manipulating the acid fill of the area to help reach higher areas. The game never stops finding ways to make every level feel unique.
That’s an impressive accomplishment, as the game never gets too inventive with enemy types. There’s a close sticking to the usual Doom era monster types, like possessed soldiers (non-hitscan this time, but still accurate), imps, pinkies, pain elementals, ect ect. Prodeus units are also just these units again minus possessed soldiers, but with a blue and white electro look that are faster, smarter, and stronger. How these enemies are used is what keeps things exciting, as every skirmish rarely feels the same as a previous one, leaving plenty of options for getting on the offensive.
You get a lot of options too. There are three tiers of weapons for nearly every category, and they all remain useful the whole way, even your fists. Prodeus lets you rapid fire your fists by alternating your punches quickly, meaning it is perfectly viable to save ammo by duking it with lower tier enemies and turning them into gooey paste with your bare fists. Your pistol has an alt fire that has better aim with a three shot concentrated fire, allowing for headshotting options early on.
Once you get the shotgun is when you really start to realize how fun this arsenal is. The shotgun is very similar to the Doom one, with strong range, plus has an alternate charge fire that can be used for mid-range sniping that gives off a strong fire shot. It’s viable the entire game, a strong work horse weapon, and you only get crazier stuff from there. The shredders are nothing special for dual SMGs, but the grenade launcher can get tricky with sticky bombs that go off only when you take your finger off the alt fire button.
The plasma gun has a homing beacon you can shoot out for complicated arcs to spread your fire where you really want it. The auto shotgun’s alt fire can send bullets as ricochets for trick shots. You can rev up the chaingun ahead of time for more controlled firing. The arc rail is both a lightning gun and a rail gun, ideal for sniping from long distances. The swarmer is a ridiculous rocket weapon great for clearing out mobs and taking down high end enemies quickly with a swarm of smaller rockets. Heck, you even get an extremely accurate revolver weapon that can pierce multiple enemies.
What’s even cooler is that there’s added replay value via the shop. Some of the game’s best weapons require ore found in levels to buy, as do the double jump and dash, which completely change up what you can do and find in levels. It encourages you to go back to old levels and explore them more, making you practice against enemies more in the process and improve your combat prowess – which you will need.
To say things get hectic later is an understatement. The flow of levels is usually to have smaller skirmishes between open areas with large mobs of enemies every which way, especially in the back half. Things get absolutely bonkers as Prodeus units and Chaos forces go at each other, all while you make the situation more explosive. When Prodeus wants to, it will show you some of the most bloody and bombastic battles the retro shooter can provide.
Helping with this is the game’s style. At default, Prodeus uses a sort of pixel filter alongside simplistic animations to make every enemy look like a monster from the earlier years of the FPS, just cranked up on modern hardware. It’s like Doom 64 on steroids, with a cool red and blue centered color scheme to further feed you information on what enemies are around. Some effects can be a bit much, like the pixel smoke and the after flash of the plasma gun at close range, but its otherwise quite readable and exciting. It’s sort of like a 90s The Web sort of look was lightly coated over the Doom aesthetic, and it really works, especially with Marathon and Halo style grand architecture at spots. The sheer amount of blood and viscera is also greatly appreciated, and somehow never manages to get in the way of the action.
Helping is the score, done by Doom mod scene composer James Paddock and famed voice of “Triad Members” Andrew Hulshult, a solid mix of downbeat and grimy. It’s a nice collection of low down metal, taking notes from Doom 2016 while still managing their own sound. The stand out track is definitely Hulshult’s Spent Fuel, which has a hypnotic, deep beat as the song builds up and down with the carnage via absorbing guitar work. There’s a dynamic music system in here, so the score shifts in intensity based on what’s currently happening, further adding to the ability to read the situation, making good play feel as easy as breathing. The strong sound design helps, with monster sounds and crunchy noises with every action.
That not enough for you? The game also has full proper multiplayer, co-op play, and a map editor with full community support. It’s also still being updated as of writing, with new weapons being added in. The studio seems pretty focused on continuing to build the game for some time, including having mapping contests, so you can expect a healthy selection of people to play with for a good while if the campaign wets your appetite.
This is some real good shooter stuff, a great blend of modern and classic gameplay and graphical touches. Despite a lack of new ideas, Prodeus really gets what makes these sorts of shooters so fun and nails down just about every detail. The game was in development for a long while, only reaching early access in 2020. They took their time and made that time really count, resulting in a very refined experience. All of the style and the focus on support of community projects just shows how much they get their audience, what made the FPS such a long lived genre in the first place, and makes one excited for what the team does next. The forgiving checkpoint system and high selection of difficulties even makes it approachable for those new to the genre. It’s one of the easiest games in the retro FPS craze to get into, and well worth the cost of admission.