Prodeus is a game that's been on my radar for a while. I don't know whether it's the beautifully crafted retro aesthetic, the DOOM-inspired run and gun style action, or the sprinkles of nostalgia found in every little hand-crafted detail, but this game, more than any other in recent memory manages to take me right back to simpler times where I would spend hours upon hours with my eyes glued to a computer screen.
This is a game which caught my interest way back when it was first revealed in 2018 and I have been following the project on social media ever since. I've spent about four days now playing the Prodeus closed-beta, and while I knew going in that the game would not disappoint, I was not prepared for just how much the game is to play, it's clear that 'Bounding Box's first offering is something the team are extremely passionate about. Every tiny detail feels like it was hand-crafted and built based on real love for the project, and that's something that's becoming harder and harder to come by.
The game runs on the Unity Engine, although the team have developed their own in-house tools to optimize and tweak the game to their liking. Aesthetically the game clearly takes inspiration from classics like DOOM and Quake, although with a modern touch which gives the game a really smooth and satisfying playstyle. The options menu includes several options to change things like graphics settings, movement speeds, keybindings and even allows you to set an aesthetic overlay for things like 'CRT', 'Scanlines' and 'Pixel' if that's your thing. In terms of performance, the game runs fantastically on all of the hardware I have tested it on. I was able to achieve a constant 100+FPS, even testing it on a laptop with an integrated GPU. There's even an option to switch from sprites to full 3d models - although I have this option set to sprites for that ultimate nostalgia fix.
Visually, the game is quite beautiful. As previously mentioned, the game drives clear inspiration from games of a bygone era, but it's some of the newer visual flares which really bring the game to life. The addition of niceties like SSR (screen space reflections) dithering and SSAO are what really bring this game to life. Playing Prodeus is what I feel like 'walking into an arcade machine' would be like. There's something quite mesmerizing about experiencing 2D sprites coming at you in a real 3D space. The games ambient soundtrack is perfectly suited to the games gritty look and feel. Composed by Andrew Hulshult (who also composed the music on other recent offerings like Dusk), you can expect the quality of these pieces to be top-notch and sound like something you'd find straight out of Quake 2.
It's easy to assume the team at Bounding Box sofware would take the same missteps that so many other 'modern-retro' style games have taken in terms of missing the mark on gameplay, even with a beautiful aesthetic. Afterall, this is the teams first project - But here's where things get really good. Not only is the game a visual treat in almost every way, the gameplay is extremely satisfying, rewarding and fun, and offers tons of replayability. I have replayed the same three levels of the closed-beta at least ten times to try to discover every little secret hidden within the carefully crafted maps. Gunplay is perhaps one of the strongest elements this game has to offer. You are able to unlock an arsenal of weapons through exploration, from a simple melee attack to a rocket launcher, and killing enemies in a huge puddle of guts and blood is extremely satisfying. Enemies can be shot again and again even when killed, allowing you to blow bits of body and flesh all over the environment. Each gun feels unique and satisfying. If I had to choose something to nitpick, it would be that the ammount of blood expelled from enemies upon bullet impact is visually a little high compared to the ammount of damge actually done, but this is my only real complaint when it comes to gun play.
The games user interface takes clear inspiration from classic FPS games and offers enough customization to remove any unecessary elements. My only suggestion in this area - as someone who suffers from red-green colorblindness - would be to add a colorblind mode in order to distinguish the red from the light blue elements on-screen. Another addition I would like to see would be the addition of an option to add more visual indication when taking damage on the minimal HUD. Even just the option of a simple red vignette. Overall the UI is very simple to understand and navigate.
The level design of this game is simply fantastic. Having personally watched many livestreams of designers making tweaks and changes to the games levels, it's clear just how much refinement has gone into the games map layouts and visual feel. Each level offers plenty of exploration for those who wish to hunt for every little secret, but don't punish those who prefer a more linear approach. There is also plenty of verticality to the games levels, something many other games seem to miss. Personally, I would say the level design most closely resembles Quake 2, with more flexibility.
In conclusion, if you are a fan of retro shooters like DOOM, Quake or Heretic, you absolutely should give Prodeus a try. The visual style is beautiful, the gunplay is fun and addictive, and the levels are fun and expansive with tons of replayability. Prodeus is currently in a closed-beta phase and will be coming to Early Access on Steam in November of this year. This is easily my favourite retro-style FPS game since Dusk and I am extremely excited for the final release later this year.
You can check out Prodeus on Steam here