First Impressions: Prodeus
(Editor Mojo’s Note: There are brief but graphic descriptions of blood and gore in this piece. Reader Discretion is advised. Now back to the Regularly Scheduled Chicanery.)
Now that I got that out of my system; The Early Access version of Prodeus was added to Xbox Game Pass on PC a few days ago, I played through most of it. I love the FUCK out of it. I love it so much that whenever it comes out of Early Access, I’m straight-up buying it and it’s automatically on the Game of the Year list of the year it comes out.
Originally pitched on Kickstarter by Bounding Box Software (headed by Raven Software Alumni Mike Voeller and Jason Mojica) in April 2019 and followed by a Steam Early Access release in November 2020, Prodeus is a game that wears its inspirations on its goddamn sleeves. To say that it’s a straight-up Doom homage would be to be missing the point of Prodeus, even if the similarities to Doom are apparent. Following a harrowing introduction that has you killing a zombie with your bare fists and outrunning a pack of extra-dimensional nightmares and finding a pistol, you have one objective: collect runes and kill everything in your path.
It’s my favorite type of story setup; lean, effective, and gets to the point. This also serves as the tutorial, showcasing the basic controls and mechanics as well as the copious amounts of blood you’ll be spilling. I’m not sure demonic possession actually increases your red blood cell count, but the first thing I noticed about the pixel-based art style (aside from it looking fantastic) is that even basic zombies spill quarts of blood when you so much as shoot out one of their arms. It leads to levels of bloodshed that can almost reach the heights seen in the works of Sam Raimi because you eventually end up painting the town red. Quite literally if I might add.
But back to Prodeus’s Doom inspirations for a quick second. While it is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Prodeus is nothing if not earnest in its reverence to Doom, right down to a good chunk of the enemies in the Early Access build having readily seen takes of Doom’s Zombies, Shotgunners, Chaingunners, Imps, Pinkies, Cacodemons, Pain Elementals, and Lost Souls; Prodeus differentiates itself from Doom by being faster and having much denser combat arenas and far more intricate level design. I hardly found myself getting lost or having to rely on the game’s fantastic map system (seriously, the map is so fucking good) because everything was laid out so well. From enemy spawns to secrets to checkpoints, it was all so flawlessly done and the levels do their best to drip feed you all of that good stuff. God, great level design is the fucking best.
But now for the most important part of a shooter: The Guns. As mentioned earlier, you start with a pistol and your fists, but then you get your hands in a beast of a shotgun; followed by a pair of SMGs called the Shredders, a beast of a chain gun you get off of the first chain gunner you fight (and the way you first use it is amazing), a great rocket launcher, a mid to long-range Arc Rifle (which fires as fast as you can pull the trigger and has a chargeable sniper shot), a grenade launcher, a sick plasma rifle, and a quad barreled shotgun. They also all have their alternative fire modes ranging from the mundane (the pistol aims down sights and gets a three-shot burst, the Rocket Launcher has an early detonation trigger) to the fucking buckwild (The Arc Rifle’s Sniper shot and the Plasma Rifle’s ability to causes shots to track targets stuck with a homing tracer). All of them feel suitably beefy and powerful to use, from the effects used to the sounds they make. I wish the quad barrel shotgun sounded beefier because I’ve been spoiled by the Super Shotgun in Doom Eternal sounding more like a cannon when fired than a double barrel. But I digress.
All of what I just mentioned, combined with a unique world map, all add up to make an alternate reality version of Doom 3 that we never got. Oh, and the soundtrack was provided by the Trash Can Dwelling Heavy Metal Druid Andrew Hulshult. Seriously, I listened to all that was available while writing this and did it in one sitting. A soundtrack needs to be damn good to get me to do a thing of writing in one sitting. It slaps so hard that it feels like you’re getting chopped across the chest by Minoru Suzuki.
Prodeus is a rare game that can go beyond the sum of its parts and be truly exceptional. Hell, it’s gone so beyond that I can safely say that it’ll be one of my top games of 2021, and it’s not even out yet. If you like your boomer shooters on the gorier side of things, then give Prodeus a try.