Prodeus (early access)
Prodeus is a first-person shooter meant to blend elements of modern and retro shooters together. It released on November 9th into early access, and is planning on a full release 8-12 months later.
There has been a recent surge of retro FPS games over the past few years, and while I’ve had fun with some of them, I also found myself tiring out and losing interest in them over time. I went into this game cautiously optimistic because of all the modern retro FPS releases I have seen and played, this one seemed to have the most buzz. Fortunately, this is one of the best one of those I have played to-date, but I still found myself ready to call it a day by the time I reached the end.
Where Prodeus separates itself from other boomer shooters is its excellent blend of modern and retro. It has enough of the retro trappings to clearly show its homage to the early days of Doom, but it’s also modern enough to take inspiration from modern Doom. While I enjoy playing retro shooters, I find some of its elements hard to play nowadays. I think this game addresses those issues well, but I still found myself bouncing off this game like I do with other retro shooters.
Where this game keeps to its roots is in its arcade-style gameplay, weapons, and look. The environments in this game look excellent with beautifully-rendered locales as well as some great lighting and special effects (oh so much blood), but getting up-close shows its true pixelated nature, and I think being able to have both is really neat. Enemies are traditional in their 2D sprite look, choppy animations, and their archetypes, and the same goes for the weapons. Levels also have some traditional elements like point-a-to-point-b level design, locked doors with different keys to find within the level, some unique level dynamics in a few of the levels, and traditional health and ammo pickups.
Does the human body even contain that much blood?
The more modern elements can be seen within the cracks. Levels have more of a set, linear path instead of feeling like a maze as well as occasional checkpoints, which helps with navigation. Speaking of levels, they feel a bit more cohesive, which I like for consistency’s sake. The game offers a 3D map option similar to reboot Doom’s map, which I didn’t use that often, but it was helpful when I needed it. The character can jump and has full 3D aiming and movement, which helps with the feel of a modern shooter. Weapons have an alt-fire, and there is a weapon wheel for easier weapon navigation. Combat rooms are built more like modern Doom combat rooms, and I had a blast running around and shooting dudes like I would in the reboot games. Finally, the soundtrack is that heavy metal sound that many (including myself) fell in love with in 2016’s Doom.
While its blend of old and new is overall solid, there are a few areas where I could see some improvement. Not all of the weapons are currently available, and while I found most of them to be punchy and a few of them to be an absolute blast to use, I also found a lot of them to be uninspired. Not only that, but a few of them didn’t really feel necessary because their functionalities were too similar. While one can say this is also somewhat true in retro shooters, I don’t necessarily think that uninspired and identical weapons should carry over just because the classics did it. The same goes for the enemy design, as a fair amount of the enemies here follow well-trodden territory, but I think there is at least a bit more going on in terms of variety there compared to the weapons. Finally, while this game plays like modern Doom, it doesn’t quite have the speed of it, and I wish the game would crank things up just a little bit more.
One of the interesting elements of this game is outside of the levels, where the level selection is not too different from a Super Mario World level selector. Your little overworld character looks like a stick figure from The Lab VR and each level you hop to and from is a lot more bloody, but it still pretty much functions the same, and I think for a game like this it’s pretty funny. Also in this overworld are some trial levels, which involve shooting targets that will open up the level with the goal of trying to get through it with the fastest time possible. There are only a few of them, but they are a fun, speedy diversion from the main levels.
The main campaign is rather short, only lasting a few hours, but more is said to come. One thing I will say about this game being in early access is that I think Prodeus is handling early access properly by having a fully functional game with incomplete content. I never ran into any technical issues, just a lack of content in the main game, and I think that is what early access should be. On top of this, while the campaign may be short, the editor tools are available, and there are already a ton of user-created levels and even a few campaigns worth checking out. I dabbled in some of the created levels, and while I think it’s certainly fun to have that option, I didn’t find them to be particularly great or terribly compared to the main game. I think the tools offered are solid and those who want more of this game will find it here, but I don’t think these tools are in any way noteworthy.
This feels oddly familiar…
In the end, I think Prodeus is a solid game, and I think at this rate it’s a matter of adding more content and features rather than fixing anything, but I also found myself content with the time I had while not wanting any more. It does a great job at paying homage to retro shooters while still feeling like a modern one, but I also pretty much got what it was doing and found myself in the same slump I find myself in with other boomer shooters. I don’t really have a lot to say about this game because I felt like most of my time with the game was just me saying “yep, played this, done that,” and I don’t really find the monotony of this genre’s level design and combat that much fun anymore. I think it’s the best one-of-those, but it’s still one-of-those at the end of the day. If you are into this type of games, then this is a great one to play, and if you’ve never played a modern retro shooter, this is the one to pick up; but for people like me who’ve lost its luster, this game won’t change your mind.
Second Extinction (early access)
Second Extinction is a first-person co-op shooter about trying to take back Earth from a dinosaur invasion. The game originally released into early access on PC on October 13th, 2020, and there is no set date for a full release.
I remember this game catching my attention for its fast-paced combat back during one of the E3’s, so when I saw it pop up on Game Pass for PC, I decided to give it a shot. In some ways, this is a co-op shooter like many others. In other ways, it has some unique systems in place that I think are fun to play around with. In the end, however, the game still feels like it’s at the foundation level with a lot more needed to be considered a “complete game.”
At the base of this whole experience is dinosaur slaying, and it’s here where I think this game shines. Movement speeds are fast, weapon handling feels smooth, there is a wide variety of dinosaurs to kill, and there are some characters to pick from with some pretty basic but welcoming abilities. Also, on a side note, the reverb and bass level on weapons being fired sounds incredible. While I played this game solo, I could see how each player optimizing their loadout to fill different roles such as medic or support could help with harder areas, though I guess I did manage as a one-man army. There are a few issues here-and-there like one enemy who can only be truly hurt by shooting his belly but is rather difficult to flip or the reflex sight being difficult to look through, but I think the combat overall is the highlight of this experience.
Killing to live, living to kill.
As the game progresses, you level up and unlock new weapons and items. Also, you pick up materials for upgrades within the level. Unfortunately, the characters cannot be upgraded, but the weapons can, and their upgrades are rather interesting. You purchase ten upgrade blocks for each weapon, then spend those blocks on improvements such as stability, handling, impact, and so on. Scattered around these upgrades are attachments to purchase such as sights and extended magazines. These blocks can be shifted around, and being able to experiment with different upgrades in this capacity is actually pretty neat. I wish there were more upgrades and whatnot to pour resources into, but what is there with the weapons is fun to play around with.
Where this game begins to fall apart is with the levels. How the main game works is you (and your buddies if you got them) drop into one part of the map, complete as many or as little objectives on the map such as clearing out nests, finding a black box, delivering eggs, and so on, then extract. The map is broken up into segments, and each segment has a different threat level with harder dino encounters and even some unique objectives in the harder areas. The threat level shifts around with the community, which means an area being red one day may green at a different time. Personally, I really like this open-ended structure as I like having the choice to stay for as long as I like, and it gives me the freedom to do whatever and go wherever I want.
While I like this structure in concept, I found it rather boring in practice. For starters, while there is a decent variety of objectives, there are quite a few that are nothing more than simple interactions that sometimes don’t even result in fights. I think the game adds a bit of flavor with these missions (as well as equipment replenishes) by having you drop supplies and manually interact with the item of interest, but it still doesn’t stop a fair amount of the objectives from being simple interactions. My big issue with the objectives, however, is that they don’t change or move around. They are the same thing at the same place over and over, and that got boring fast. There are the emergence events in the high-threat areas, but they usually involve a dino fight that takes way too long to complete. The map also has a lot of open areas, and while characters move fast, a vehicle would’ve been appreciated. Finally, while I think the community shifting map is neat, I never felt like I was in any way helping or changing the map around. There are some good ideas around this map, but they definitely need more time to iron things out.
Extractions were the most fun I had in the map.
Outside of the main map, there are some missions to play (six were available when I played). They are a fun distraction, but that’s about all they are. They are just a chain of missions—some unique to the level and some seen in the main map—and all they pretty much offer is a little extra time in the game. There are also seasonal challenges and generated bounties, but they don’t add anything to the levels or map other than an optional challenge. I also saw there’s a recent horde mode addition (which I have yet to try), and while it’s certainly a nice addition, I would prefer more work on what’s there rather than tacking on new modes.
Second Extinction has a solid foundation, but it needs to build on it before it can fully launch. I think this game is doing early access right by having a functioning title that needs more, but at the same time I would wait until more is there. Changes to the map and better grinding incentives would help a lot. I’m looking forward to seeing this game when it’s finished, but until then I’m going to wait.