Sometimes a game comes along that simultaneously reminds you of your childhood, while also being the sort of thing that would have both blown your mind, and made you vomit as a kid. Prodeus is that game. If you're a fan of old Build Engine shooters then you'll be familiar with the gameplay style, but then image a Build Engine shooter with pretty much every single aspect of it dialed up to 11. Everything from the graphics to the gameplay is as extreme as it could be and you'll never feel an adrenaline rush quite like playing it.
While my first instinct would have been that Prodeus had been summoned from the heavy-metal-fueled depths of hell by some form of black magic, it was actually developed by an indie studio going by Bounding Box Software Inc. It's being published by Humble Games and will hit early access during early November. Right now it's in closed beta and we were lucky enough to get access to the game to gib our way through hordes of...aliens? I assume it's aliens.
You may be able to tell from my confusion about what exactly the enemies are, that this game doesn't have the strongest grasp of story, but that's okay. The story isn't the point of Prodeus. You don't need a story to know it's fun to kick a zombie's head off as you watch bits of his friends rain down around you in lovingly-crafted pixels. It's also important to remember that so far this closed beta is only one level, one tutorial, and a challenge map long, so there could very well be a story by the time the game releases.
The really important factor with Prodeus is just how amazing the gunplay feels. Despite being based on old-school shooters it avoids some of the pitfalls that make older shooters a pain these days. The control scheme is completely modern, with everything that entails. You've got mouselook and a sprint function, and at least some of the guns come with iron sights. Unlike most modern shooters, however, you have more guns than is technically responsible.
Despite being loaded with more weapons than a paranoid conspiracy theorist, swapping between them is actually pretty simple. There's a quick menu that features all of the guns, and while it's up the game stays frozen. The menu also lets you know how much ammo each weapon has, so you don't accidentally swap into something without anything left to fire. This quick menu makes it so easy to chain together your different types of attacks. You can beat a zombie to death with your bare hands, then jump up onto a ledge pulling out your rocket launcher to turn a group of enemies into mush, before swapping to dual assault riffles and shredding your way through the next room, all in one fluid motion.
You might think that having so many different weapons makes tracking your ammo a challenge, but Proteus gets around this by heaving each weapon fit into a different ammo category. Instead of having 20+ ammo types, you have only a handful to pick up and manage. If I had one criticism for this system it's that certain ammo types are a bit limited, so you can run through a lot of ammo really quickly. On the plus side, this does mean that you have to keep swapping up which weapons you're using so the gameplay stays pretty varied.
As I said above, the closed beta only contains a single real level but that level is incredibly well designed. There are all the secrets and key puzzles that you might remember from the late 90s FPS genre, but they're spread out across levels larger than anything that those old games gave us. They're laid out a bit more intuitively as well. At no point was I running around confused about where to go, and the secrets are even well signposted in a lot of circumstances.
Prodeus just looks beautiful. Not in an 'artsy' sort of way, more like a Les Edwards Blood and Iron kind of way. The graphics are rendered using a mix of modern and classical techniques. Everything in the game is constructed from pixel art. From the blood effects to the wall textures, everything looks like it could have been made using Pixelrama by someone with more talent than seems fair. The levels are actually constructed using more modern polygonal techniques, rather than faking 3D with trickery. What you end up with is a game that manages to look like an old-school shooter, but without the limitations that made looking up or down a complete eyesore.
I have immensely enjoyed my time with Prodeus and it just might be the best old-school shooter I've played in a dog's age. Nothing has ever managed to retain the spirit of the old school without letting itself fall into the trap of keeping elements that just hold the genre back. If you have any fond memories of Doom or Duke Nukem 3D at all then you need to get Prodeus when it hits early access. I can't wait to see where this game goes from here.
TechRaptor previewed Proteus on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.