Like a lot of titles these day, Project Warlock is a passion project that has very old school roots with a modern twist. This new FPS from Buckshot Software channels those classic shooters like Doom and Hexen and adds a little RPG flavouring.
The game provides 60 levels of high octane action over five different chapters. Each area offers a different theme such as dank medieval dungeons, through to Egyptian tombs and futuristic industrial areas with theme appropriate enemies contained within. The enemies within are also based on the theme as are the end of chapter bosses. The chapters themselves are broken down into different multi-level stages which must be beaten in order to progress. At the end of each stage you are teleported back to the main hub where you are given the option to invest in upgrades.
Like the games which inspired it, Project Warlock is quite a challenging shooter, so upgrading is essential to keep things moving forward. It takes a little inspiration from rogue likes with a variety of skills, weapon, spell and character stat upgrades.
Options include health, ammo capacity, mana for magic spells and melee damage. Passive skills like a faster run and better ammo pick ups and can be added to aid you in battle. Weapon upgrades can be unlocked to give each of them a unique new function. For example, the double barrel shotgun is a beast of a weapon but how about adding flame shells? Or how about turning the minigun into a sentry turret? Each has two available options and choosing one locks out the other so choose wisely!
Speaking of weapons, every single one of them feels powerful. However, with ammo being a little sparse in the beginning it’s extremely satisfying using the axe so smash through enemies. As you progress though, long range options become much more plentiful. Whatever your poison, it’ll be catered for here whether that’s a pistol, shotguns, SMGs, explosives or more. My personal favourite was the previously mentioned double barrel shotgun that eviscerates everything. However, other notable mentions are the crossbow that can be upgraded to fire bolts like a ballista and the SMG that can be upgraded with ricochet rounds and works a lot like Quakes nail gun.
Thankfully the gun play is solid and getting a bead on enemies and turning them inside out is a joy. In fact, almost everything about the game is executed well. Movement speed is alright but I recommend toggling run to always on and enjoying the breakneck pace. This also turns you into a whirling dervish of death and destruction.
One thing that a lot of these old skool games don’t seem to have gotten right is weapon switching on controllers. I understand they are working with a limited set of buttons but the weapons wheel is a bit unwieldy. There are a vast amount of weapons available so I can see why it was done this way but having to stand still in the middle of combat to get the right tools for the job is a pain. Personally I’d like it if I was able to switch between weapon categories with the left and right bumpers and then select the alternate weapon with the Y button. The option should still be there to bring up the weapon wheel when holding the button but it would make things more seamless.
Exploration is also encouraged with each level hiding a variety of secrets. These contain extra XP, ammo and health and if you get lucky you’ll find an extra life. It’s also full of little nods to classic movies – the Arctic missions are pretty much based on The Thing and include enemies turning into tentacle beasts when they are set aflame.
It can get quite tough at times as well. At the easier difficulty levels you get unlimited lives which is a initially a godsend. Bumping it up means you get a limited number of lives to complete each section. Enemies also deal out higher damage and pick ups appear to be reduced. One other thing that also adds to the difficulty is the game’s tendency to spawn things behind the player. It’s frustrating but manageable.
Graphically it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The chunky sprites and pixelated backgrounds fit the style that the devs were aiming for but it can occasionally become a little muddied. There are some modern effects of show but this game is heavily grounded in its older aesthetic. Display filters can be used to emulate systems from yesteryear such as the C64 and ZX Spectrum and you can alter the amount of pixelation but it turns things a bit soupy if when it’s turned up to higher levels. Weapons sound meaty and enemy growls as well as music that changes with the theme of the chapter also help add to the atmosphere.
Overall, despite some relatively minor niggles, Project Warlock is an excellent title. It wears its old skool charm with pride and delivers a challenging but accessible package. There’s a vast amount of content on show here to keep most players going for quite a while. Shooting things feels great, it’s fast paced and I highly recommend you pick this up.
- Fast paced gameplay
- Weapons feel powerful
- Shooting feels great
- Occasionally looks muddy
- Awkward weapon switching controls