One Helluva Good Time

HIGH Starting a stage and immediately wiping out hordes of enemies.

LOW Early boss battles that are more challenging than later ones.

WTF Where did that mummy get a bazooka arm!?

Project Warlock is a first-person shooter originally released for PC in 2018. It flew completely under my radar, but fellow critic Mike Suskie included it as an honorable mention on his Top Ten of 2018 list. Now with a console release, does Project Warlock hold up nearly two years later? Simply put, hell yes!

This retro-inspired FPS takes cues from such classics as Doom and Duke Nukem. Gamers control a mighty warlock who must travel across the globe and across time while visiting locations such as Antarctica, Egypt, and medieval times, fighting the onslaught of hell itself.

Players select from a variety of weapons and run, shoot, and strafe through nearly 60 stages filled with straight corridors, numerous right angles, and pixelated textures. Aiming is accurate and dual stick controls are smooth and precise. Filling up these old-school-style stages are dozens of demonic creatures shooting arrows, spitting fireballs, and rushing melee attacks in two-dimensional, always-facing-the-screen glory.

Playing as a warlock, players have access to magical abilities as well. The few I used (a scepter with energy beams and projectile dynamite) were enjoyable, but I found each level could be completed with just firearms, no magic needed. This doesn’t detract from the quality of Project Warlock, but the enchantments feel like more like cool bonuses than required gear – there for players who want it, but not a necessity.

Project Warlock also includes RPG-lite elements. I’m a little done with RPG aspects being added to other genres, but fortunately it’s not overkill here. Through basic game progression, players will earn experience points, treasure, and tokens to use between stages to increase health, ammo, and magical abilities, as well as upgrade various weapons. By the end I felt extremely overpowered and ready for the final chaotic levels.

Each location consists of five separate stages, the fifth being a massive boss fight. These enormous behemoths provide plenty of challenge, but I did find the difficulty to be slightly skewed in reverse – the toughest bosses were two of the earliest encounters, whereas the final boss was a walk in the park. While this is a small complaint, gamers may become frustrated with the difficulty spike in early boss battles.

Project Warlock is a pedal-to-the-metal, shoot first and don’t ask questions later FPS that would have been right at home on an early ‘90s PC, and players who enjoy that style are in for a treat. Solid art design, excellent gameplay, and just enough challenge make Project Warlock one hell of an experience for fans of the genre while paying tribute to the classics that inspired it.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Buckshot Software and published by Crunching Koalas. It is currently available on PS4, Switch, XBO and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood and Gore and Intense Violence. It definitely lives up to the descriptors – plenty of blood, gore, and over-the-top violence. This game is not for the younger kids.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: In-game story is told by a single screen at the end of each chapter, and this is done solely via text. Text size, including menus, cannot be changed. The game includes numerous enemies appearing behind the player. The screen turns red when hit, but there are sound cues that allow players to know an enemy is behind them prior to taking damage. Therefore, the game is not fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.

Brian Theisen
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2 years ago

I’m quite confused by these recent “retro fps” games. Granted, I’m not a huge fan of the fps genre to begin with, but I have trouble imagining enjoying any other established 3D genre being rendered in a pixelated mode.