Games offer the chances to explore vast worlds, get lost in story and adventure, and create lasting emotional bonds to digitised characters. Or they just let you go wild with rocket launchers and tear through waves of monsters, zombies, and all kinds of things pulled right from your worst nightmares.
Make no mistake, Project Warlock doesn’t want to do anything but the latter. Wearing it’s Doom shirt, and Quake undies, it aims to bring all the joys of classic first-person shooters back to consoles. Developed by Buckshot Software, and published by Crushing Koalas, Project Warlock is available now on Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Looking at screens of Project Warlock, it’s bound to get those nostalgia heartstrings pulled. Memories of sprinting through hordes of enemies with overly large guns will come rushing back.
But let me take a step back one moment. If you’ve not played an old school FPS, you’re in for a different experience to what we would consider the standard now. You can’t beat this by peeking around corners and popping headshots. Enemies will get in your face and absorb bullets like the lead sponges they are. You need to keep moving, using every weapon you find, and never letting go of the trigger.
Project Warlock does have some modern touches. Weapons can receive an optional upgrade, and you level up the Warlock, improving various stats and equipping perks. There’s also a nice range of magic abilities to use, and whilst it’s not the first time this has been done, it’s implemented well here. The shooting is fast, tight, and pleasure to experience. Weapons feel great, and the variety of enemies offered here keeps things interesting.
For as solid as the core mechanics are, the level design doesn’t quite hold up as well. Episodes are all structured the same, and whilst the range of worlds is impressive, you’d be forgiven for think some levels are just skin swaps. You do a couple of outdoor environments, followed by a few indoor levels, before heading to the boss. The bosses certainly look cool and are monolithic in size, but the fights ultimately are fairly anticlimactic.
Among the gameplay modifiers, you have the choice to fix the Y-axis. It means you can tailor Project Warlock to your preference – either play like classic Doom, or have full control like Bungie’s Marathon trilogy. The choice is great, but unfortunately, the game suffers trying to cater to both. To ensure the fixed axis works, levels are mostly flat, so I found being able to lock up and down, well, pointless.
To no surprise, Project Warlock looks to emulate the graphic style of its peers. It uses 3d objects to build the world’s frame, with flat models and objects placed in the world.
And whilst the style isn’t anything new, Project Warlock is able to create it’s own visual flair thanks to its consistent design. Sprites are big, bold, and well designed. There may be no particularly unique enemy designs on so, but there’s no attempt to pretend there are either. This game is a love letter to classic shooters, and each time it introduces new enemies, you can tell developer Buckshot Games is giving you a knowing wink.
Like the gameplay, Project Warlock’s downfall is that everything feels a little templated. Even though you travel from Medieval Castles to the Artic, Egypt and even Hell itself, character and level designs all feel like they’re just pasted from the same base model. I would have loved to have seen more uniqueness between the characters and locations.
I would be remiss not to mention the number of graphical and settings you have to tweak to your liking. From scanlines to monitors filter, colours, motion blur, the field of view and much more, there’s a commendable level of control rarely seen on a console.
When you’ve got solid gameplay, nothing’s better than satisfying sounds to add that cherry on top. And Project Warlock delivers here. Whether it’s the sound of rockets flying past your head, the huge chug of a chain gun, or the futuristic zaps of lasers, it all sounds fantastic.
Unfortunately, everything else starts to dip in the sound department. Enemies all have their own roars and screams, but they’re very hit or miss. Some echo across the level and give a sense of dread. But for a few characters, the sounds were repetitive and annoying. Even though it’s only a small percentage, because you see the same enemies hundreds of times during the course of your slaying, it’s had me reaching for mute early on.
I wouldn’t have minded so much if Project Warlock’s soundtrack could back this up instead, but unfortunately, this was a miss for me too. Here’s the thing, the songs themselves are good, they just don’t fit with the worlds, and take away from the atmosphere in the game. If I’m in the artic, I want to feel cold, or if I’m getting deeper and deeper into an Egyptian tomb, I want to feel that sense of mystery and unknown. I don’t need to hear pumping drum and bass.
On paper, Project Warlock has a lot going for it. It features 60 levels along with plenty of upgrades, unlockables, and hidden secrets. Levels last no longer than 5 mins on average, so it won’t be long before you’re rolling credits. Fortunately, there’s plenty of replay value.
Project Warlock has less of a campaign and more of an arcade mode. On harder difficulties, death has a consequence. You need to get through a set amount of levels with limited lives, or you’re starting over again. It adds a good sense of weight and tension as you know the exits around the corner, but you’re on your last slither of health. Most importantly, it will keep you coming back for more.
Sadly, there is no multiplayer mode or anything outside of the single-player. But at its low entry price, it’s still good value.
Project Warlock is a solid throwback to shooters of yesterday. It has great mechanics but just misses in a few areas to make it stand out. Had level design been a little more interesting, or the atmosphere nailed, it would’ve been an easy recommendation for everyone.
As it stands, it’s a good game which fans of the genre will delight in. Just everyone else may be left wondering what all the fuss is about. I award Project Warlock a Thumb Culture Silver Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.
This article was written by Rich Canning