Project Warlock is one of those games that, on the surface, has all the trappings of a classic first-person shooter. It's a retro-inspired game in the ilk of something like classic Doom or old-school Wolfenstein and it has all the horror FPS looks and feels, all of which is designed to drag you kicking and screaming down memory lane. In fact, I have to say that while Doom is often classed as a run-and-gun fast-paced first-person shooter, for me it's also one of my favourite horror games.
So, does Project Warlock deliver? Well, for the most part, I'm happy to report that it does. Is it fast-paced? Check. Is it a retro-looking shooter? Check. Does it have lots and lots of violence? Check. As well as lots of searching for various coloured keys to open corresponding coloured doors? Check! So, there we have it, right? All boxes ticked. Well, not quite, not for me, and here's why.
In this new shooter from Buckshot Software, you take control of a gun-toting warlock who can shoot, hack or use various spells to kill pretty much everything that moves in a variety of different environments that range from ice worlds that seem inspired by 'The Thing' through to old-school castles. In fact, there are five different worlds to visit, each split into five different sections that each contain one to four stages. That means there's a lot of game to play here, well, sort of. Most of the stages take between one to three minutes to get through. However, as I said before, it's pretty fast-paced and so it doesn't really sink in how quickly you're going through things.
At the end of each world, there's an epic boss fight where you kill huge monsters, and this part of the package doesn't disappoint. My highlight was wiping the floor with a tentacled monster that looks like Cthulu. In fact, in each world, there's a great range of monsters, such as bats that shoot orbs and demons lurking in the castle, or Egyptian mythology-inspired beasts in the desert world.
I have to say that at this point - I had bags of blooming fun! There was a huge range of weapons to play with, such as pistols and shotguns, all the way through to nail guns. You can throw grenades or, if all goes wrong, you can always hack whatever it is you're trying to kill to death with a hatchet. It never stops or calms down, the action doesn't relent. It's intense and fun.
Enemies drop ammo and health, and also mana. Yes, because when you get bored - which you won't - you can also use a range of powers such as explosive magic and illuminating magic that can light up the world around you. Not only can you pick up new powers, but everything can be upgraded. To that end, you can upgrade your magic powers with upgrade points. Through experience gained and levels attained you can improve your stamina, health and mana levels. Then there are your weapons; you can even level up your guns and change their abilities, so pipe bombs can be changed to proximity explosives, or your uzi can become a nail gun.
This feeling of progression was really enjoyable. I loved getting stronger and harder, with better weapons. However, the sting in the tail is that the early levels are brutal and it's way too hard at first. In fact, I struggled to get into it at first and, initially at least, I had to force myself to play on, although, with a bit of time and practice, things got easier and better.
So, that was my first major moan, and I don't have too much else to whinge about if I'm honest. The other thing I want to note is that while the controls were fine, weapon selection, which revolved around a big wheel, seemed a bit counter-intuitive and it was a bit too hard to select the weapon you wanted. The pointer didn't seem to move as desired and at times that affected my enjoyment of the game.
In fact, it seemed too frequently revert back to the default of either your hand-to-hand weapon or the explosives (with which you could quite easily kill yourself), and it was a bit infuriating at times. I don't mind dying because I was rubbish, or made a mistake, but when you die because you can't get the right weapon when you want it, it was a bit frustrating.
The music has a retro feel - the repetitive FPS tunes that we took for granted back in the day have returned (the effect: I muted the TV). At times it felt like a Casio keyboard on loop and it created a noise that would have made John Carpenter wince. This, however, is very much a personal taste thing and I fully accept this may be a highlight from some of you retro gamers out there. Then there are the visuals. While it looked retro, it was a little bit too polished for my liking. Something like Ion Fury looked and felt old, but this looked like a game trying to look old but it had a new veneer, and this just didn't settle right with me.
That said, most retro shooter fans will love this. It has a classic audio-visual style, a steep learning curve, and fast-paced run-and-gun action. There are a couple of things that we didn't love, however, if you like a '90s-inspired shooter with lots of action and secrets to find, check it out.
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