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'Project Warlock' Xbox preview: An old-school FPS that combines DOOM with dark magic

Project Warlock
Project Warlock (Image credit: Crunching Koalas)

Project Warlock is an upcoming first-person shooter from Crunching Koalas and Buckshot Software. The game is already available on Steam and has won itself a bit of a cult following already, given its tight gameplay and old-school leanings.

I've recently been through some of the game's early levels, and I quite honestly struggled to put the game down just to write this. It's bloody spectacular.

Old school sensibilities

Source: Crunching Koalas (Image credit: Source: Crunching Koalas)

Project Warlock uses a combination of 3D environments and 2D sprites to create its world, which clearly takes stylistic cues from the early DOOM and Wolfenstein titles of yesteryear. 2D sprites always face the camera, and the 3D environments are pixel-style with winding corridors and tons of secrets.

The game is pretty light on story, continuing that old-school tradition. You play as an unnamed Warlock, traveling across various dimensions of space and time to vanquish a cabal of evil entities. You're armed to the teeth with a variety of modern and esoteric weaponry, including spells, staves, and enchanted daggers. Each dimension is split into several smaller levels, some taking only a few minutes to complete, tasking you to wind through a maze of rooms and halls filled to the brim with a surprisingly large variety of monsters, demons, and Cthonic abominations.

The first area takes place in a medieval setting, filled with classic demons like Succubi, whereas the second takes place in an Antarctic research facility, crammed with mutated creatures clearly in homage to John Carpenter's The Thing. While short, the levels are numerous, keeping the action rapid and frenetic throughout.

Beyond the brevity of the levels and the visual stylings, Project Warlock also leans on an old school lives-based system. However, casual difficulty lets you respawn infinitely if it's not your bag. For "Normal" difficulty and above, you'll be given a total of three lives (although you can earn more via secrets), and if you lose them all, that's it, Game Over, in the very classical sense. You have to start from the beginning, losing all of your progress.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

This punishing stipulation felt archaic at first, but after my first retry, I found that it adds a sense of urgency and vulnerability modern shooters have lost in recent years. Also, the gunplay is so tight and rewarding, that starting over doesn't feel that bad anyway. It's fun to go back through an area armed with fresh knowledge and experience, as you learn where enemies spawn and where to find health, ammo, and so on.

Feels so good

Project Warlock may be old school when it comes to art and design, but it feels modernized when it comes to gameplay.

Project Warlock still has modern precision ballistics for gunshots and collision, and full 3D views (complete with optional crosshairs, if you don't want to go too old school). Blasting enemies into chunks with magically-enhanced dynamite, or zapping them with a lightning staff feels as satisfying as it does in any other modern shooter, spreading giblets and viscera across the walls and floor.

There's a vast arsenal of upgradeable weapons to choose from, including DOOM's iconic sawn-off shotgun, flamethrowers, rocket launchers, machine guns, magnum pistols, and much more. There are also plenty of magical abilities, with a spell staff that can fry enemies with lightning or freeze them in place, and spells that utilize your existing weapons, turning them into enhanced versions. One spell lets you enchant your grenades or dynamite ammo, turning them into explosive projectiles rather than throwing weapons. The results can be spectacular.

Project Warlock (Image credit: Windows Central)

Project Warlock (Image credit: Windows Central)

Source: Windows Central

The game is as rapid as any modern DOOM-style shooter, with a satisfying flow of strafe-and-shoot, as you wind around hunting down health kits and ammo. There are tons of secrets to uncover throughout levels, too, hidden behind destructible walls or secret switches, giving you additional consumables or EXP items, which you can use to enhance your character. I tend to dump all of my stat points into health, given that losing a life in this game can be one step closer to Game Over.

Keep an eye on this one

The game is already available on Steam if you have a capable PC, but it's launching on Xbox on June 12, and is available for pre-order (opens in new tab) already.

Fans of DOOM, whether classic or modern, definitely need to check this game out. It feels great to play, has a ton of variety, and is cheap as chips at just $15.

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Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

7 Comments
  • Game is actually really good highly recommend anyone, it was available for well over a a year before on GOG glad to see it release on consoles!
  • This game was actually a disappointment to me. I liked the demo level but the retail version starts with much more cramped levels and boring weapons / enemies. It also felt to rogue-like compared to oldschool fps games.
  • Anyone remember Heretic and Hexen, also from id?
  • Yup. Me. I just commented exactly this in another post. No one else remembers those? Have you seen the movie Yesterday?
  • Those games were so much fun co-op'ing. I do know there is a project where they upscaled Hexen's textures through AI and it worked really well for that game (in contrary to e.g. Doom where the textures are to blurry to be upscaled effectively); makes the game (especially with a mod that tweaks the lightning) much more modern looking. :)
  • I played Heretic a bit, but I played Hexen to death, with all the characters too.
  • Thanks for the review. Please also review Ion Fury, formerly Ion Maiden.