Project Warlock is yet another first-person shooter that pays tribute to the classics of yesteryear. This one feels like a ramped-up version of Wolfenstein 3D with a punchy arsenal akin to DOOM’s, some Hexen-esque spells, and a few other nifty, modern features of its own that sweetens the experience. It’s a pretty decent romp, even on the Switch, and should provide adequate sustenance for anyone hungering for more pixelated hordes to abolish by force.
As a time-travelling warlock, your goal is fairly self-explanatory: travel through different time zones and dimensions in order to eradicate all evil beings in your way. You’ll be hopping through medieval castles, Egyptian pyramids, and even Hell itself (how original). The artwork for these levels is pretty detailed, albeit with some thick, black outlines on pretty much everything, but it makes the textures look like they were designed on an eighties PC. It’s charming, to say the least. The weapon and enemy animations are slick and detailed, too.
The combat is pretty fun, thanks to its weapon selection. Most of them are fairly conventional, i.e. the pistol, shotgun, SMG, dynamite, and so on. You’ll find a few other goodies, like a crossbow and a mana-fuelled staff. They all hit hard and feel oh so fun to use. Spells can also be used adjacent with your guns, providing you find their respective tomes. Tossing freeze bombs and summoning lightning while unloading slugs and popping rockets really does make you feel like one badass warlock.
Often, the most joy comes from battling enemies in open spaces, where you’ll be able to strafe around the beautiful-looking locations while dodging incoming enemy attacks from all locations. That’s not to say the tight and compact levels aren’t any good; the claustrophobic feeling that comes with fending off the monsters does make these encounters tense, but dodging projectile-firing enemies is a nuisance in them.
Project Warlock is not completely soaked in nostalgia, as it does implement some modern features, like a level system, perk points and weapon upgrades. Levelling up requires XP from collected treasure and defeated enemies, which in turn will be converted to stat points that can be used to beef up your health, mana, and ammo capacity. On top of that, some handy perks can also be acquired, though these become available once you upgrade specific skills to a certain amount, respectively. You’ll also earn upgrade points that can be spent on new spells or weapon upgrades, and they can turn your guns into something even meatier than before. For instance, you can upgrade the pistol into an extra-spicy flare pistol, or a slow-firing magnum.
One feature that is bound to irritate is the weapon selection system. Since more than one weapon fills out each slot, fiddling between your preferred picks can be a bit of a headache. While swapping weapons with either the shoulder buttons or weapon wheel, you can press the Y button to pick between the first or second weapons of each slot. What becomes a problem is that, instead of cycling between your preferred weapons in each slot, you’ll end up whipping out whichever is in the first or second instead. I personally prefer the upgraded pistol over the staff, but love the double-barreled shotgun, so having to cycle between my preferences during a heated shootout is a bit annoying.
While most of the enemy roster are fairly milktoast, in terms of behaviour and their attack patterns, there’re a few nasty dudes who are bound to shake things up. For instance, the bulky knights swing an axe up-close, but also tosses bombs from afar, a bit like the Ogres in Quake, while some strange, webbed-like freaks block off doorways and belch out fireballs. The boss battles are super-tough enemies that transform and mix up their attack patterns with each depleted health bar. These nasty buggers will make you hurt with their nasty attacks, so you’ll probably end up restarting a handful of times until you grab some of the bigger and better weapons along the way.
The first few levels are pretty daunting to play at first on Hard mode. Considering you have to rely on a limited number of continues in this one, getting through the first chapter can be frustrating, as the enemies (especially the red devils) will deliver much more damage. It should also be noted that the game lacks a save feature or checkpoint system, which is a tad disappointing. Again, as you bolster up your armory, the favour does begin to tip towards you a little bit. Still, this slight imbalance in between the two difficulty modes is something that could’ve been remedied.
What we have right here is another fine example of a port done right. Project Warlock runs on the Switch without making any major compromises. The only difference between this and the PC version is the framerate. Here, it’s locked to a steady 30 FPS, which is appropriate enough, since a lot of old school shooters were pretty much the same way back in the day. In any case, this port still performs adequately while docked and in handheld mode.
It’s good to see the Switch offering more solid shooters to play on the go. Project Warlock is filled with satisfying gunplay, a great OST, and a very peculiar but enjoyable art style. It’ll provide a demanding but gratifying shooting experience akin to a chunkier version of Wolfenstein 3D, and is ultimately bound to please if you love old school titles.
Review code supplied by Gaming Company.