It’s far too simplistic to call Project Warlock a throwback first person shooter, and an ode to classics like Doom and Hexen. Largely as it’s actually very little like them at all deep down. And that’s probably a good thing in this case.
Yes, at first glance the pixelart and simplistic level layout may seem like this is a Doom clone – but saying that is discrediting just how tightly designed the original Doom was, and still is.
Doom is not a classic just because it practically invented the FPS genre (sorry, Wolfenstein 3D) and had some suitably grungy visuals. It’s a classic because of its sprawling levels, memorable arsenal of weapons, and tightly designed enemy set.
Project Warlock on the other hand attempts to go bigger and better with all of these elements, and ironically ends up being a much lesser experience.
Its levels span across a range of locations – including a medieval castle, Antarctica, and Egypt. Yet due to its insistence on funnelling you down tight corridors much of the time every level can often feel the same, regardless of the set dressing around you. This is in comparison to Doom where levels stretched up, down, and around.
Second, the weaponry is impressive in size – but some reining in would have gone a long way. You have a huge weapon wheel that is clumsy to use, and it can often be difficult to switch between the many tools at your disposal in the heat of a firefight.
Third, the enemy set is plentiful but many of the foes are frustrating to deal with. You can often avoid enemies projectiles, but they have an irritating habit of popping up behind you, and there are a few too many attacks which can sometimes seem impossible to avoid (during boss battles in particular).
So it’s not a patch on Doom, but not much is – at least when it comes to old school thrills. On its own terms Project Warlock is a fine if sometimes unnecessarily unfair shooter.
The repetitive level design is slightly negated by the effort that’s gone into the weapons and how they feel to use. There’s a huge range to go through, but blasting away at foes with some, such as the shotgun – and seeing them slowly disintegrate after each shot, a lovely touch – is endlessly satisfying.
There’s also a solid enough upgrade system, with magic abilities being offered alongside your standard weaponry. Originally released on PC back in 2018, it’s made a very smooth transition to the Switch too – running flawlessly in docked and handheld modes.
What we found to be a major issue with Project Warlock though is the perverse difficulty set-up. The normal mode sees you given a set number of lives, and once they’re lost you have to restart the entire game from scratch.
You are also unable to save anywhere you wish during levels. Which becomes a big issue when you find yourself on the end of an unavoidable attack or die due to an enemy popping up behind you.
There’s a casual mode where lives aren’t an issue fortunately – but it’s still confusing to have the ‘standard’ difficulty option offer such a needlessly cruel experience.
So if you’re looking for something a little different in the FPS genre on the Switch – and don’t want to delve into the past – then Project Warlock might be worth considering. Yet the ports of the first two Doom titles ultimately represent far better value, and offer a much more rewarding and balanced experience.