Monday, July 11, 2016

Doom (2016)

Doom was the game I coveted the most for the PC in the early 90s. I didn't get it until a few years after it had come out when my father got a hold of a CD with something like 40 games on there. I'm sure it wasn't legit, but we finally had Doom and Doom 2.

I played through both games several times, on various difficulty levels, with various cheat codes. I combed every inch of every map, discovered John Romero's severed head behind the end boss, attempted to kill every demon in the final room of Doom only to find that the room itself would kill you. I loved Doom.

Doom 3 didn't grab me the same way. I remember really liking it, but I also remember being incredibly lost. I'd wander hallways trying to figure out what I had to trigger for hours, not making any progress.

But Doom 2016... there's something special about Doom 2016.

What I didn't like

This may be the fault of all the podcasts I listen to really hyping Doom up. I expected it to land with an explosion like a rocket launcher. I felt the beginning was slow. The first 30 minutes were really hard for me to stay focused. I didn't like how quickly Doomguy jerked around.

It took until I had 3 weapons to switch between for the game to really grab me.

Some of the alternate firing abilities on weapons aren't well described and until you equip them, you really don't know what it means.

What was OK

I was hoping for a slightly more varied environment. You basically have the Martian desert, the metal facility, and hell. And to me, hell sort of falls flat the same way Oblivion did in the Elder Scrolls. Yeah, technically, that's hell and everything is red and fiery, but it just looks like a video game level. It doesn't feel like hell.

You also will die a lot in the game. And this is a minor annoyance, but the load times can be 35-60 seconds and when you die a minute into your run and have to reload the checkpoint, it can be draining.

And I didn't feel the game was too twitchy and that might just be because I've spent enough time with it, but I did have a buddy play and he said it gave him a headache.

What I liked

The combat feels great. You can quickly switch between weapons and do the special finishers to gain health. It's all about movement. You have to keep moving, you can't let the demon's trap you, and you have to constantly be shooting something at them. Don't worry about your ammo, you will always find more.

This game is based on monster rooms and you fighting your way out. Each room is built with vulnerabilities and safe spots in mind, you just have to remember to keep moving.

And there are certain enemies and doors and keys that when you see in high def, your nostalgia center is punched with a spiked ring. It was awesome seeing a Cyberdemon running at you in high def.

And this may sound like a strange thing to like, but I really liked how the levels were split up with chapters. I knew that if I started a level, I could be at a solid end of that level within 45-60 minutes. It's not something I'd want in every game, but it really works here.

And then there's the writing. Much like the Wolfenstein reimagining, Bethesda knocked this old property out of the park, not by modernizing it and competing directly with the likes of a Call of Duty campaign, but by realizing that there's a way to stay true to the bloody satanic roots and poke just a little bit of fun at them.

For instance, one of the first things you find out about Doomguy is that he is a mythological creature, the only known weapon that can push back the demons. The opening room starts with a sarcophagus opening and Doomguy spilling out, lumbering over to his armor which is on display, and then you see a hologram of people worshiping your body. The mythology around why the demon's are there take the best parts of Doom, Resident Evil, B-movies, and mashes them together in a story you can choose to ignore or pour over the pages of backstory written about every enemy, weapon, and locale.

Final Thoughts

I'm cautious about what to expect from other classic franchises Bethesda owns the rights to. They did so well with Doom and Wolfenstein that I'm dying to see a new Commander Keen or Quake, but I suspect at some point they have to mess up and the stakes are high. It could be another Duke Nukem Forever where a bad outing sends a franchise back into the vault for the next decade. But as of right now, Bethesda / ID has an amazing track record and I can't wait to see more.

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