Yeah, super late. I know. I apologize. Got hit with a ton of crazy personal life stuff. I could have left it, I suppose, but I promised I would do one. So here it is!
One of my more favorite times of the year is any time I get to fly home to visit with my family. I probably only get back 2 times a year on average since I live so far away now, but needless to say, it’s always an event I look forward to. In addition to that, if everyone’s schedules line up, my uncles might be around too. Every time there’s at least four of us together, without fail, we make sure to schedule a Euchre night. Granted, we spend most of our time talking away, taking up to 2 hours to finish one game to 10. But that’s more the point, anyways. We just like to revisit the same activity we’ve always enjoyed playing together.
To be honest, I probably wouldn’t enjoy Euchre a whole lot outside of playing with that group. In fact, I don’t ever play it at all unless the whole fam dam is together. That fly-by gaming session for old time's sake is exactly what Doom turns out to be... Just... far... FAR... less tame than a game of Euchre.
The latest Doom is exactly what you remember Doom to be. Many of us who are old enough remember Doom on SNES. At the time, it was revolutionary first person gaming unlike most any other gaming experience we’ve ever had. It’s known for being bloody, gory, fast paced, frantic, demonic, and just generally insane. There is no covering fire, no cover system, no real tactical approach, and that’s exactly the point! Doom has always been the game that makes you feel like a total and complete badass, and Doom carries that mantle and identity to perfection. This is pure, unadulterated fan service.
Doom is not for those with weak stomachs for two reasons. One, there is so much blood and goop thanks to high powered weapons and disgustingly satisfying brutal melee executions called “Glory Kills”. Whether you tear open a face or rip off limbs and a head with your bare hands, Doom III makes no effort to put any measure of distance between you and the disturbing. Lets just say that if you are hoping to prove to anyone that video games are healthy or an artistic expression or anything else positive really, maybe don’t use this game as “Exhibit A”... or “Z” for that matter.
The second reason is because for those with weak stomachs, you may experience some motion sickness, as I certainly did. The game is very fluid, but it also stays rigidly true to its roots. While I think this is overall a very good thing for a franchise to do, that includes the lack of realism in movement. In a shooter like Call of Duty, Resistance, Killzone, or Gears of War, as you move around the map, you get the “bounciness” of your step or the swaying of your rifle as you hold it in two hands while running. But in doom, you just sort of… float across the map much like you did in the original Doom on SNES. This allows for a faster pace, I think, and a larger emphasis on an arcadey “point and shoot” while frantically moving around. But with the lightning quick movements, many bright, almost neon, colors and incredible amount of things going on at once, I couldn’t play more than 20 minutes at a time without taking a break. One evening, I had to stop gaming entirely. I couldn’t even look at a screen, let alone a video game. Even email was impossible.
Still, I find it difficult to justify penalizing the game too much for that as I assume that’s probably more my issue than the game’s. It also makes me wonder if VR might be an impossibility for me down the road. Still, though, I can’t help but think we’ve come past the glide-walking days to the point that it’s now a distraction that makes me feel like the main character is just a big BB-8 drone from Star Wars with arms.
Doom doesn’t have much of a story to speak of. It’s pretty generic and mostly empty, but again, Doom isn’t about the story anyways. It’s about the action. You’re a crazy, inhuman but kind of human dude who’s pissed off at other humans for allowing all these insane demons to run rampant and literally invade Mars from Hell. Just like real life! Still, I did appreciate small moments of non-verbal storytelling that add to the immersion, even if only slightly. For example, near the start as the game is establishing its story, you hear a voice come over the radio trying to convince you that their motive was to help humanity. As they speak the line about helping people, you look down to the left at an absolutely wrecked corpse of what I assume to be a scientist. Little details, and in a way, small bits of sarcasm really, add to it all.
The trailer might be the most accurate cinematic trailer I have ever seen to portray what the game is really like.
Much like the trailer itself implies, once you finish with a group of enemies in one section of the game, you immediately move to another section with more bad, ready-to-blow-up-your-living-body baddies. The action keeps on pumping, and I expect for many people, it’s an experience taken in best through small doses. You cannot stop moving once the fighting starts. If you try to take cover behind a wall, you’ll just get flanked or rushed by more enemies than you can handle. You need to actively use the entire “arena” to move about shooting and executing your prey. And I mean “arena”, too. It feels like every section of baddies is it’s own enclosed battleground you can’t really move away from until the carnage ends. It regularly happens that you enter an area from another you can no longer return to, and you can’t get the key to move forward until you demolish everything around you first.
In order to be successful, you have to run, shoot, punch, and jump like a madman all over the place. Powerups are occasionally available to help give you that boost, as well. You have this crazy battle suit that gives you superhuman powers, that can generate additional abilities like armour bonus, going berserk, etc. from those powerups. These powerups make it easier to achieve glory kills, which while fun, quickly become too much of a necessary and repetitive action.
The multiplayer in this game is a ton of fun, although I will say it takes quite a while to figure out what weapons work well in multiplayer mode. I found that effective single player weapons did not translate into successful multiplayer uses. Granted it could be that I just wasn’t very good at it, but I did feel like I had no idea what was happening in these games for quite a while before eventually figuring it out. It helps to maybe read up on the mode you’re about to play before you play it. I made the erogenous error of thinking I would just pick my load out and abilities then go. But when I got in, people were using crazy weapons I didn’t understand, transforming into demons that were just running me down like a Mac Truck, and phantom draining my health with white laser-like weapons from behind.
In short, a lot is happening in multiplayer mode, and while eventually you’ll catch on, it is definitely not a pick-up-and-play kind of shooter like Call of Duty or Halo. Once you find a way to orient yourself about the maps and the modes, it does fall into place and you are rewarded with a high-paced and fun multiplayer experience. I’m not sure it succeeds well enough to be a game-of-choice compared to other multiplayer games out there, as it quickly gets a little boring, but I do think it services hard-core Doom fans quite well. The only drawback for that crowd might be the fact that most long-time Doom lovers are likely far more interested in the single player, anyway.
Visually, aside from the violence, I found the game to be extremely bland in regards to the environment. There are some creative sections with sparks and fire flying from all directions, but the color palettes of each area feel like they exist within the same base hue. I found myself explaining sections of the map to friend as “the third red area” or “the second blue spot” or “the spaceship looking walkway”. The fact that this was all I needed to say for him to know exactly what I meant should say enough. But the smooth, fluidity kept up beautifully, and I did like the enemy design. Really, it was exactly what we all wanted: high-def recreations of the original demons we loved shooting so dearly. Enemies reacted to being hit exactly where they were hit. Of course, most weapons are so explosive, it’s not like they typically react like you would getting hit by a single bullet to the foot or something. Heck, with most weapons, you’re blowing shit RIGHT up and enemies just…. FLY.
A major perk to the fast speed of the game is the responsive controls. It’s easy to pick up and play through the single player mode, and I didn’t experience any latency issues with my input. I also did not experience any problems with how I interacted with the environment. The control is tight, and for this kind of experience, it better be. Fortunately, Doom rises to the occasion.
So much attention was paid to the sound of your shotgun and other weapons. They truly mastered the sound your weapons make, and the background music is heavy metal enough to fit the game the way it should. I would have liked better attention paid to other sound effects, like footsteps or the bits of bodies raining down on the floor. But what they’ve done is more than serviceable to the crazy pace of everything happening all around you. Again, with how inhumanly fast you glide and spin around, any more stimulation and I might have had a seizure!
Overall, Doom manages to maintain its identity while delivering a high-adrenaline, space cowboy experience that hits hard and shreds flesh harder. While it’s great to have that kind of experience you can return home to and have an absolute blast with for those short, nostalgic pieces of time, it’s not the kind of activity you’ll likely return to outside of those rare visits. The outdated control scheme doesn’t do much new, and it feels wholly artificial through your movements. But what the game lacks in multiplayer, story, and forward-thinking gameplay mechanics, it more than makes up for through its transparency, bold and confident self-identity, and nostalgia.
For those of us returning home for that rare visit, it’s a fun game that’ll bring you back to the good ol’ days. For everyone else, it’s just another game of Euchre.
6/27/2016 Chris Howlett