Does Doom Still Matter?

No name speaks more of a quintessential first-person shooter than Doom. Doom was the catalyst for a cacophony of violent games in the 90’s that eventually led to the ESRB being founded to regulate game content. Not only that, it popularized a genre of gaming that had yet to break out into the mainstream.

While the initial sequel, Doom II, was actually better than the first game, developer iD Software has yet to make a game that follows up on the legacy set forth by Doom. Maybe it’s a mixture of nostalgia and genre evolution that keeps holding them back, but for some reason, Doom cannot be topped.

In a few months, the confusingly titled Doom reboot will be launching. Taking inspiration from a mod for the original game, Doom looks to up the violence and make the game as fast paced as it’s forefather. The big question on my mind is; Does Doom still matter?

Obviously one cannot debate the importance of the original title. It was one of the first 3D games with an arsenal of weapons and motley crue of enemies that was unparalleled for the time. It had revolutionary online play and extensive modding tools that allowed fans to make their own creations.

I have no idea what I’m looking at.

It also had some incredible graphics, a rocking soundtrack and some genuinely outstanding level design (that still holds up). Make no mistake; Doom was the real deal. My first encounter with it was in 4th grade. An old friend introduced me to it on the playground with the instruction manual.

I didn’t have a Windows PC, so I actually had my parents run out and buy a Mac compatible Windows 95 launcher just so I could try this game. While I did eventually get it running, it was missing some features and would often crash.

My fascination with the game didn’t stop until we eventually did get a true Windows computer. That was my very first computer, actually; a Packard Bell with a 3 gb hard drive. Those were much simpler times.

Regardless, Doom was almost a taboo for how it “corrupted” the innocence of gaming. Parents were sickened at the depiction of “violence” the game had and it’s demonic villains. I guess killing hellspawn is evil, even if it saves the Earth.

News outlets were shocked at how you could mangle police officers (I still, to this day, want to know what game they played). Activist groups wanted the game removed from store shelves. The world was coming to an end and it was all because of this little game.

This is just the second level of the game.

Needless to say, the controversy was overblown and gaming continued to evolve. We now have more grotesque displays of violence in games and sexuality is even becoming a common occurrence. Gaming is a pop-culture staple that is slowly becoming less niche by the day.

So what can a new Doom game in 2016 bring to the table? Does Doom need to be more than a simple throwback? Are fans ever going to be impressed with what gets released? I’m not sure I can answer all of those questions.

The easiest to tackle would be the intention of a new Doom. Not every piece of media needs to have a deeper message or mean something more to it’s medium. On occasion, a good, mindless, violent trip through excess and escapism is precisely what a person needs.

A rough day at work can be capped off with a good, meaty rocket launcher explosion of your best friend (in game form, of course…). The cathartic quality that Doom always exhibits can’t be understated; to this day, I still fire explosives in games and expect splash damage.

The original Doom wasn’t made with the purpose of reinventing the wheel. The developers saw a thing they liked, a new way to do it and set off to make it the best product possible. The main reason Doom succeeded so much was because of it’s business model; a freeware version of the first episode was available for free through mail order and the internet (if one was lucky enough to own a modem in 1994).

That gaming had not seen anything like Doom was merely a coincidence. Most game makers, artists and musicians don’t set out to specifically enhance their art form; they tend to fall on an idea they all love and furnish it into something unique.

How could you not be in love with this?

Will fans accept a new Doom? Well, initial reaction says yes. Fans reportedly cheered at the unveiling during Quakecon 2014. No one but those attendees got to see the footage of the game and everyone was claiming it was going “back to basics”. I guess they were on board.

Then a year went by without much information leaking. No one was talking about the game and people hadn’t seen what the gameplay was going to be like. Eventually at E3, a trailer was released that showcased footage to the general public. Now fans were skeptical.

The “official” box art actually typifies everything wrong with the industry in 2016. The colors are muted, limited and saturated. The main character is faceless, staring at the ground and “gruff”. The font takes up more space than anything else and shows nothing of what the game is.

It just reeks of a cash grab. That is completely disregarding the actual quality of the game, but it seems that Bethesda only commissioned a reboot of Doom because reboots are the new, hot thing. Movie franchises are increasingly doing reboots and even Tomb Raider, another gaming institution, had a successful reimagining.

Look how many shits she gives.

Fans never seem to be pleased with anything. Gunning for that crowd will usually end in disaster. Still, whom else are you going to market a reboot of Doom to in 2016? Falling back on the legacy of your series will do nothing for newer gamers.

Which brings us to the final question; What can a new Doom bring to the table in 2016? As I mentioned above, the main source of inspiration seems to be a mod for the original Doom called Brutal Doom.

One of the creators of the original game, John Romero, was quoted as saying, “The only thing I think about now is.. what if… when we released Doom, we actually released Brutal Doom?” (laughs). We would have destroyed the gaming industry, I think. Brutal Doom is hilarious.”

I’m guessing that was all Bethesda needed to hear to fast track progress on a Doom reboot. A lot of the animations for weapons look like they were taken from the mod. The gore factor seems to have been clearly inspired by the mod. Sadly, the mod seems to be faster paced.

Without taking that into account, though, what else could Doom do? Shooters have become a stagnant genre in recent years. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare seemed to be the last big shakeup to the genre in terms of evolution. It’s online, RPG-lite system of unlocks caused a plethora of copycats that still haven’t gone away in nearly 10 years.

Level design has also remained the same…

Call of Duty is also responsible for popularizing the down sight aiming that basically every shooter uses today. Along with Resident Evil 4 redefining third person combat, action gaming hasn’t truly changed since 2005. The industry is falling back on old ideas and past successes to keep their inflated budgets and massive paychecks going.

While Doom may not have started out with the intent of reinventing gaming, it’s launch was special. It was a fundamental shift from being marketed as a toy for children into becoming a hobby that anyone could enjoy. It expanded the horizons of what software could do.

Doom in 2016 just looks like the same boring stuff we’ve seen for decades. I’ve never taken Doom as a serious, scary, horrific trek through a nightmare. Doom has always been a goofy, colorful, fun filled time for me. How can you look at the original graphics and not feel happy?

Even the defining features of this reboot, it’s gore filled executions, was done in Gears of War. You would be forgiven for mistaking Doom as a first-person sequel to that series; the art style is practically the same.

So, does Doom still matter? For cultural reverence, I’d say yes. As far as being an exciting, landmark event; hell no. There is nothing that Doom can do to become interesting again, apart from a complete shift in tone and setting (which would then defeat the purpose).

What film producers, game developers and artists need to realize is that certain things take off because of their time frame. Doom was a massive hit because nothing else was like it in 1994. In 2016, we’ve seen so many things emulate Doom that gamers just don’t care.

And no one cares about this.

Naming your game Doom and expecting it to sell is just naive. You would be better set creating a new IP and shifting focus away from the nostalgia laden masses. It’s fine to claim the game is a spiritual successor to Doom, but to drag the actual legacy into the dirt is shameful.

Then again, come May, I may be eating these words. The game could be good. Whose to say?

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My Summer – Day 1: Prototype

After not having written a blog in 3 months, I’ve come back with A VENGEANCE! For the next week, I will be doing daily write-ups on all of the games I played this summer. I will double up on a few days for games I played that had sequels (which I also played).

While you may think these are reviews, I am trying to put my opinion on the matter while also pointing out flaws and general praises that I have for a game. I will not be dolling out scores, or even sectioning off my texts into topics.

Without any further delay, I present to you, Prototype.

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Ah Prototype, a game that received a lot of controversy for being similar to a certain PS3 title (and a coming overview from me in a few days). While not the best game in its genre (Open World Adventure), Prototype is certainly a thrilling experience from beginning to end.

The game starts off with a rather amazing looking cutscene that tries it’s best to rip-off every Quentin Tarantino movie ever made. You start the game off at the end of the story and your character, Alex Mercer, works his way backwards. Not only that, but you play a part that chronologically takes place almost at the end of your adventure.

This shows off some of the impressive abilities you (eventually) have at your disposal. Things like blades growing out of your arms, tentacles that destroy everything they touch; even massive Hulk like arms. This is all exhilarating and you really get a sense that you are a WMD. Not only that, but you are unleashed into Times Square with a pretty accurate representation.

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Just one of your many abilities at work!

After you complete this part, you are thrust into the main plotline. While you don’t know anything about your character, the story does little to shed light on the cause at the moment. All you kind of get is that Alex is wanted DOA, so you need to work fast to thwart your enemies.

Missions are what propel you through this game and they certainly are fun, at first. While everything is a bit generic, the game gives you a large quantity of experience points to upgrade your character. Doing 1 mission early in the game pretty much guarantees you 2-3 upgrades each time. You even get the ability to copy an individuals image so you can cloak in the crowd; Sweet.

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ROSA! GIVE ME YOUR PEE!

When you slowly begin to build back your abilities, you learn some neat tricks. Alex has super speed, a devastating last stand attack and even the ability to glide in the air. This harkens back to Spider-man 2 with its amazing webslinging. Running through the city is definitely fun for a bit, but just trying to build your speed and jumping distance make traveling fast a simple act.

After about 2 hours in, though, Prototype takes a massive turn for the worst. The graphics were never astounding (even with the first cutscene being ridiculously good), but they really show a lot of pop-in and repetition in building design. You run down the streets of NYC and feel like you entered a perpetual warp zone. Not only that, you should have a few upgrades for your speed, which makes the pop-in even worse then you jump for a building that doesn’t exist yet.

Not only that, Alex is definitely an extremely generic dude. While the story started off vague, it never clears anything up. There is an answer to why Alex is such a beast, but it feels like a cop-out and, to a lesser extent, a copy of Bourne Identity. Alex also just acts pissed off because he can. Are the police getting on your nerves? “I F*#@ING HATE THEM! HULK SMASH!”

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I smolder with generic rage!

The enemy A.I. is also some of the worst of any open-world game I’ve recently played. Instead of trying to balance the difficulty by, say, making the enemies use cover tactics or any type of actual warfare, Prototype just throws horde after horde of beasts in your direction. You eventually get to a point in the story where you fail until you upgrade your health or run around like a fool.

Not only is the generic enemy A.I. bad, but the bosses are even stupider. I know boss battles in the past have had patterns, but the Prototype bosses rarely move. They just sit there sprouting out insults and using the same attack over and over. Once you get past the horde of 16 million generic enemies bum rushing you, the boss gets a cheap shot and you have to repeat the process. This gets extremely trying on your nerves and I almost gave up at a few points. I’m sure Easy difficulty could have alleviated this problem, but who wants to play a game on Easy?

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These guys will definitely piss you off.

These problems wouldn’t be so bad to me if the game just varied its design more. In addition to the main quests, you have short activities that are supposed to use your powers for objectives. The only thing that stands out is a Gliding mini-game where you have Alex time his jumps to reach a small circle about 5 city blocks away (and one in the middle of a lake). It really sticks out in the otherwise generic objectives that are thrown at you in every other mission.

The other minigames consist of Speed Trials and Killing (even if you kill with the cause being A) Time Limit, B) Amount or C) With an Ability). These are overly difficult at times and at others are too simple. There is no real balance between what you should be able to do with patience and what you just cannot do at all.

I have to say, though, that I did enjoy the initial game I played. If Activision put a lot more time polishing the things like Story, Graphics and Variety, I may have been inclined to sit here and tell you that Prototype is an amazing game. I do recommend it to people who like their combat bloody and hardcore, but if you have been burnt out on Open-World games recently, you are better off skipping this and picking up a certain clone (inFamous).

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MOAR CLAW!