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?

I Need a Bigger Gun

As we progress into the future, games become more and more limitless. When hardware or storage capacity used to hinder developers, new formats and emerging cloud gaming have basically done away with old constraints.

Have you ever noticed how most newer games lack unique or memorable arsenals? With all the power at their fingertips, developers still rely on the tried and true Doom arsenal to pepper their games with variety. Nothing against Doom or iD Software, but that was 1994.

We are in the year 2015. The fact that I couldn’t recall any weapons from the latest Call of Duty is a tremendous problem. Even if the first game relied on period accurate weaponry, the series was known more for how it changed the way we utilize the guns more then the guns themselves.

Yes! That gun I’ve used in every game for the past 4 years!

Even with that, Call of Duty is eternally boring with it’s selection of firearms. You have the general ā€¯Weapon” category and then everything to broken into sub-catregories. Rifles, Machine Guns, SMGs, Snipers; you name a real life gun, Call of Duty has it.

While this may make sense for a Tom Clancy game with it’s focus on realism, Call of Duty should be pushing the boundaries of the genre. The games are the most popular thing in the medium and collect ridiculous amounts of money every year. You’d think Activision would want to spice things up a bit.

To lay off that franchise, what about any other games? Grand Theft Auto is guilty of phoning in the weapons. I remember the stupid glee I had when I first obtained the chainsaw in GTA: Vice City. About the coolest weapon I found in Grand Theft Auto V was a golf club.

Even Assassin’s Creed has basically stopped innovating in terms of arsenals. Since Ezio introduced the dual hidden blade, every subsequent game has contained it. Ubisoft then started throwing in items that took away from the idea of stealth (who the hell wanted bombs?).

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate looks to remedy this problem, but I don’t know if one game series is enough. As popular as those games may be, shooters still reign supreme and have been stagnant for a long time. I don’t want to always rely on an M4 or ACR in my games.

I used to love old-school shooters with their insane, unrealistic and creative weapons. I loved how, when Half-Life took a turn for a more realistic style, the weapons remained unconventional. I truly love how Unreal introduced two firing modes.

Even their “real” guns had different modes.

Painkiller, a game which was seen as a bit vapid back in the day, has probably the best arsenal of any shooter around. There are only 6 weapons, but each gun has an alternate mode that is basically a new gun. It doubles the arsenal without bombarding the player with different models or information.

To that effect, Halo has always been fairly inventive with it’s guns. While some are basically analogues for genre staples, the Needler and the Plasma pistol are wholly unique. The pistol is also god damned incredible with how well it balances the multi-player (as far as the first game is concerned).

Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena never had issues with balance as their arsenals were diverse and different. Obviously a rocket launcher was in both, but each game had a different feel and different fire rate. The rail-gun was a much faster sniper, while UT’s plasma rifle and ripper have never been replicated.

You can dig through iD Software’s past and find plenty of different guns. Quake had the lightning gun, Heretic had a damned staff and Doom introduced the world to the BFG 9000 (later upgraded to the BFG 10k for Quake 3).

And all was right with the world.

Then I go to my PS4, boot up Killzone: Shadow Fall and see weapons that can be replaced with any real world equivalent. It really makes newer games feel completely dated. What about when future warfare becomes a reality? Now these weapons will be old-school and worthless.

With the likes of old-school shooters, most of those weapons will never exist. Even if you could produce a facsimile, the game’s weapon would remain an entity unto itself. The fun wouldn’t be lost or feel lazy.

I would just like to see shooters try harder. The genre used to be a trailblazer for graphical technologies and creativity. Now, we pretty much have a paint by numbers system for creating first-person games. I don’t want that to be the standard.

An Ode To Shooters (Short Poem)

Guns, guts, glory and gore,
When gripping the trigger, I’m craving more,
Lining up my shots and firing away,
Making sure you won’t see another day.

Stalking the prey and counting my shells,
Grabbing ammo so all is well,
Stacking on armor to prevent expiration,
Cooking grenades for your brains evacuation.

Rounding each corner with reckless abandon,
Hoping to rapid fire shots from my cannon,
Itching to see the dye in your eyes,
Screaming to hear your blood-curdling cries.

Spinning turrets to cause you blight,
Piloting vehicles to any height,
Sprinting faster to chase you around,
Curb stomp you until you’re down.

Blood flows down like a river,
Reminding me of how you shivered,
Turn my head to walk away,
Bullet collides and ends my day.

The cycle repeats for what seems like hours,
Lives lost and new blood cowers,
Shooters provide such visceral thrills,
To this day, I still get chills.

Endless arsenals full of ridiculous gear,
Games dedicated to eliciting pure fear,
Gory romps through hell and space,
Tension making your heart race.

Plotted tactics in a realistic style,
Or mindless killing to drive you wild,
The range of titles is limitless,
But they all fill me with pure bliss.

I’ll never tire of the fights,
Popping off rounds and setting foes alight,
Masterful killing is what I can do,
But certain death is not good enough for you.

Gaming Thoughts: Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a very powerful force. It can completely distort the past unlike any other thing in the world. Recently, “Duke Nukem Forever” saw the light at the end of the release tunnel and gamers were thrilled. The thing is, we all wanted it for the sake of nostalgia.

While I’m not going to detail my utter disdain for that dreadful title, I would like to go over how frustrated my past with Duke 3D got me over the new game. As awkward as this may sound, I actually played Duke 3D back when it launched in 1997.

At the time, I was 9 years old. My parents were very trusting of my understanding of video games and how they differentiated from real life, so they let me embark on any kind of violent/adult/debauched type of games. Being 9, I never noticed the blood or nudity or cursing, I just liked the game.

A few years back I got to replay Duke 3D on Xbox Live Arcade and I was surprised at how ahead of its time the game was. While there certainly were aspect that hasn’t aged well (I’m looking at you water level), the game really created a sense of atmosphere that most modern games can’t even compare to. Even the voice acting was still ridiculously hilarious, regardless of how much wit it lacked.

What else made the game so great were the graphics. While ID was busy trying to take first-person gaming into full 3D with “Quake,” 3D Realms stuck with what worked and made the best damn version of “Doom” that was ever made. Yeah, Duke essentially ripped off the grand-daddy of shooters, but it had a sense of cartoony style and flair that Call of Duty wishes it had.

When I installed Forever on my PC, I expected at least something from the original. The only thing I got was the fucking water level and that caused me to break my phone in rage. I don’t understand what the mentality was over the 14 year development cycle, but I think it’s pretty sad that we got a game that’s about 7 steps backwards from what Duke 3D did.


This is literally the only achievement Forever accomplishes.

My biggest beef, though, has to be the loss of character and art style. Like I described to my best friend/brother, Jim, “The monsters look extremely realistic. It’s like when you’re a kid and you always wondered what it would be like to actually be the character. Then when you finally see how flimsy and stupid it is, you just want the original.”

The worst offender for the character is his psychopathic sense of humor. I understand that during my life time, I’ve made some awful jokes. I’m not trying to debate here that I’m a high and mighty, morally upstanding person (hell, I get drunk on a fairly regular basis), but why would you write rape and abortion jokes into your script? Why does one line in the game consist of the word fuck, shit and bullshit 3 times each?

On the flip side, though, I’ve also been playing through the re-released Ocarina of Time on 3DS and my memories are still intact. In fact, the game is actually a bit better than I remember it some 13 years ago. Nintendo held their title to such a high standard that they even improved lacking aspects.

The wonderful, colorful, vibrant world is left alone, but polygon counts are boosted and the frame rate is smoothed out to create such a different experience that it’s almost worth owning both versions. My only complaint in more recent years was the damn iron boots in the Water Temple and Nintendo fixed it.

Playing through, all I could say to Jim were things like, “Oh shit, it’s time for Jabu-Jabu,” or, “God, these chickens look ridiculous in 3D,” and my personal favorite, “Oh snap! Din’s Fire! Shit just got real!” I got misty eyed when I heard the overworld theme again and I kept reliving memories of my youth when I got to specific moments in the game.

While I wouldn’t say that Ocarina is worth the purchase of a 3DS, if you do own the system, you owe it to yourself to relive this classic. It’s similar to how Duke 3D still outshines a lot of modern shooters; Ocarina is such a feature filled world that it puts a lot of open-world games to shame.


The horse even controls better than Red Dead Redemption! Fuck yeah, Epona!

It’s astounding how the force of nostalgia can create positive and negative emotions all within the same week. Duke fails my childhood while Link escalates it back into my conscious. This brings up a bigger idea, though; Did Gearbox sell us nostalgia for a simple dollar?

I used to hold Gearbox to a high standard. While they weren’t flawless and even their greatest game had a few issues, I always trusted their games to be fun, deep experiences. Duke does a huge disservice to the developers and really hurts their image in my eyes.

And yet Nintendo, who can consistently piss me off with their lack of online support and their asinine ideas for modern consoles, still manages to impress some 23 years into my life. When their titles get as much care and respect placed into their development as gamers hold in their hearts, then there really isn’t anything that they can’t accomplish.

While I wish I didn’t have these past experiences hindering my present being, nostalgia really isn’t all that bad. It just goes to show that developers really need to love what they are doing. If you simply finish something because gamers have been waiting more than half their lives, then you’re setting yourself up for a big failure.

As for the future, I believe nostalgia will still obscure my views. “Sonic Generations” is coming out and it’s poising to finally bring together both generations of Sonic fans. I’ve always preferred the classic style of Sonic, but if Sega can finally and lovingly create a 3D Sonic, maybe I’ll only have positive things to say.

It’s hard to tell with nostalgia, but I do know that it’s not going away anytime soon.