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?

Advertisements

Resident Evil 4 – Conquering My Fears

One of the definitions of “Haunt,” as according to Merriam-Webster, is; “to have a disquieting or harmful effect on.” I cannot recall much in my life that has done that to me, other than one video game. That belongs to “Resident Evil 4.”

My friend and I were eagerly anticipating this game. We watched pretty much every trailer and I even recollect a moment where I claimed the game would, “Be the Best video game ever.” While that statement isn’t too far from the truth, something funny happened along the lines.

I became afraid of what I was seeing. Villagers with demonic eyes, wielding sharp objects and bum rushing you with murderous intent; it was terrifying to me in a way I had never experienced before. Throw in the idea of instant death enemies and gigantic, over-powered boss fights and I was almost ready to give up.


Ah christ!

I put on a façade that I was hardcore, though. I really did want the game and I wanted others to believe I cared about it. I’m not quite sure why, but those were my actions. When the game finally came out, I immediately picked it up and popped it in my Gamecube. I played for a grand total of 20 minutes before I gave up out of fright.

I couldn’t take the tension of facing the unknown. The way death was lurking around the corner or bear traps were waiting for me or gigantic boulders were coming; it was insane. Couple all of that with the fierce difficulty curve and I was dead on arrival.

What didn’t help was how my friend was using Action Replay and still failing. Even he couldn’t deal with the difficulty and cheats couldn’t help him. I was so terrified at this point that I almost traded the game back, but I held onto the hope that I would be able to conquer my fear one day.

It took me 2 full years before I tried playing the game again. During that time, I heard from another friend of mine that most of the game was difficult. He had trouble slaying some of the bosses and he often had to quit for a few days to rebuild his strength to continue. How was that supposed to alleviate my fear?

Well, when I got my Wii and was out of games to fool around with, I figured that I might as well attack the cause of my anxiety once and for all. As it turns out, the game actually kept me scared for other reasons.


This is not an uncommon sight.

Before that point in time, not many games existed with the sole intent of destroying your morale. “Resident Evil 4” is unique in that death isn’t simply a game over screen. Most of the time, your character is mutilated or decapitated. If you check YouTube, you can find a near 10 minute video of character deaths.

That idea, alone, scares the ever-living soul out of me. When I’m trekking through a game, I don’t want to feel like I’ve failed and life is over. That’s what makes the game work, though. When you conquer a tough situation and know how gruesome failure can be, the accomplishment is like curing a major crisis.

The few successes I had in the beginning just made the entire experience wonderful. You come up to a tough area, get eviscerated or annihilated and then come back with a new found fear/respect for your foes. It makes you more careful, more calculated and even tenser at the thought of death.

One of my best moments from the game comes during the middle. You face off against this enemy that looks like a Predator. He is called Verdugo and he is nearly impossible to kill. The entire idea is to freeze him with canisters of CO2 and wait for an elevator.


He is your nightmares personified.

Well, aside from scaring the piss out of me, I was constantly running away and screaming while doing so. I was so afraid of failing that I didn’t even want to look the beast in the eye. Well, during an almost successful attempt, the guy jumped at me and decapitated me. I can remember my reaction clear as day.

The buildup of astriction and angst was tenfold, but the failure was just incredible. I couldn’t believe that I lost and I immediately headed back to surmount this bastard. When I finally overcame the beast, I was ready to throw a party.

Circumventing this foe wasn’t the end of my troubles, though. When I watched my friend cheating, he was on a boss I hadn’t even encountered yet. I saw the creature lash out and devour my friend, so I was so damn terrified of that happening to me.

Not too far after, I finally strolled into the very same boss battle. It was a fight with the antagonist, Salazaar, and I wasn’t ready. While I didn’t get consumed by him, I was nearly paralyzed at the thought of that giant creature eating me. I failed a few times out of adrenaline build up.


Thought you could best me? Think again!

When I eventually beat the game, I began to wonder what all the fear was for. Maybe just anticipation got the best of me? Hearing the stories of friends bombing at the game didn’t provide any sense of ease to me, so I let that thought permeate in my mind.

To this day, though, nothing was managed to give me a sense of dread like this. There are some other games that I’m sure will be scary to me, but I now know that I have the strength to tackle nearly any obstacle put in front of me.

Thank you, Capcom. You managed to scare me silly and make me feel invincible. That is definitely an amazing feat.

Emasculation of an Action Star


During the course of the first “Dead Space,” you”d be forgiven for thinking Isaac Clarke was a complete bad ass underneath the suit. I always pictured him as a whimpering little bitch, but mainly because he screams at nearly everything that jumps towards him.

Visceral Games did the great luxury of fleshing out Isaac for 2 and the game feels a lot more human for it. Not only is Isaac really not a super-macho badass (the man’s in his mid 40’s, which is uncharacteristic of every muscle bound idiot), but he emotes about lost love.

SPOILER WARNING FROM HERE ON OUT. DON’T COMPLAIN!

The very first chapter of “Dead Space 2” has Isaac running through an insane asylum while strapped into a straight-jacket. This leaves Isaac with literally nothing to defend himself, stripping him of any kind of power that a gun or fists would give him. It’s incredibly tense and it helps build the fact that Isaac is far more powerful on the inside than most of his contemporaries.

Eventually the game gets into Isaac’s psychosis and reveals that he is feeling extremely guilty over the death of his girlfriend. In “Dead Space: Extraction,” players are shown Isaac’s girlfriend, Nicole, killing herself over the outbreak of the necromorph.

The entire first “Dead Space” game has Isaac trying to look for her (though getting sidetracked by some bitch’s personal agenda). At the end of that, Isaac sits at the cockpit of an escape pod and watches the last few moments of Nicole’s life on repeat. His facial expression clearly shows the man is in pain.

While 2 doesn’t delve enough into Isaac’s mind as I’d like, there are a few key points worth mentioning. One comes fairly early in the game (around Chapter 4) and showcases the dementia Isaac has. Right after crawling through a shaft, Isaac is confronted by an apparition of Nicole with a needle in her hand, attempting to stab him in the eye. Once you successfully pass the QTE, Nicole disappears and you see Isaac holding the needle up to his face.

It’s very shocking and makes you wonder exactly how deep this man’s heartache goes. His look of fear is also something you wouldn’t expect of a man who has dealt with some of the worst monsters in the known universe.

Later on in the story, Isaac meets up with another woman. Her name is Ellie and she’s trying to get off the Sprawl as much as Isaac. While Isaac simply wants to help her, she wants nothing to do with him and nearly shoots him dead. When she is seen leaving through an elevator, Isaac’s expression is something of worry.

Isaac begins to have transference with Ellie. She is envisioned to be a Nicole that Isaac can save. Towards the end of her role in the game, Isaac even says that to her. He potentially sacrifices his life so that Ellie can live; something he wishes was possible to do for Nicole.

After giving Ellie this speech, Isaac falls to the ground and looks down in a blind gaze. Lost in thought, Isaac isn’t sure of his actions anymore. He looks over to another apparition of Nicole and they share a conversation about why Isaac cannot let go.

This overwhelming sense of guilt is something not normally seen of male characters in video games, especially not ones in action games. It also one-ups “Lords of Shadow” by simply showing the angst in Isaac’s eyes instead of describing it to us.

The final scene that really nailed this out of the park for me happens around the middle of chapter 14. Isaac opens a door and the apparition of Nicole grabs him by the neck and thrusts him into the air. After yelling at him and asking him questions, Isaac utters an extremely heartfelt line.
“If I let you go, I’ve got nothing left.”

As the game closes, Isaac feels betrayed by the visions of Nicole and eventually has to face them in a thrilling climax. Nicole leads Isaac to the marker (the source of all power in the Dead Space universe) and Isaac doesn’t understand. He curses her and then destroys his visions of her.

After that, Isaac is finished. He’s ready to wait for death as nothing is left for him. Even though Ellie comes back and rescues him, the player is left unsure of whether Isaac will truly be able to let go of his guilt.

I know I’ve had similar feelings, though I’ve never actually witnessed the death of a past love interest. The first girl I really fell for in high school I wanted more than you could imagine. She was very friendly to me, we had lots of common interests in music and our attitudes about school were pretty much mirror matches of each other.

The only problem was that she was fairly promiscuous and she had some kind of guilt about it when it came to me. She never dared touch me and wouldn’t give me the luxury of seeing her outside of school. I tried my best to change that and I went overboard and practically began to stalk her.

When she finally ceased contact with me, I wasn’t sure how to deal with it. I began to feel extreme guilt over the things I had said to her and how I pushed her away. I lamented how I was borderline psychotic in my approach to finding her.

When I finally did let go of the idea of ever seeing her again, I realized that life isn’t so miserable. While losing someone is never easy, letting go of a person you love isn’t saying you’re no good. I definitely made mistakes (and I got my chance to apologize to her a few weeks ago), but I can’t keep thinking about them as current events. I’m no longer that man.

I’m happy that Visceral didn’t gimp out on the narrative for “Dead Space 2.” It could have been exceptionally easy to never give Isaac a voice and portray him as a rock hard man with no emotion whatsoever. I’m pleased they didn’t go that route.

Whatever happens with 3 and Isaac’s further emotional health, we’ll always have the dementia and pain from 2 to teach us to better ourselves. As long as we can wear our feelings on our sleeves and talk to each other, no pain to too great to conquer.