Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

DOOM – then and now. Part 2.

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 19, 2016

doom2016coverartSo we get to last week’s release (on Friday the 13th, naturally) of the 2016 version of Doom … AKA “Doom 4“.  It’s been over twenty years since the original’s release, and over 10 years since the release of the last game in the series, Doom 3.

Well, from my perspective, there’s bad news, good news, and indifferent news.

First the bad news, and it’s really bad. Half the time, the game is unplayable on my fairly powerful machine (which is not quite recommended specs, but well above the minimum).  Seriously, I’m talking like one frame per second or less, even in the menu (which makes mouse control really fun). The other half of the time, the game runs awesome – 60+ FPS, and except for the occasional freeze, it’s great… so long as I don’t minimize or alt-tab out or anything (which freezes everything in a black screen). And as long as I don’t die… dying in the game gives me a 75% chance of being frozen in a black load screen that has finally finished loading, but won’t let me play. I can hear sounds, I’ve hit the space bar to start, but no game.

And then there’s checkpoints, instead of being able to save and continue from anywhere. So if I have to curtail my game early – because I’m a father and may only get my gaming in 15-minute sessions – I may lose progress. GAH. What is this, gaming on the PS2?!?!?

So yeah. The game has SERIOUS problems that need to be addressed before I could recommend it to anyone on the PC. I hope the console gamers are having fun with it, at least.

DOOM2016_1But then there are times where – so long as I can avoid dying – I can have an uninterrupted, reasonably lengthy session of hardcore FPS action. Smooth frame rates, really pretty graphics, and… wow. Gore. Lots of gore. This is a game of punching through demon heads, cleaving their bodies in half with a chainsaw, and ripping out juicy, squirting heart-like objects out of disgusting demonic pods.

So during the 2.5+ hours of actual gaming I’ve been able to play the 2016 Doom, what do I think? Does it capture the feel of the original?

Well, like I said yesterday, the original was a lot of different things. The “feel” varied significantly even from level to level. Doom 3 focused on (I thought) more of the horror and jump scares.  This one, I think, focuses on the run-and-gun carnage of the original. Ultra-violence, high speed rushing around splattering monsters.

In the original Doom, all the monsters were on the map at the beginning of the game, and part of the problem-solving was figuring out how they would get revealed. You’d hear their signature sounds and know they were somewhere. Then you’d hit a switch, cross a threshold, or something and a wall panel would pull away or an elevator descend to unleash the hidden monsters. In Doom 3, they did the usual trick of just having lots of unreachable nooks and crannies from which newly-spawned creatures would emerge. In Doom 2016? Screw it. They often just teleport in.

And they teleport in a fight. Behind you. And jump to where you are. Which all works to accentuate the run-and-gun nature of the game. This is not a modern military shooter where you fight from behind cover.  Each area with major combat scripted is something of a gladiatorial arena, with pick-ups, explosive containers, environmental threats like deadly falls and molten metal. There are lots of places to run to, jump to, and temporarily hide behind. But this is a game about high-intensity, high-action combat.

Ammo capacities are tiny to begin with, which means that you can’t rely on a single weapon through a major fight. You’ll have to swap weapons, run to corners to pick up more ammo, and – if you have fuel for it – whip out the chainsaw. The chainsaw acts as an insta-kill on lesser monsters, tearing them open and causing them to explode with pick-ups like a gory piñata of ammunition. It’s… bizarre, highly video-gamey, but it works and is twistedly fun.

DOOM2016_2Encouraging more up-close and personal melee encounters, there are hand-to-hand “glory kills” you can perform once a monster begins to flash. Making a melee attack on the creature at this point treats you to a micro-cut-scene of hyperviolence against the demon. I suspect that the violence of these scenes is what drove the art direction to make the possessed humans seem completely inhuman and demonic. Squishing a ghastly demon-head is much less horrendous than squishing something that resembles a person.

And then there’s the story. Or… well, what passes for a story. I’m still not sure what to make of it. If it’s a reboot of the series, it kinda sounds like a sequel. You are the semi-magical space marine of olden times, locked away in a sarcophagus, with legendary upgrading armor. I guess you’ve been infused with the powers of Hell… or at least of surviving Hell. I dunno. But… like the original game, the story is kept pretty minimal, more often gleaned from the environment than provided in explicit exposition.

And there’s the thing about running around collecting key-cards to gain access to other parts of the map.

So is all that true to the Doom feel? Arguably, sure. Excessive violence? Kinetic combat that requires quick-thinking and changes of approach? Chainsawing the hell out of monsters? Enemies that are, for the most part, derived from their 1990s counterparts? Minimal storytelling? Colored key-cards? Lots of little hidden secrets? Check, check, check, check, check, check, and check.

So… it at least embodies part of the flavor of the original games. That’s something, right?

Now, there’s also this thing about upgrading your armor and your weapons that is… well, not Doom-like, but cool. There is something along the lines of a quest journal with a direction marker to help you go in the right direction — definitely not like the original Doom, but at least relatively welcome. This isn’t an open-world RPG we’re talking about, after all. I’d say for the most part, the impure additions really are additions that enhance the gameplay.

It’s not for the squeamish. It is wild and pretty fun. It’s GIGANTIC, taking up somewhere a little south (so far) of 100 gigs on my hard drive. The graphics are very impressive. It feels like a successor to Doom in several ways. It’s not groundbreaking, but it does offer some minor innovations to encourage a particular style of play that has been underrepresented in the genre. It has a crappy checkpoint system. It has difficulty levels that allow for pretty easy, casual play up to (I imagine) ultra-hardcore challenges. I haven’t played Multiplayer, but I can imagine it’d be great fun with friends.

Overall, if the game actually worked right, I’d say the positives outweigh the negatives, at least if you can stomach the gore.

But these days, I rarely pay full price for a new AAA video game. As it stands, DOOM 2016 completely reinforces this behavior. One of the few reasons to play games when they are brand new is to get in on the multiplayer while it’s still popular and you can find people to play with. If I’m not doing that, I’m far better off waiting a couple of years, buying it at a discount price AFTER the game has been patched and stabilized, drivers have been optimized, and I may have upgraded to a machine that is equal or beyond the recommended specs.

Instead, I have a bunch of hard drive space devoted to a game that I’ve decided to give up on for the next few weeks. Since the game was reasonably fun when I have been able to play it, and I shelled out full price for it and I want to get my frickin’ money’s worth out of the thing, I intend to play it to completion (or to utter frustration) eventually.  Hopefully. Assuming Bethesda & id can make sure a pretty standard set of gaming hardware can run the game consistently.

Dang it, I get more far more bang for my buck out of an indie game or two-year-old mainstream title. Cutting-edge graphics are great and all, but not worth this level of frustration.

Filed Under: Impressions - Comments: 3 Comments to Read

  • The Old Farmer said,

    And here in lies my problem with most of the AAA releases too. Big bucks and its a crapshoot to see if it will work on my system, and in most cases I find I get more enjoyment out of a low cost indi or just maybe an old game I grabed in a sale.
    I find as I get older the newest shiney on the block just isn’t as attractive as it was in my youth.

    Baah you youngns get off my lawn!

  • lakerz said,

    I may be one of the few readers of this article that also partook of the original Doom back in the day. I had fond memories of it back in college of trying to hook computers up manually to play it with others. Ah, the days before online gaming! Not sure I will try this new one though.

  • Modran said,

    I… Think the gore will put me really off. And my rig is clearly not up to the task. DDOS and Dying Light already puts i to its knees :/.
    Which is a shame, cos’… DOOM!
    Ah, fond memories of Berserk-punching my way through cacodemons.