LTTP: Doom Eternal [Xbox]

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2016’s Doom was a very pleasant surprise to many including myself. I loved it; it was easily one of the best games of 2016 with only Overwatch beating it to the number one spot. I was looking forward to Doom Eternal until I heard the impressions from other Doom (2016) fans. As a result of the less than glowing impressions, I held off Doom Eternal until it made its way to Xbox Game Pass and received its ray tracing update for Xbox Series X. With a fresh coat of paint, enough time for the post launch dust to settle, I was ready to find out if Doom Eternal was a worthy sequel to one of my favorite games from the last generation.

First impressions started very positively, but was quickly complicated by the nonsense of a story and over-complication of ideas. I was not a fan of the story, lore, or any of the Doom Slayer, Khan Maykr gibberish they were putting forth. I missed the singular foe for whom the Doom Slayer to focus his energy on. Instead I was subjected to lore that I didn’t want any part of.

Following the footsteps of the original Doom II, Doom: Eternal starts off on Earth. The demons landed on Earth, overran the humans, and it’s up to silent space marine to clear them out. Unfortunately, just like Doom II, I missed the cohesion and sense of progress from place to place. Hopping around the Earth looking for some demon priests was underwhelming in comparison. This was especially true considering how they stitched everything together via the “Fortress of Doom” ship which felt like a giant time waster.

I understand the desire to give the Doom Slayer a place to hang out and display his collectible Funko Pop knockoffs and other useless records that he picked up, but it dampened any momentum the game tried to muster. I wish I could ignore the ship, but they decided to stuff that place full of upgrades.

There were too many upgrades and too many currencies to collect to unlock said upgrades — it was ridiculous and excessive. Weapon points, batteries, two different coins, and crystals? Are you serious? Add the unlockable cheat codes, soundtracks, and the Funko Pop knockoffs mentioned earlier and I’m finding myself checking the map screen every time I step into a new room.

The idea behind shooting off armaments off demons to alter their behaviour and reduce their threat profile sounds like a good idea in theory. It adds a layer of depth that Doom (2016) didn’t have, but at the same time, it made certain weapons indispensable. The Heavy Cannon was always in Precision shot mode and the Shotgun’s secondary was always lobbing grenades; it didn’t make any sense to move off those weapon modes. The added depth came at a cost which was all, but requiring me to play a Doom  game with a scoped weapon. That was blasphemous and I wish I could play Doom Eternal without engaging with that mechanic, but it was somewhat necessary on Ultra-Violence difficulty.

The higher difficulty forced me to come to grips with the full gamut of gameplay mechanics quite quickly. Two types of grenades, super punches, flamethrowers, and dashes were required to tame the demons. Staying on top of ability cooldowns to dispense a steady stream of damage and regularly harvesting resources resource reclamation would eventually yield success. Extra lives found throughout the levels can bail me out of a jam, but they were not absolutely necessary once I was fully kitted.

I think the inclusion of the Marauder; a demon that can block the BFG9000 was the antithesis of fun and was the summation of everything I disliked about Doom Eternal. It swatted the most powerful abilities in the game away and reduced me to playing Simon with it. It’s one of the lamest looking enemies to come out of id Software with the most jarring stagger sound and animation. It wasn’t impossible to deal with a Maurader; it was annoying. Topping it all off, I took a peek at the backstory and it was whole lot of nonsense about betrayals and nothing particularly rad.

It’s funny how my feelings for Doom (2016) to Doom Eternal resembled those from Doom I to Doom II; I liked both original outings more than their respective sequels. Doom II and Doom Eternal felt like games that were made to challenge fans of the original and not necessarily make it more fun. Unlike Doom II, Doom Eternal went too far in a number of areas that detracted from what made the original so good. I realized that the further I got into the game, the shorter my play sessions became and by the end, I was yearning for credits and end my time with this game. Eternal? No, thanks.

I don’t like it

LTTP: Doom I & II [NSW]

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I played Doom I & II on my old Pentium 120 MHz computer as a child but I didn’t realize I was playing wrong. I never played it with functioning music and I played it with only a keyboard. Oh, and I also leveraged cheats and quick saves and quick loads with no regard for integrity. Fast forward 20+ years and I finally finished Doom I and II on the Nintendo Switch.

I still relied on quick saving/loading but I didn’t use any cheats despite the final level of Doom II throwing out all semblance of sanity. I played it with a controller (which many will argue isn’t ideal), but at least I played through it with the music this time.

Thankfully, after some critical patches, these Nintendo Switch ports were solid minus the occasional issue with resuming properly from sleep. They did their best to map all those keys to the controller and I felt they mostly succeeded. I played on the default difficulty so I wasn’t exactly being asked to switch weapons on the fly.

In my youth, I actually played Doom II before playing Doom I. Doom felt simpler and offered a sense of progression that the sequel omitted which felt strange considering my young mind. Back then, I believed sequels should be better and Doom II wasn’t in some respects. Sure, I missed the double barrel shotgun but I appreciated the idea of purging the demons of Hell from the Martian moons one installation at a time.

The levels were relatively straightforward. Juggle card keys, find switches, and shoot demons. It wasn’t mindless but it didn’t test me like Doom II would. I tried playing the Ultimate Doom episode, Thy Flesh Consumed, but found those levels uncharacteristically taxing coming from Doom’s original episodes. That episode felt like moving from Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario Bros. Lost Level; they took what was familiar and twisted it. They tried to test and push the player’s gameplay knowledge to a degree that I wasn’t looking for.

So I decided to move onto Doom II. The opening levels were reminiscent of Doom’s but it didn’t take long before things became interesting. Most of the time, interesting was good. However, interesting transformed itself into gimmicky culminating with that awful final boss.

Doom II felt like a game made to take advantage of the fact that you can quick save. There were so many blind teleports, monster traps, and other nonsense that I just kept quick saving to save myself time. I also wasted a lot of time wandering maps large and relatively uninteresting maps, looking for less than obvious entrances or switches that I missed in order to progress.

Still, I had my share of fun and I felt that sense of accomplishment when I finally nailed the final rocket shot and defeated the final boss.

Doom was a classic sci-fi action shooter that ushered in the era of first person shooters that we know today. Doom II was a for fans of Doom who wanted to be tested and pushed by the creators of that classic. Both have value and I see no reason not to recommend them both but if you only have time for one, the original is still great fun.

Verdict for Doom:
I liked it

Verdict for Doom II:
It was okay

Game of the Year 2016 Day 2 of 3

I didn’t play many disappointments this year but there were a couple of big surprises that elevated 2016 to one of the best years in recent memory. If you told me in 2015 that a new Doom game would brilliant, Street Fighter V was a bit of a dumpster fire and I would spend a lot of time playing a game reminiscent of Team Fortress 2, I would have called you mad.

Most Disappointing Game of 2016

Winner: Street Fighter V

I had grand plans for Street Fighter V. I was going train on a regular basis and actually compete in ranked matches. I was going to focus on a single character and “master” it. I was going to take Street Fighter seriously like I never did before. But none of that came to pass because I spent more time waiting for matches than actually playing. And even if I managed to get into a match, it was often hitchy and difficult to play.

My issues with Street Fighter V aren’t with the fundamental mechanics or lack of single player content – those didn’t help its case though. My issues stemmed from the game’s poor online play in 2016. I don’t care if I win or lose but I want to be able to learn from each experience. Losing or winning in a lag filled match accomplishes nothing.

Thankfully, I bought a physical copy and was able to sell it.

Runner-up: Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright

Most Surprising Game of 2016

Winner: Doom 

It’s been a long time since an id Software game was worth looking at let alone wow me. RAGE certainly didn’t live up to expectations; I bought a copy for cheap and didn’t even bother to play it beyond an hour. Doom is the anti-RAGE. RAGE was slow and plodding and Doom was in my face and demanded my attention. I had heard rumblings of positivity from hardcore id Software fans but they were the same folks who proclaimed RAGE was a good game. 

Doom blindsided me with its relentless action and gear shifter breaking calm of exploration. 

Runner-up: Overwatch, The Division

Doom PS4 Review

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Doom II: Hell on Earth was one of the first video games I’ve ever played. I’ve gone back to the original Doom on several occasions but never completed it. It’s also important to note that I played both games without music which turned the game from a bad ass demon shooter into a sci-fi horror game of sorts. I may have taken it more seriously than intended at the time but I loved it all the same.

I enjoyed playing Doom III more than the other long awaited first person shooter sequel, Half-Life 2 (it was nauseating in spots). In many ways it lined up with what I experienced with Doom II; it was a serious and more unsettling take on Doom. I have no idea how it holds up but something tells me following that formula would have produced lukewarm results.

After the utterly boring R.A.G.E which I started but never finished, the departure of John Carmack and years of silence from id Software, a reboot of Doom sounded like a Hail Mary play for the once industry leading studio. What could they possibly do to bring what made Doom enjoyable into 2016? It has to be fast paced. It has to be infused with satanic nonsense. It has to be gory. Mars and key cards need to have some influence as well.

Doom (2016) had all those trademark characteristics and stitched it altogether with modern gameplay advancements that other games and genres have been doing for years. A little Bayonetta? A little Geometry Wars? A bit of both can be seen hidden in there if you squint.

The original Doom was a fast paced shooter where the player was zipping around at nearly 80 KM/H at default speeds. I don’t know how fast the 2016 version has the player running but it’s undoubtedly the fastest moving shooter in the modern era. Fast paced shooters feel right at home on the PC with its keyboard and mouse – many will undoubtedly say it’s a return to form on that platform. But a fast paced shooter on consoles and the controller is a relatively foreign thing. Amazingly the clever folks at id Software managed give us precision and speed without relying on an overly aggressive aim assist.

Doom doesn’t believe in regenerating health but it also doesn’t rely on hunting for health packs either. The novel solution was to hide health orbs behind “glory kill” finishes which required me to mash the melee button near a staggered demon so I can brutally murder it. A headshot or gib didn’t yield anything worth while, only their patented glory kills.

The combat was fed with a number of upgrade and challenge systems. There were per mission challenges, per weapon challenges and optional rune (perk) related challenges as well. They all encouraged me to play in different ways and improve my skillset. I played on “Ultra Violence” difficulty and as I discovered in my second playthrough: I can skip or blast my way through most of the game with ease. It was only when I paid attention to these challenges that Doom’s magic shone through.

The Rune challenges reminded me of character action games like Bayonetta and its Alfheim portals. One challenge asked me to defeat a slew of demons without getting hit. Another had me running through a platforming course within a set time. The objectives were straightforward and while the load times were just a tad too long, I found it an enjoyable break of pace.

So combat was solved but what about the map design? The original Doom featured sprawling maps with players seeking key cards to unlock areas to find more key cards that would eventually lead to an exit. That’s back for 2016’s Doom but thankfully I wasn’t asked to juggle the trio of key cards like 1993. I was asked to backtrack for keys but I was also incentivized to explore to unlock suit upgrades. The location of the secrets were often revealed to me but how to get to that power-up was a mystery. I enjoyed that process of deduction and was glad they didn’t ask me to hump walls in hopes of triggering a hidden door.

Doom established id Software as a technical powerhouse that would eventually lead them into the middleware licensing business. Their might waned since the glory days of Quake III’s engine but I think they could have made a roaring comeback with 2016’s Doom. It’s by far the best looking and performing 60 FPS title on consoles. It has its issues with the occasional texture pop-in and sends the PlayStation 4’s fan into a frenzy but what is on display is unmatched in the console space. I’m trying to imagine what Call of Duty would look like if they were able to license this engine.

I spoke of the fact that I have very little reverence for the Doom franchise’s soundtrack and it remains the same here. Mick Gordon’s industrial metal fits the game’s motif like a glove but I don’t want to listen to it outside of the game’s context. I feel the exact same way with Devil May Cry 3’s and Metal Gear: Revengeance’s soundtrack.

I felt the sound mixing was obnoxious. They leveraged bass disgusting degree by blasting it as deep and as low as it possibly could. I turned down the music just to get it under control. I also felt many of the weapons lacked pop like the early games. As gory and brutal the chainsaw was, the pistol was a laughable pea shooter. The double barrel shotgun lacked a strong punch and the rocket launcher sounded like it was fired through a pillow. I did find the sound of the movement and other interactions was full of weight and purpose though. I just wished the firepower followed appropriately.

With Wolfenstein: The New Order breathed new life into the Wolfenstein franchise. MachineGames brought the core values of Wolfenstein to a modern audience. With this installment of Doom, id Software rose from seemingly out of nowhere to pull off the exact same feat and then some. I was blown away with what they did, it’s Doom for a modern audience and it’s absolutely wonderful. Even more amazing? They proved to everyone that fast paced arcadey first person shooters have a place in the console space in 2016. Bravo, id Software.

I love it

Ratings Guide

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