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.

Verdict:
I don’t like it

LTTP: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order [Xbox]

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Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was quite the journey and one that I was glad to wrap up. I heard Respawn Entertainment’s first maiden voyage into the Star Wars franchise was a little rocky so I purposely held off, and held off, and held off until it made its way onto the Xbox Game Pass via EA Play and then it became one of the first games I launched on my Xbox Series X. It took quite the journey to get to that point, but a bit more dawdling, and a next-gen patch later, I finally began making my way through it.

The first impressions were generally positive, but it just looked a little off in spots. I found the Cal Kestis’ animations — particularly his running animation — a bit odd in spots. It wasn’t as polished as I expected considering the studio. However, if anything distinctly Star Wars was involved, it was top notch and among the best in the business. It was like they invested all their time and energy into getting the Star Wars parts right. Lightsabers, lasers, and all the fine details on all the characters were so convincing.

I was much less convinced by the decision to give Fallen Order the Dark Souls and/or Metroidvania treatments. I don’t mind that style of game for Star Wars, but I didn’t find the exploration rewarding. I enjoyed the more punishing take on combat; it grounded everyone from Stormtrooper to giant spider. They felt formidable and gave me an appreciation for what the Jedi can and cannot do in ways the films never did. Stormtroopers aren’t just fodder. They can inflict serious damage if you’re not careful and it’s far more rewarding to treat them like fodder once Cal Kestis and I mastered our respective abilities.

I don’t know why anyone would choose to play this game on any other graphical setting other than performance mode. The performance mode isn’t a perfect 60 FPS on the Xbox Series X, but it’s still lightyears more enjoyable than the quality mode at 30 FPS. Even before Respawn patched the game to lift the resolution to 1440p60, I chose to stick with performance mode. Timing windows for lightsaber attack combos and parrying were significantly easier to pull off with the increase in framerate.

Doing and seeing Star Wars things was enough for me to keep playing Fallen Order, but even that started to lose steam towards the end. I didn’t care for the story; I enjoyed specific moments, but I found there was not enough material to warrant the game’s length. Having said that, I felt they rushed the events towards the end. The integration of Nightsister Merrin to the crew was the shining example of that. She was wisecracking and integrated with Cal and the crew in what felt like a half hour compared to the weeks of relationship building that occurred organically with the other characters.

Forgettable story beats and the open ended nature of the game resulted in an uneven momentum. Hopping back and forth between a handful of planets looking for clues for a McGuffin that I just didn’t find interesting in the slightest just made a large bulk of this game feel longer than it needed to be. The pay off will stay with me though. The final fight, the retrieval of the artifact, and the happy ending will be forgotten with time, but the encounter with Darth Vader? That will stay with me. It was the most convincing demonstration of his power for me. The movies have spectacular scenes, but the game really highlights the gulf in power between everyone and him.

And that’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order in a nutshell. It has high highs, some lows, but a lot of busywork bogging it down. I’m not convinced that this was what Respawn intended. In fact, I’m convinced that a sequel in their hands could be something very special. This was a decent attempt by them, now let’s hope they get another try.

 

Verdict:
It was okay

 

Ratings Guide

Checkpoint: “E3 2020” Edition

E3 2020 would have been over for weeks by now. I imagine we would have had clearer pictures of what both consoles were offering on the hardware side. We would have seen first party lineups and timed third party exclusives. We may even had pricing info confirmed by now.

But this is 2020 and COVID-19 dashed many plans including E3. Information on new console launches were divided into articles, interviews, and pre-recorded shows. Some fared better than others, but the bottom line is that both Sony and Microsoft’s plans for their upcoming console are far from complete. 

There’s still lots to announce and clarify including showing off user interfaces and the all important price. However, that will not stop me from putting down some thoughts on what we know so far.

Microsoft Xbox Series X

Despite potential for customer confusion with the Xbox One X, I warmed up to the Xbox Series X name. It sounds like the end game for their long journey with weird console names. I hope this name gives them the flexibility to expand their Xbox consoles in a logical fashion. The often rumored Xbox Series S aka Lockhart makes a whole lot of sense in this lineup. But what about the mid-generation upgrade offering? Will they simply tack on the year? An Xbox Series X (2024) perhaps?

I like the simple rectangular box shape of the Series X. I was a fan of the Xbox One S and Xbox One X designs as well, so that shouldn’t be too surprising. Microsoft laid out the design and logic behind it on their website and through Digital Foundry. I found everything they laid out was sensible and sound. 

Microsoft largely “perfected” their controller when it comes to aesthetics and comfort. So it’s no surprise that they decided to focus on the technology and reducing latency.

Microsoft gave glimpses on what their operating system will offer including industry leading backward compatibilityand quick resuming. With the hardware, Xbox Game Pass, and a bunch of initiatives like Smart Delivery and Optimized For Xbox Series X, Microsoft currently has everything in place but the software. 

Their initial software showcase was underwhelming, but hopefully the showcase they have planned in the next month or so rectifies this situation. 

PlayStation 5

The name may be boring and predictable but that console hardware design was anything but. 

My initial impressions ranged from “overly designed”, to “Alienware-esque”, to “this could work…”, and finally “it’s so weird, that I like it”. I like white electronics. Not only that I find them sleek, they also hide dust better than dark consoles. What I like more than white electronics are ones that have well designed contrasting colors like the PS5.

The reveal of the Digital Edition was almost as surprising as the console’s appearance itself. I personally don’t see why I would pick up the Digital Edition unless there’s a $100 price difference. I still have a need for Ultra HD Blu-ray drives. I use my Xbox One S and Xbox One X for their Ultra HD Blu-ray drives for movies. And if I wanted to take advantage of cheaper retail sales and backwards compatibility with PlayStation 4 titles, I will need that drive.

The DualSense controller resembles a DualShock 4 but it continues Sony’s evolution towards the Xbox-esque controller. It’s still distinctly PlayStation with its stick placement, but the shape continues to slowly creep towards Microsoft’s design. I guess the giant trackpad is becoming a part of the Sony identity; it’s a giant button for most games, but there are a few who use it in interesting ways. I’m very curious what the haptics and adaptive triggers bring to the immersion front.  

Sony’s software showcase was very good. Indies, first party exclusives, and third party timed console exclusives gave plenty of reasons to choose PlayStation 5. Not only did Sony highlight visuals that were only that were only possible on next generation hardware, they also demonstrated impressive gameplay that leveraged the speedy storage. 

What about the user interface? Or the ability to quick resume? Or how about backwards compatibility? It sounds like most if not all PlayStation 4 games will work. No word on Sony’s older consoles and I am not holding my breath. Sony may have the games, but the rest of the console’s features and capabilities are still shrouded in mystery for now. 

The Power Difference?

The PlayStation 5 may not be as powerful as the Xbox Series X when it comes to horsepower, but it does deliver data from storage to memory at a faster rate than Microsoft’s. How will these discrepancies manifest themselves in third party games is difficult to predict. Third party developers will do what they need to do to get their games looking and running great on both platforms. 

Price?

$399 CAD for a PlayStation 4 was an amazing price. I don’t believe the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X will come close to that price. The Canadian dollar has fallen dramatically since then and these new consoles feature impressive hardware. 

I think the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will launch for $499 USD or $699 CAD. I want to be wrong and for them to come in at lower price points but I’m bracing for that price. 

Both Consoles Welcomed

I owned every console since I began working full time and there’s no reason to deviate. In fact, I may be doubling down on these consoles over the PC until we get a clearer picture on the kind of PC hardware that I need to run these upcoming console games. 

Xbox Game Pass is making it very easy to stick with Microsoft’s console and Sony’s strong first party games continue to attract me towards theirs. Both companies have blanks to fill out but I’m liking what I’m seeing so far.