Saturday Morning Gaming: Doom 2016
Doom was the first first-person-shooter to hit my radar. It wasn’t the first one (the *FIRST* FPS was created back in 1973) and Wolfenstein 3D came out a year before Doom did. But the first time I saw a FPS running on a personal computer was in the computer lab at UCCS and it was running Doom.
Most of the games I had played to that point were heavy on story. You’re a protagonist. Here is the world you’re in. Here are some major plot points. Here are some minor plot points. The emphasis was always on getting the player to have an emotional connection with the world and explore a story. Text-based games and stuff like Ultima or Wasteland had you explicitly explore a world. Sure, there were also puzzle games like Pipe Dream or more traditional games like Moon Patrol or Pitfall or something, but the emphasis was either on slow and emotionally engaging or fast but you’re engaging with the mechanics of pushing buttons and moving joysticks.
Doom dropped you into a hellscape where you were running around and shooting things but it was you running around and shooting things. You weren’t telling the guy on the screen to do it. *YOU* were doing it.
The guys who made it told stories about how they didn’t know what the game was supposed to look like so they took inspiration from stuff like Robotron 2084 and made big, wide-open maps where you could run around and monsters would make a beeline for you and you could experience the joys of running away. The weapon choices ranged from theoretically functional to downright silly. Start with a pistol and one of the first weapons you get was the double-barrel shotgun. There were machine guns. There were bazookas. There were chainsaws. And, yes, there was the BFG-9000.
And so it immediately grabbed me and added the whole exploration with the action dynamic to a degree that I had never experienced before. It was totally amazing. (Even if you couldn’t jump. Man… remember that you couldn’t jump? That was nuts.)
Of course, I burned out on it pretty quick. Doom II, Duke Nukem 3D, Hexen, Dark Forces, Quake… man, there were a ton. And then there was that thing in the oughts where they took existing non first person shooter properties and said “LET’S MAKE A FIRST PERSON SHOOTER OUT OF IT!” Syndicate was an amazing strategy game where you manipulated agents in a dark cyberpunk setting. Let’s make an FPS out of it! Might and Magic was a fun party-based RPG that built on what Wizardry did. Let’s make an FPS out of it! Shadowrun on the Sega was one of the best hacking games on the system and Shadowrun on the SNES was one of the best RPGs the world had seen to that point. LET’S MAKE AN FPS OUT OF IT!
Then Doom 3 came out in and it was not good at all. How not good was it? Gamespot gave it an 8.9. As a tech demo, it was downright amazing. As a game? Ugh. I remember Penny Arcade saying ” I think Doom 3 will be a fantastic game engine but I think they are wasting their time trying to make a game with it.”
And I mostly forgot about Doom after buying Doom 3, playing it for a few hours, then putting it away and forgetting about it entirely.
So when Doom 2016 came out, I shrugged. I imagined that it would be Yet Another First Person Shooter made by people who knew game engines but didn’t know games. I picked it up when I first got my new graphics card back in 2016, because I wanted to see what my graphics card could do… but the game crashed my computer whenever I closed it at the end of a session and that made me put it away after a couple of (fun, I guess) sessions.
And then I forgot it again.
But I now have a new computer and I wanted to see what it could do and, holy cow. Doom (2016) captures the joy of playing Doom back in 1993. Tycho called it “Playable Sugar” and, after a couple of sessions where the game did *NOT* crash my computer, let me say that he is 100% correct.
They’ve got all of the functional weapons and all of the absurd ones. The maps have wide open areas where you can run around and not feel like you’re walking down a hallway from cutscene to cutscene. There’s a story, but it doesn’t matter (it’s cool, of course… but it doesn’t matter). You’re running around shooting things. What they have added is a thing called the “Glory Kill”. That is, you can get a monster down to its last couple of hitpoints and then you hit the button and, instead of shooting it, you kill it by beating it up. Knee to the face! Boot to the head! Thumb to the eye!
More to the point, a glory kill gives you healing packs so getting in close for a glory kill is not just a silly flourish, it’s something that will keep you alive to the next monster.
The settings are varied from the surface of Mars to the inside of a foundry to Hell Itself and I have been struck multiple times by how gorgeous the graphics are even as I’m beating up a skeleton wearing a jetpack.
This game is playable sugar. It feels like being a kid again (well, being in college again). And Steam has it for twenty bucks.
So… what are you playing?