Doom – A Game Out of Time in All the Right Ways

Doom 2016Last night I finished up all of the achievements for the base set in DOOM, wrapping up one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had with a game in quite a while. From top to bottom, I think this was the most fun I’ve had with a shooter in years – giving games like Destiny and Call of Duty a run. While it’s still fresh on my mind, I thought I’d put down a couple things that kept popping up as I was playing it.

Maybe more than anything else, I couldn’t help but think that this game is exactly what an FPS game would look like if the advances of the last 10 years or so hadn’t happened. This is what a classic FPS game should look and play like. It’s a direct line of progression from the classic id shooters – taking what has always worked and adding in a couple sprinkles of modernity to foster exploration and completion. I kept thinking that this was exactly what DOOM should be – not trying to shoehorn in a convoluted story, or contrived RPG elements; it’s fast, it’s brutal, it rewards execution and precision and has just enough bells and whistles to keep you looking in all the nooks and crannies. It’s a classic style FPS boiled down to the most important elements, and done so, so well.

That feeling that DOOM thrives on is possible because of how well the game plays. Maybe there were a handful of times I felt like the controls or mechanics didn’t work for me – the only one that jumps out at me is when the mantling didn’t take. You’re rarely in a position where those traversal elements actually factor into a fight though. Instead the combat is built around the foundation of all FPS games – circle-strafing and jumping. No aiming down sights, no thrust packs and sliding – just point, shoot, strafe repeat. The additions that 2016 brings – weapon mods/masteries, Praetor suit upgrades, Hell Runes and Glory Kills – all just add in a couple new layers of depth to the combat. And that combat is as brutal as brutal can get. DOOM certainly earns its M rating, but not through heady themes like drugs or sex – no, this is a pure, blood-caked, innards coated romp through Hell. The Glory Kills in particular are so over the top it’s incredible – there are a handful of animations I found myself chuckling at as my gruff Doomguy ripped and teared. It’s a game that is so self aware without showing it – some games like to give that little wink to the player, this one just knows exactly what it is and goes about its business. It’s challenging, it’s a love letter to the early days of the genre and at the end of the day, it’s a damn fun game. If you have yet to play it, and have any interest at all in FPS games – especially the foundation of the genre – this is the perfect game to get.

Late to the Party: Doom (2016)

Doom 2016I talked Monday about picking up Overwatch recently, but that wasn’t the only game that I finally took the plunge with. As part of the Bethesda Quakecon sale, Doom (the 2016 version) was marked down pretty well, so I went ahead and picked it up. I’ve been a fan of Doom games going all the way back, so I was excited to see just how this one measured up.

I’m currently through the first three missions in the campaign, and so far, on Ultra Violence the game feels very much like I want a Doom game to. It’s fast, it’s incredibly brutal and the story is engaging enough to keep me invested from one fight to the next.The newer mechanics that Bethesda and id put in work really well with the fast paced action – the mantling means that vertical spaces can be worked into fights; the Glory Kills are brutal as Hell and help encourage aggressive play and the modern changes to weapons and the Praetor suit help encourage you explore and find the collectibles. It manages to strike a pretty perfect balance between the classic FPS gameplay of the original games and still feel like an FPS that belongs in 2016’s landscape. I’m only expecting the game to keep the bar high as I keep playing the campaign.

Beyond the story though, I’ve dabbled a bit with the online modes as well – mainly for the achievements so far. SnapMap is a really powerful tool, while still being really accessible. The tutorials for it are straightforward and they do a great job of outlining the potential for the editor, while still leaving plenty of room for experimentation. Some of the maps on the browser are tailor made for achievement boosting, others show off just how powerful the tools are. It’s a really cool thing to see, I’ve always been a fan of simple, but powerful map editors in games, especially console games. The actual online multiplayer is exactly what I wanted it to be. It’s totally different from pretty much every other FPS on the market these days. It plays super fast, you need to have good map awareness and keep an eye on your health. No more regenerating health here, you had better keep track on your health and armor. Since the Glory Kills still are in the online scene too, it helps keep camping to a bit of a minimum, as the game modes do too. The weapons feel very much like the classic ones – the rocket launcher in particular is just as good a weapon as it ever was back in the hey-day of arena shooters. With the re-emergence of arena shooters over the last couple years – Overwatch, Quake, Battleborn(ish) – the fact that the original king is back and in great form just keeps the style at the forefront. If you have any interest in the history of FPS games, or just want to play a fantastic modern shooter, Doom is absolutely worth your time.

Weekend Gaming Thoughts: A Little Bit of Everything

This past weekend may have been the most exciting weekend we’ve had in quite some time for gaming. Between the new April Update in Destiny, the Falcon Lost Incursion in The Division, and open betas for DOOM and Battleborn there was plenty of new stuff to dive into. And dive I did this weekend, hitting it all except the new Division stuff since I’m still a little cool on that game. I wanted to talk a bit about what I played, even though I already did a little with Destiny and Battleborn.

Battleborn Start Screen

With Battleborn, I played a bunch more story missions – both solo and in full five man groups. I started to try out other characters beyond Marquis as well and I have to say that of the characters I did play, I really liked them a lot. Oscar Mike – the stereotype soldier guy – is a fantastic pure burst damage character. His grenade skill can not only do burst damage with the explosion, but then add in the napalm DoT effect and it’s an incredible trash clearance skill. His ultimate skill is great for doing a massive amount of damage as well, assuming you target the spot right. Rath, who was by far my favorite melee character I played, is a neat character to play. I like his health steal on hit, it helps a offset a little his fragile nature. His skills help out tremendously with crowd control, and his ultimate is lovely for trash clearance and multi-target damage. Plus, he’s voiced by Christopher Sabat AKA Vegeta, so he’s basically the best ever. I was worried a little that melee characters would be a step or two behind in the story missions, but Rath at least did really well. The only part in the two missions where he let me down was in the final phase of the ISIC fight, because he flies all around and was aggroed on our El Dragon during that phase. Assuming that the rest of the story missions have similar engagements, it looks like melee characters will totally be viable choices. Battleborn went from being a game that I was ambivalent towards, to one that I’m very much interested in grabbing.

Doom 2016

With the other beta this weekend, DOOM, I played that a bit less.I only played a couple games, but that’s because I think this is shaping up to be a really really good game. If you’ve played any classic id FPS – DOOM, Wolfenstein or Quake – you’ll be ready from the get go. This was easily the best pure arcade style shooter that I’ve played in years. It felt immediately like the old games, just with a sprinkling of modern trappings. It’s fast, it’s brutal, it rewards thumbskill and twitch shooting. If you come from the modern FPS games, you might have a little learning curve to get used to, but the game does it’s job really well. If this is at all on your radar, this is definitely a good sign. Since the beta was extended to today, if you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot.

Destiny Taken Guardians

Finally, I got to go through the Challenge of the Elders in the April Update in Destiny. I was worried that I wouldn’t get it in because I wasn’t close to 320 Light yet. And in fact, I’m still not 320 Light. But I was actually able to solo through the Challenge of Elders at 314 Light, which doesn’t exactly sound like much of a Challenge. It wasn’t super simple – the second room took me a good 6 deaths or so to clear. But because Small Arms is the modifier this first week, if you’re a little lower Light, you can easily make it up. I ran with Red Death and Cauterize on my Titan to get health back on kills to help since I’m solo, and it was done in like 40 minutes. Even with Variks taking points away, I was able to score over 40,000 points to earn a weapon from him. I did run it later with a couple buddies, which just further showed that this week in particular, challenge isn’t really the right word I’d use. That said, the actual activity itself is a ton of fun. Soloing it was the most fun I’ve had in PvE in a long time – it’s just total chaos the whole time. The rewards are maybe a little inconsistent, but that is kinda Destiny in a nutshell. It’s really fun, and cements my feeling that the April Update was exactly what the game needed.

Weekly News Recap: Week of July 20, 2015 – Fallout 4 Quakecon Edition

This weekend is the annual celebration of all things Quake at id software’s Quakecon. Things have expanded over the years, as id has been picked up by Bethesda, and as a result, this year we were expecting a few new details to emerge about this fall’s Fallout 4. And we got a pretty solid start to the news across the Bethesda board early on.

Doom 2016

Kicking off the Quakecon news flood, we finally got some details about the upcoming alpha for next year’s DOOM. Players who pre-ordered Wolfenstein: The New Order will either be emailed codes for the upcoming Alpha, or if they had it digitally, they’re already all set. The Alpha doesn’t have a solid date yet, but I would expect it to come out this fall/winter.

Fallout Anthology

Yesterday Bethesda announced what could be the best deal I’ve seen in a long time. PC players will be blessed with the upcoming Fallout Anthology – containing Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout: Tactics, Fallout 3 AND Fallout: New Vegas. And those last two are the complete editions with all the DLC. All of those games, available in a pretty cool collectible Mini-Nuke case – for $45. Forty-Five Dollars – that’s less than any single modern game. Sure, it’s PC exclusive, and sure the games are almost 20 years old – but the timing is perfect and the first few games are hard to come by. Now, it is a true limited edition – so go pre-order it now if you want it.

Fallout 4 Box Art

The big talking point today though was the exclusive, closed door demo of Fallout 4. There’s no plan as of now to release the gameplay footage, so only the attendees will have gotten to see it in action, but the media that was there did live-blog it, along with some quick posts after the show. From the looks of things, the content focused on showing off new companions – confirming four of the “about a dozen” options (Mr. Handy, Dogmeat, Piper and Preston); along with showing off more combat. But the more interesting things, at least to me, were things that Todd Howard talked about before the demo. They hit on the S.P.E.C.I.A.L stats – including showing a quick video talking all about Strength – a video that is the first in a series that they’ll be releasing to the public. After that perks finally got some press – which has been something I’ve been curious about since E3. They’re going with the Fallout 3 style, where you pick a perk at each level-up, and it looks like they’re going to be tied more to the S.P.E.C.I.A.L stats. There’s still a ton of stuff in the mechanics that I really am curious about, but for now this is good enough to tide me over.

E3 2015 – Bethesda Press Event Wrap Up

Bethesda Softworks Logo

Well here we go folks, E3 2015 kicked off last night with Bethesda’s first ever press event. Going in, there was plenty of talk around whether Bethesda would be able to set the tone for the week. After watching the whole show last night, I think it is very safe to say that they were more than up to the task. Let’s hit the highlights, and wrap up their first ever E3 press conference.

Doom 2016

Kicking off their show, Bethesda decided to bring us back in time a bit. The franchise has been around for well over 20 years at this point, but hasn’t seen a new game in around 12. Going in, I was most curious about the feel of DOOM – would Bethesda let id keep the classic DOOM spirit, or would it be forced to play like a modern shooter. After seeing the first of three(!) trailers last night, I felt immediately that it was safe. It certainly looks like it plays super fast – circle strafing is going to be relevant again, and has that classic DOOM level of brutality. That said, they aren’t just taking the gameplay from a two decade old game and plopping it into a current-gen game. There have definitely been updates – we saw a double jump and mantle feature that adds in extra verticality to the game. We also got a look at the new melee finishers – get an enemy low on health and staggered, and you can push up and deliver unbelievably brutal finishes. We saw a glimpse of classic DOOM puzzle solving, along with a weapon lineup that look straight out of DOOM II. I was really impressed with the single player reveal – and then we got to hear a little about multiplayer.

Multiplayer has always been super important to id games – whether we’re talking DOOM or Quake, they’re kind of responsible for bringing deathmatch to the world. Based around the very short tease we got last night, it definitely looks like multiplayer is in good hands. It definitely got my mind running right back to the old days of playing Quake II and III online – the first FPS games I ever played, period. It looks fast – twitch shooting and strafing are probably going to be more important than they have been in years. Add in a couple wrinkles like the new Demon power up – a modern take on the Quad-Damage – and it should be a blast to play. But of course, id has always been really good at supporting the community too. That tradition will continue with DOOM SnapMap – a new editor that will come with all versions of the game. When they started showing off SnapMap, I couldn’t help but think that it looked a hell of a lot like the map maker in TimeSplitters. That editor did a lot of the same features – you could make custom maps for multiplayer, or co-op/solo maps using some basic scripting tools. Assuming that id is taking that idea, and bringing it up to modern standards, there are going to be a ton of possibilities for all sorts of crazy games going forward. We do have a bit of a wait ahead of us though – DOOM won’t be coming our way until spring of 2016.

Bethesda then had a quick section to talk about two things – the new, and also to show off Battlecry. looks like it will function as a centralized hub on the web for all Bethesda games moving forward. I think really that it helps with the increased emphasis on player created content – with DOOM and a new Fallout feature we’ll talk about in a bit especially.

Battlecry was shown off briefly, talking about a new playable faction, as well as opening up global beta signups this week. I’m not super familiar with the game, to me it looked an awful lot like a melee focused MOBA style game. They call it an action arena game, which to me just is a different way of saying battle arena game. It looked cool – I dug the art style for sure. Assuming it’s on consoles, I’ll probably give the beta a try.

The next section of the show should have been a major surprise – but live mics on a test kind of killed that. We found out Saturday night that the boys from Arkane would be there to talk Dishonored. Had it stayed a surprise, it probably would have been one of, if not the, biggest of the show. That said, Dishonored 2, which was properly announced, looks incredible. I have long said that a sequel was not a matter of if, but when, just because that first game was so amazing. It flew in under the radar and just was so much better than anything I expected. The sequel picks up from the first game, and adds in much more. The big reveal is that there is now a second playable character – Emily Kaldwin. If you played the first game, you are more than familiar with her – she’s a key figure in the game. Corvo will return as well, and will have a totally different set of powers. The story still is a bit of a mystery, but based around how good the first game was, I think we have nothing to worry about. It is still a ways off though, not coming out till next spring – but we are getting Dishonored this year. They did manage one surprise announcement – the Dishonored: Definitive Edition coming to Xbox One and PS4 this fall, containing the first game and all DLC. These sort of up-rezed and updated packages are great ways for players to refresh themselves with classic games from the last generation, and also help welcome new players in as well.

We got a quick look at whats going on with the Elder Scrolls franchise, at least that they’re willing to talk about. Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited just launched on the consoles last week, so instead of an in-person update, we got a video package. That makes total sense – they’re still dealing with keeping the launch stable. We did see that two new modules are being prepped for the game – the Imperial City and Orsinium.

That wasn’t the end of Elder Scrolls talk though. We then were treated to the news that Bethesda is stepping into the mobile market. This year they’ll be launching Elder Scrolls Legends, a strategy card game for iOS and Android. The best part – it’ll be free to play, just like all the other card games out there. The big question will be if it can really compete with Hearthstone.

Fallout 4 Box Art

We then got to the big name for this year – Fallout. The game was already announced, so we knew that we were looking at more concrete details. And boy did we get some. Let’s start with the fact that development started, in some way or form, all the way back in 2009, after Fallout 3. They took lessons from the success of Skyrim after that game launched as well to bring Fallout 4 to where it is today. Then we were treated to a wall of concept art – a TON of concept art, which I know fans are still pouring over for details that we might see in-game.

That’s all great, but we were definitely ready to talk actual game details. So we did – we started with a huge bit of news for the game. The game will actually start before the bombs fell – that house you see in the announcement trailer is your own house. That’s where the game will begin, where you make your character – using the new creator, that looks unbelievably easy to use – and where the story starts. This was the first glimpse we got of the new game engine – an updated version of Bethesda’s Creation engine, and man does it look good. Todd Howard talked about the new power of the current-gen consoles, and pointed out the memory increase. That tells me that one of my wishlist points is probably checked off – less loading with buildings.

In these first few minutes of the trailer we got a good look at the new dialogue system. Perhaps the biggest little detail in the dialogue we got was that there’s a really good chance your player name will actually be voiced. They’ve recorded about 1,000 names for players. That’s pretty damn cool.

Now, they didn’t talk too much about story. They did say that it starts pre-war, and that you emerge from the vault as the sole-survivor of Vault 111, 200 years later. That might not seem like a huge deal, but it really does answer a big question. 200 years after the bombs fell puts this game in the same time frame as Fallout 3. That’s pretty cool, since that puts this game in the same world as Fallout 3 and New Vegas, which helps players that have been around for a while find more little things to make the world even better.

The next big chunk of the video showed off the Dog from the trailer. The new companion mechanics look very similar to followers in Skyrim – contextual commands issued via the HUD/crosshairs. This section is also our first look at some combat – including the new take on V.A.T.S. Instead of freezing time like it used to, it just slows it down, and looks a little more fluid than before. The V.A.T.S. also ties in with the new PIP Boy – it’s gotten a lot of love since the last set of games. The menus are all animated now – from the Vault Boy icons, to the weapons themselves. We also learned that the armor is all layered now, adding in even more customization options for armor, as well as just adding in tons more options. We also learned that there are new meta-games that can be played in the PIP Boy. They look like they’re Fallout takes on classic games like Donkey Kong or Missile Command. It also ties in with the special edition – the PIP boy edition will come with an actual PIP boy to wear.

We then got a little break from Fallout 4 to announce the second screen app that will be coming out with the game for smart phones; as well as announcing Fallout Shelter, a free game for iOS. I grabbed it last night, since it launched after the show, but haven’t had a ton of time to really dig into it. It does look really cool – it’s basically a free game, with no micro transactions really necessary.

Back to the main game after that little break, this is when we got some huge details. Crafting has always been a part of Bethesda games – but usually consists of taking the materials, and just selecting a recipe on a menu. Not anymore. Just about every piece of junk in the game can be broken down into materials – much more in depth than before. You still will select from a menu, but it looks way, way deeper than it was; especially because the options are way wider. Armor, weapons, mods all are craftable, along with new things tied into the new settlements feature. It all looks really cool – and looks like players will be able to get out of it what they put in; since it’s all totally up to the player if they take part in it. I think depending on how much the settlements feature – where you create and build safe settlements, across the Boston wastes – is actually used in the game will determine just how much I dig into the crafting.

We ended the show with a pretty long trailer that was solely focused around combat. It’s kinda hard to really say for sure without playing, but it does look like it’s much more fluid than it ever was. And definitely looks faster paced, but still very much Fallout. After a good taste of the combat, the biggest detail of the night was given to us – the release date. Fallout 4 will be in our hands on Novemeber 10, 2015. These next few months are going to be long.