Knee-Deep in the Past
I’ve always been attached to gaming. My earliest memories were playing my cousins’ NES on holidays and getting a Super Nintendo for Christmas when I was in kindergarten. Just before the boom of home PCs, my parents purchased us a family computer. My guess is it was for the purpose of adult things like balancing their checkbooks and word processing? Who knows. The point is if it had a video screen I was going to find a way to play a game on it. I played anything available to me. The first few PC games I remember playing were Lemmings and SkiFree.
Scroll forward a few years to ’96 or ’97. I was still really young and tired of getting eaten by that fucking yeti. I was probably too young to play a game like DOOM but here I am 20 years later employed with no criminal record. Anyway, an older kid on the bus gave me a stack of floppy discs and told me to give DOOM a try. DOOM was like nothing I had ever played. DOOM was the first time I heard Nirvana or the Ramones. DOOM was it. For starters, it was bloody and you got to shoot guns! All the things an elementary school kid needs in his life. I didn’t really try to beat DOOM, I just remember running around and killing everything. Progress was irrelevant, I don’t think there was a run that I didn’t use cheats. I just wanted all the guns and to kill all the monsters
My parents eventually stepped their game up and upgraded our computer with both a CD-ROM drive and a 28.8 speed modem. Fuck yeah. Moral of the story, I got DOOM II from the same kid and I had even more monsters to annihilate. This is where our story comes to a halt. My parents hadn’t really watched me play DOOM, before, and I was so excited to show my dad this funny moment. This funny moment, as it turned out, was the hidden level in DOOM II where you exited the level by shooting the hanged corpse of Commander Keen. I laughed and looked at the horror on my father’s face.
And so it goes. DOOM was uninstalled and my history with the series lessened. I played demos of all the Quake games and eventually got into Unreal/Unreal Tournament, but my relationship to shooters was always rooted in the action of DOOM. I knew about Final Doom and some of the mods that came out but didn’t spend much time with them. Same thing happened when it came to DOOM 3. At the time, I didn’t have a computer that could run the damn thing, so it wasn’t until years later when I picked it up off a steam sale and played through it. I understand why people don’t like it now, but I still enjoy playing through it, especially the BFG edition which shifts the focus to more action.
Modern shooters moved in and I didn’t care as much. I didn’t want to be tactical and look at a drab, realistic background. The Halos, Call of Duties, etc just weren’t for me. It wasn’t until I played Serious Sam or Painkiller that I got that feeling again.
I buy my own games now and my parents can’t do anything about it. Nah Nah Nah Nah, parents. Your almost 30-year-old son is really sticking it to you. Point is, there’s a new DOOM coming out and the gameplay trailer made me about poop myself. Finally, we can get a throwback to the action of the old series. Rocket launchers and monster hordes! Insane and silly Raimi-esque violence! It was all coming back! My inner child has died and gone to hell.
This past weekend DOOM had its open beta and all of us dummies would finally get to try out the return to arena-style multiplayer. I fired up Steam and installed the game as soon as I could. I wouldn’t describe it as Star Wars prequels disappointment, but it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. I’ve never been competent enough at multiplayer gaming to really care about that aspect of most titles, but this was different. This was DOOM, one of my earliest LAN party deathmatches. Maybe I’d feel that same way?
The elements I loved were in this game. Musical homages to the midi metal of early days, goat skulls, rivers of blood, and of course, the Super Shotgun. Regardless of these elements, something felt off.
The simplest way I can describe my first impressions was Halo goes to hell. The infinite weapon pickups are gone. In its place there’s a two weapon loadout. I saw a bunch of marines jumping around chucking grenades. The weapons didn’t pack the same kind of punch I was used to, either. A rocket launcher used to mean chaos was imminent. Everyone, including myself, was totally fucked when anyone picked that thing up. This time around you may get some splash damage or knock someone back a little bit. Maybe it was the latency issues but every time I died I just kind of fell down or all-of-a-sudden splattered. It couldn’t quite decide whether or not it was going to be a fast action shooter or attempt to be a slow, heavy shooter. But hey, at least you can change the color of your armor and the guns?
I admit that I fucking suck, but I’ve had fun playing games I’m terrible at. The biggest complaint I saw from other users were the Gauss Rifle and the Demon Rune. The Gauss rifle feels like it can clear a screen in one shot and the demon rune transforms the player into a timed or tough-to-kill skeleton in a jetpack with rocket launchers. A close look at that skeleton and I’m thinking that’s just an updated version of the SkiFree Yeti with a jetpack. Thematically, I can get behind the demon but it’s exactly the same as the addition of the smash ball to Smash Bros. Competitive jocks are going to whine that the noobs are getting it too easy, but for someone that sucks as bad as me I needed some sort of balancing mechanic to keep me interested. My experience in the few hours I plugged into the game was that the shotgun may kill someone instantly and it may just annoy other players into killing me. The rocket launcher will knock people back a bit but will take so long to fire again I’m dead.
Could it be, that the inspiration for many of these games has become inspired? It felt like Slayer’s releases in the early 2000’s. You guys were the kings but you succumbed to rap metal? C’mon, we all know you’re better than that. You’re fucking Slayer. YOU set the standard. DOOM still holds a strong place in my heart. Even thought I had a negative experience with the beta, there are plenty of games I’ve played in pre-release or demos that I warmed up to. The single player is still anyone’s guess, but I hope it packs a harder punch than the multiplayer did. I’m in it for giant monster hordes and violence, anyway, so I remain cautiously optimistic. You can do this, DOOM. You’re Slayer.