Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Love Letter to 90s Shooters

I know what you're thinking.

“Tim, this game came out like a week ago. Why is it on a retro gaming website?”

That's true. It is a brand new game, but the reason I want to talk about it is because if you were to release a game like this on the PC in the late 90s, it would've been right at home. Doom (2016) embodies arena shooter mechanics in a way that so few first-person shooters have done in the past decade plus.

In the past few generations, first-person shooters have moved away from the staples of the genre in the 1990s like Doom and Quake and moved toward games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Halo, etc. Those games are great, and I still play them on occasion, but outside of Valve developed games, I haven't obsessively played any shooters since the early 2000s.

After playing Doom on various platforms throughout the 1990s, Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament helped me continue my obsession of arena shooters. UT had a few sequels and games like Serious Sam stayed around, but for the most part arena shooters have faded away from the public mind while Call of Duty sells tens of millions of units.

This is what has made the release of the new Doom game so surprising. On Friday, id released a big budget, AAA-quality arena shooter across multiple platforms. Mechanically, it differs greatly from many genre staples in recent years and goes out of its way to be a game that embodies the spirit of the kind of work id released twenty years ago.

A lot of modern games begin with dramatic cutscenes or some sort of lengthy exposition to familiarize the player with the story and the controls. Doom, on the other hand, hands you a gun within five seconds of starting up and requires you to start shooting. The game has a story, but the game doesn't really take it very seriously. The game has backstory and lore if you want it, but it rarely makes you spend much time doing anything story-specific. You're on Mars and demons from Hell are causing problems. You're a tough guy who is good with weapons. That's pretty much it.

In fact, outside of the armor/weapon upgrade system and the Glory Kill mechanic, the game is pretty much identical to the first two Doom games in structure. There is no regenerating health, no sprinting and no “cover” system. The game uses the same health/armor system of the original games and successfully being able to make your way through the game depends on your skills at maneuvering while firing your weapons. The maps are big and open, filled with secrets and are riddled with a lot of tough bad guys that require clever use of your array of weapons.

I haven't even tried the multiplayer yet and am only focusing on the campaign as of right now, but I think it is safe to say that I love the hell (harhar) out of this game. Who knew that to make a modern shooter feel fresh you would need to go back to what worked before?

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