Review: DOOM (2016)

I survived the hellish onslaught on Mars, and kicked demon butts in Hell. Ripping and tearing, shooting and obliterating everything in my path. Rock music blasting in the background, it’s difficult not to enjoy the terror.

Not without its fair amount of challenge – DOOM succeeds in establishing itself as a classic arcade shooter with advancements across the board.

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Suit up.

As a newbie to the DOOM scene, I don’t really have the faintest idea in regards to the plot. There’s demons and guns, right? Well I must admit, I am hooked on this installment. I can confirm that DOOM 4, dubbed neatly as DOOM (2016), is indeed a reboot of the series. Created by id Studios and published by Bethesda, DOOM is back with impressive graphical and gameplay enhancements.

Playing as the famous unnamed ‘Doomguy’ you awaken in a room, presumed to be your holding cell, surrounded by Possessed Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) personnel. Breaking free from your constraints you utilise a standard pistol, clearing the room of hellish zombie-like men, continuing to reunite with the very satisfyingly chunky Praetor Suit. From here you embark on your journey to rid the demon presence from Mars. The campaign stretches to around 12-15 hours, depending on how much of the beautiful (yet, disturbing) visuals you want to take in. Separated by chapters (essentially mission levels), you will transcend back and forth between the UAC facility on Mars and Hell, following your own demon-slaying desires and the instructions of influential individuals, the campaign is interesting enough alongside the great gameplay to solidify the intense and satisfying package.

Without spoiling the plot-line, there are a number of set-pieces that appear later down the road which surprised me. DOOM feels like the kind of game you’d expect to run into a boss stage at the end of each mission, this is not the case. Instead, about three quarters through the game you are met with what feels like an abundance of boss fights left, right and center. Definitely not a bad aspect; it actually exaggerated the intensity of the oncoming conclusion, which actually felt rather abrupt. With so many boss fights so close together I was actually expecting a little bit more after the sudden end-game cinematic. In no way does this really subtract from DOOM however, as I found the whole experience very satisfying all the same.

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Moving on to the most important factor: the gameplay. If you previously read my DOOM: Open Beta Impressions then you’ll already have a general idea of how combat and movement works. It’s fast, fluid and gruesomely vivid to watch. Your movement is swift, complementing DOOM’s arcade origins, no sprint button here folks. It feels like an arena shooter, which I have little experience with, but if DOOM is anything to go by, I’m sold by it. Following from the lack of sprinting, there’s also a lack of reloading. Weapons have different shooting rates, but they never require manual reloading, this is after all reliving the arcade, arena feel. You accumulate ammunition, health and armour as pickups (old skool FTW).  It’s a nice change of pace from contemporary FPS games which are littered with regeneration.

Obviously one of the main additions that’s got everyone talking is the Glory Kills. Brutal, so brutal, but so fun. How do you spice up a notoriously bloody and violent franchise? You add even more blood and violence, and make it look amazing. Glory Kills add some fruitful new ways of finishing off those pesky Possessed soldiers but even more so for the big baddies. Chainsawing a staggered Baron of Hell is insane, and makes you feel rather omnipotent for a brief but rewarding moment. These impressively animated kills can feel like a nice breather before continuing to slaughter dozens more demons in one of the arena stages. After performing one of these animations you are given extra pickup items (health at first, armour with a Rune upgrade, and ammo with any chainsaw demise), and also a short speed boost that aids the seeking of your next victim.

That Rune upgrade I just mentioned refers to one of the extra segments within the campaign that the player can interact with. These Runes can be found throughout missions, often hidden behind doors and gates, and grant the player with special abilities after the completion of a relatively tough but simple combat trial. This area of gameplay was probably the most frustrating for me, but I’ll blame myself for being impatient with the trials. One petty complaint regarding this would be the amount of loading screens. I wish it was a little more seamless to repeat trials after failing them. They are very short and can be easily failed, but I lost my patience waiting for the trial to reload several times. I guess I should just get better at games, oops.

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 As well as these Rune abilities, the player can acquire weapon mod upgrades using weapon upgrade points rewarded for completing mission challenges and also combat efficiency. Adding some more dimensions in your arsenal of wiping out the occupants of Hell. These mods can be mastered following specific challenges such as killing multiple enemies with one shot. Additionally to these upgrades, Doomguy’s Praetor Suit can also be upgraded using tokens found on the corpses of Elite soldiers throughout the campaign. These improvements aid survival via movement speed, lessening damage consumed by explosive barrels, enemies and yourself, and also enhancing your map by displaying collectible items. The final feature that strengthens your build is the consumption of Argent Energy. Findings a number of pods containing little balls of the Energy (I call it candy), your player can crush the container and utilise the Energy to put a single point into upgrading either Health, Armour or Ammo.

All these features work well to make daring situations a little easier without totally removing the need to think. No matter how buffed you are, there will always be a challenge. This can be found in the campaign with harder difficulties – try Ultra-Nightmare if you want to get annihilated with perma-death and extremely tough baddies, or in the multiplayer. The multiplayer feels much more fleshed-out from the Beta, adding three more demons, several new maps and game modes, and tonnes of character customisation. There’s plenty of content here for those seeking some cooperative slaying.

Not only are we given a solid traditional multiplayer arena experience, but we are also treated to Snapmap. Snapmap allows players to create, publish and play user-created missions, competitive maps and much more endless possibilities. It’s surprisingly in-depth, despite the simple and easy-to-use UI. I’m looking forward to investing more hours into this entirely under-appreciated (in my playthrough) segment of the game.

Overall DOOM (2016) proves to offer players dozens of hours of gory mayhem, be it online with others, or ripping through its tight and enjoyable campaign packed with content. Collectibles, upgrades, easter eggs and references, they’re all here. Suit up, rev that chainsaw, and prepare yourselves for the next DOOM installment (subtle spoiler there).

Alexander Jones

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Doom – Open Beta Impressions

Fast-paced, gory, arcade fun is how I’d describe Doom’s multiplayer.

Holy moly! Who expected this game to be so fun? Simplistic, yet dense enough to entice you into further levelling up your character and customising various weapons. It’s punishing if you’re slow on the draw, but hugely satisfying when you successfully perform a killing streak. This may very well be my next big multiplayer game.

I was already pretty excited to dive into the single player onslaught of Doom, but this open beta has proven to me that the multiplayer is something that I can equally look forward to. E3’s gameplay demo showed a promising revamp into the Doom series, a series I have neglected for far too long. Clearly, I have been missing out on some messy, bloody action. Luckily, this open beta (available for all you fellow gamers until 17th April) gives everyone the opportunity to experience hell like never before.

 
The gameplay is extremely fluid and encourages players to keep moving. Camping does not bode well for you in this world, and you are sure to be penalised – either by being repeatedly annihilated by players who have acquired power ups, or simply from lacking any reasonable amount of points to progress or flaunt. From my own experience, players are eager to engage with enemy players constantly, yet thinking tactically and dodging attacks with worrying ease. The double-jump feature complements these evasive maneoveurs, opening up new tactics when approaching or escaping threats. Initially the trailers for the multiplayer convinced me that this experience would be very similar to recent Halo games and Titanfall, but it is different. There are similarities of course, but Doom is very much it’s own game and certain gameplay aspects prove this.

 
For example, the way in which ammo and health is acquired from pickups dotted around the map is a fairly nostalgic jump backwards. But in a good way, it’s fresh and scary in a way. When you’re punishing newbies with your super quick reflexes but find yourself low on health, it’s exhilarating sprinting for the health pack. There’s no actual sprint button, this is a very arcadey experience, fleshed out with very promising additions; such as demonic runes and more traditional power-ups. Power-ups appear at a number of set locations around each map, buffing the players with unique abilities such as increased speed, quad-damage and shields. My favourite is faster movement because this game relies a lot on how quickly you can react to situations. I personally find this very fun – for others this may not appeal so much. But each to their own.

Some low-res Twitch stream captures from my own archive (will edit these on my computer when I get my hands on it):

Lastly we have the demonic runes, which spawn a couple of times each game. These are the pickups people are likely to camp around, and likely to cause arguments among players – very much like the hero pickups of Star Wars Battlefront (see my review if you’d like). On full release I believe there’s meant to be a total of three demons you can play as, but in the beta you can only use the Revenant. The Revenant is the iconic jet-packing, missile-firing, skeleton beast that appears on numerous ads for the game. It’s a scary monster; and even more frightening in the game. The playstyle is pretty simple: one button to jet-pack, and one button to shoot dual-rockets from his mounted rocket launchers. What surprised me was the lack of close combat options, I guess that’ll be the focus of another demon, the Revenant is clearly the run-gun-snipe beast. You’re given one full minute to annihilate other players, and this does happen. The rockets just leave numerous piles of limbs in their wake; which makes it highly entertaining (and tactical) to hide behind the Revenant whilst pursuing capture points in the gamemode ‘Warpath’. It’s not invincible though, players can swarm and over-power the Revenant with some difficulty. When the demon is slain the rune becomes available again for anyone who claims it, however the timer continues from where it stopped. I look forward to trying out the remaining demons in the full release, this feature looks very promising.

 

With only two games modes: Team deathmatch and Warpath, there’s enough content here to decide if Doom satisfies your crave; be it gore, graphics or a new multiplayer experience. Personally I find both game modes compelling enough to confirm my purchase of Doom next month. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how hooked I actually am by the competitive online segment of the game. Now my expectations for the very interesting looking single player campaign have only stretched higher, and I believe Doom won’t disappoint. It deserves to do well and I hope nothing significant brings it down. Guess I can only wait until May the 13th to find out, but until then, back to slaughtering people with my shotgun!

Alexander Jones

Below: my very own Twitch live-stream capture, enjoy!

 

What is REAL? – Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and The Real World

I am the real me. Are you sure that you are the REAL you?

This writing is taken from an article I wrote for Cardiff’s student magazine Quench. I hope you like this small piece I wrote, I find it incredibly interesting exploring the new possibilities  given to us by new technologies. Written before the release of the Occulus, this article may seem a bit out-dated now, but I thought it was decent enough to share on here. So go on, read my nonsense, you know you want to…

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Technology has come a long way over the span of under 50 years, it’s hard to imagine what crazy new perspective on life we will witness next. Virtual reality and augmented reality used to be concepts in sci-fi films and comics, but here we are in 2015 with these amazing pieces of tech just around the corner. People have reacted in some pretty amusing ways, such as waving their arms around aimlessly and sometimes falling over from nausea. I guess it can only be good sign if people are fooled into thinking there are giant dinosaurs roaring in their face, or even an anime-like woman lying in bed next to you, staring into your soul…yeah that’s a thing. Creeps. So yeah, technology continues to be used for the greatest and most bizarre of things, but how does it hold up? Is it any good or is it just another expensive gimmick that we’ll all be fooled into buying?

Unsurprisingly, VR isn’t so new a thing as you’d believe it to be. Attempts at creating a virtual reality to shelter ourselves from the harshness of real life problems began before 1950 in the form of the View-Master. 1950!? Are you mad Alex? People didn’t even have colour back in those days! I know, it’s crazy, but it’s true. Although VR was more of a concept than an actual thing you could use back then. Enough about history though, we live in the now so let’s talk about the now. From a gaming perspective we are lucky enough to witness the development of three major VR and AR headsets. There’s the Oculus Rift, Sony VR (Project Morpheus) and Microsoft’s interesting augmented reality headset HoloLens. The Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus are slated for a 2016 release, however the HoloLens will sadly only be available as a development kit in 2016 and costing $3000, which is almost ten times the price of the other two kits.

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Calming or creepy?

It would appear that virtual reality is closer than we think, with both Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus offering the sensation of being shot in the face on Call of Duty in less than a year for approximately $350. These two pieces of tech can be compared with each other quite fairly as they both aim to achieve the same goal, whereas Microsoft’s HoloLens is on a different level all together. So which is better between the Oculus and Morpheus? Firstly it is important to note that these devices are limited (as of this moment) to what platforms they can actually operate on. Sony’s Project Morpheus is obviously targeted towards the PlayStation side of gaming and despite Oculus’ partnership with Microsoft, the Rift is solely made for PC gaming. If you don’t own a PlayStation you can cancel out Project Morpheus pretty much straight away. The fact that the Oculus Rift focuses entirely on PC gaming comes with its advantages and disadvantages. For example, the PC market for indie games is continuously increasing in size and quality. Games that allow for VR headsets to be used are growing and are only going to get better with time. Another upside to Oculus Rift is its compatibility with other motion devices for PC, such as the Virtuix Omni which allows the player to control character movement. It may take some time making sure everything works in sync, but when it does, it looks incredible. The major downside to the PC-only take on things is that if you want to run an Oculus Rift, you’re more than likely going to need a very powerful computer to maximise your experience. VR without 60fps or a high enough resolution will limit your fun levels to average, so you might have to invest even more of your student loan into your PC rig.

Project Morpheus on the other hand will provide less hassle in terms of configuration and setup due to its exclusivity to the PlayStation platform. As mentioned before with the Oculus, the Morpheus cannot be synchronised with as many VR tools as the PC alternative can, but instead will work perfectly with PlayStation’s Move and Dualshock 4. The simplicity of out-of-the-box VR will be a significant factor for many in buying the Morpheus headset, personally this is the ideal option that I would go for. If you’re more into the complex, micro adjustments and configurations then I’d suggest the Oculus Rift. Don’t mistake the Rift as something overly complex however. Apart from the possible need to upgrade some hardware and update certain drivers, the Oculus Rift is just as easy to use as any other VR headset.

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So many lights!

Finally we have Microsoft’s HoloLens. I’ve separated the HoloLens on its own because augmented reality is NOT the same as virtual reality. It’s that straight forward. At this current time there hasn’t really been any hands-on experience with the HoloLens just a couple of showcases and demos. The overall impression is hugely positive, watching Minecraft become part of the living room or a video player follow you around your house so you never miss a second is truly incredible. I believe that HoloLens is demonstrating a massive step forward in technology that will eventually be available for gamers and the everyday consumer. Although at the very steep price tag that it currently holds, that scenario may take some time. There can’t be much said in comparison with the other pieces of tech until the developers kit is released some time in 2016.

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Now THIS is cool

The VR and AR scene for gaming and in general is shaping up to being one of the hottest topics of 2016 and it makes me overwhelmingly excited. Clearly both VR sets are shaping up quite nicely and both have good points and bad, but the simple method of deduction is: do you own a PlayStation? Yes? Then get the Morpheus. No? Get the Rift. If you want to hold out a little longer for something a bit different and have the cash to spend then go for the HoloLens. I doubt I’ll be able to afford any of these devices until I win the lottery or starve myself for a year, but at least I know it’ll all be worth it in the end.

 

Alexander Jones

 

*Thanks for reading this. If you think that I can make any improvements or you’d like to offer any advice on my writing style feel free to do so! I appreciate it all. 

 

My Game of the Month – February: Far Cry 4

Far Cry 4 is full of problems. Many, many problems that you, the gamer, have to suffer through in order to call yourself a ‘real’ gamer and sleep peacefully at night. These said problems exist in the game world and in the real world. Far Cry 4 is in no way the perfect game, quite far from it, but it makes my game of the month.

You may wonder why I’d pick a game that isn’t “the best thing ever” – well the truth is, it’s the only thing I’ve been playing alongside Star Wars Battlefront (I’m still hooked. I think I’m addicted, seriously send help). With the recent release of Far Cry Primal, I thought I’d try and blow the dust off my copy of Far Cry 4 and actually complete the darn thing. I’d like to say that I consider myself a completionist, but my backlog of incomplete games would only contradict that statement. Instead it would seem that I only truly complete a game if a) I love the game or b) it’s easy to do so. Call me a dirty casual. Go on I dare ya’.

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So why does Far Cry 4 exist? Well that’s a good question. If I was to give a personal answer I’d say Far Cry 4 leap-frogs off the back of Far Cry 3. The third installment was positively received by the masses (especially after 2, which… well nobody liked 2), the story, the gameplay, everything seemed a huge improvement and made for a largely enjoyable game. This amazing package is what makes Far Cry 4 similarly great, but also acts as its major downfall. People who know me in person would understand my issue with the Call of Duty series and its onslaught of repetition. Well now I’m worried for Far Cry. With Primal making its debut this month all I’ve seen so far from trailers and gameplay videos is Far Cry 3 rehashed into 4 rehashed into Primal. If you placed all three games into a blender you’d receive the exact same mush in which you started off with. It’s beginning to become difficult to tell these games apart. Take Assassin’s Creed for example, another series published by Ubisoft. If you haven’t been living under a rock you may have noticed a consensus of disappointment and boredom from the Assassin’s Creed fanbase. This is hugely due to the lack of creativity and simple recycling of money-making formulas. Remember when the devs attempted to change gameplay aspects in order to improve the next game? No? You were born in the naughties? Well I’m glad you’re here, might actually expand your library of games beyond Fifa and COD. But this is my problem. Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed are great games, can’t deny it really, but it’s turning into a case of using the same old phone just changing the case every year and calling it new (bit like the iPhone then really). Far Cry 4 (and Primal) are at the roots the same game as Far Cry 3, they play the same, the animations and missions are the same, however there’s a glossy new skin covering it called Kyrat or stone-age Europe.

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Rant over. So what makes Far Cry 4 good? Well most things actually. It’s pretty damn fun for a starter. Although some missions can be overwhelmingly difficult and punishing, the shooting and fire-play (literal fire) is super punchy and feels so good. Bad guys can soak up some bullets but still drop with the well-placed headshot. It’s satisfying and makes even the driest of missions entertaining. Alongside the solid shooting you have the ability to mess around with a decent sandbox environment. The amount of ways that you can tackle a single outpost is impressive. You could sneak in, taking out each guard silently or you could go berserk, riding an elephant firing off your MG and lobbing flaming molotovs into crowds of people shouting “I am the King of the Fire Elephants!” for example. You can’t do that in most games, but most games aren’t Far Cry. It’s a real shame that most things that you experience in 4 are blatantly ripped straight from 3. The Shangri-La segments follow 3’s hallucinations, the brick factory sequence was an attempt to recreate the thrill of 3’s cannabis burning mission (accompanied by Skrillex’s Burn Dem – it was amazing). They’re good but taste the same, I was really hoping 4 would push above and beyond. But hey-ho, it’s all-round good fun if you’re looking for more drug-intoxicated, animal-littered, psycho-maniac mayhem Far Cry 4 is here.

Once I finish 4 I will invest in Primal and see where that takes me (probably on the same journey just with less soap and edible food)

Alexander Jones

My Game of the Month – January: Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death

This is a funny one. So you know those Steam sales that come about occasionally? Well yeah, I saw this little gem in one of those glistening tiles of discount and I just had to pick it up. I checked the reviews and such before committing to the purchase, although for less than £2 I couldn’t really complain no matter how potentially awful it could be.

I’m not very knowledgeable about the world of Judge Dredd, I have only watched the 2012 film adaptation of the comics and thoroughly enjoyed it. I haven’t explored the world of Judge Dredd comics so I wasn’t prepared to see the weird and strange entities that are portrayed within the game. Bizarre things such as huge, blob-like people who very closely resemble the unhealthy inhabitants in Wall-E, vampires, zombies, ghosts and so much more. I didn’t realise there were so many fantasy elements to the Dredd’s world. This never comes across in the 2012 film – which focuses on the massive-scaled apartment blocks and the harshness of the living in the proposed gritty world. I assume that these unexpected events derive from its comic book roots instead. I must say, it does spark an interest in maybe reading some of these comics, after the film I wanted to explore more of the same world, especially outside of the very same 200 storey apartment block. The game opens up another opportunity to follow Dredd’s adventures in Mega City One, and it’s dark, gritty, bloody and most importantly full of justice ready to be served.

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The several missions I carried out saw me dispatching naked vampires in the futuristic street, fighting and arresting gangs of punks in rainy dockyards, clearing a super-market mall of zombies and finally frantically running through some crazy laboratory. It’s pretty diverse in terms of what happens, gameplay-wise it’s pretty samey. There’s a few different guns but you only really need to use the pistol – which offers different firing types. The enemies provide a change of pace, some shoot you, some slash you and others walk slowly towards with utmost determination for your brains. It’s a fun arcade experience.

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I haven’t had the chance to complete this game but I’ve had enough hands-on gameplay to experience the fun and dark world that the almost celebrity Judge Dredd lives in. I say that he’s like a celebrity, because everyone seems to know who you are. I assume that Judge Dredd is similar to how Duke Nukem is celebrated in his world – except this only applies from other Judges, because everyone else seems to be a criminal. Many admire you and even more despise you. To my amusement you can arrest every single NPC (except Judges, vampires and zombies obviously). This is fairly hilarious and makes you feel unbelievably omnipotent, comically so.  I couldn’t help myself wrapping handcuffs on every silly looking person I could find, it was just too funny. Just taking a stroll on the street? 5 years imprisonment! Talking to your friends? More like conspiring against the Judges! 15 years!

Sometimes being the coolest Judge in Mega City One gets to you…

Alexander Jones