E1M1

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Doomed

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Awhile back I wrote about my feelings regarding the Doom multiplayer tests on both the PC and PS4.  It felt so much like they had missed the mark, and it seemed very much like someone trying to recreate the experience of the original Doom… without realizing that certain parts of that experience were due to a limit in the ability of the technology at the time.  The experience just was not fun, and that is the most scathing indictment you can honestly give any game.  So as a result I had for the most part decided to ignore that there was ever a Doom 4… or in this case a weird reboot.  Then yesterday I started seeing the first impressions of the single player campaign come in, and they were positive enough that I thought I would take a look for myself.  Even though at this point I have only really played an hour and a half of the game, I am glad I wound up grabbing it.  The impressions I had of the multiplayer were correct, in that this is an attempt to boil the game down to its original roots.  While this doesn’t really work for a multiplayer experience, it does work really well for single player.  The game functions in a way that you don’t really see games function in recent years, in that the game is not open world.  It is a series of closed loop levels that are designed to be approached as a single map.  The first one is quite literally E1M1 as the title of this blog post suggests, borrowing the same naming as the original Doom.  They are a closed puzzle that needs to be solved and involves opening a familiar series of Blue, Yellow and Red key card areas to progress through.

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The combat itself is also really interested and reminds me of the way these games used to play, where you would have a truly frenetic amount of enemies spawn in on you and have to deal with them rapidly.  However once you dealt with that room you were granted time to roam around the area freely before moving ahead and engaging the next set.  In many ways it reminds me of the way that the Painkiller games felt, where each room is this challenge to survive and then you restock your ammunition and health in an attempt to prepare for the next such room.  What helps make this manageable is the games “Glory Kill” system.  When mob is near death it will glow slightly and stagger around letting you know that you can sweep in and with the F key engage a sequence where you do an almost Mortal Kombat like fatality.  Sometimes you rip the head off of the monster, other times you rip the arm off and beat it with it.  Other than just being a carnal ballet, they serve the purpose of giving you life or ammunition back allowing you to keep up the killing streak a little longer.  I found it very needed for getting through some of the later rooms.  Often times the mobs will spawn in with such number that you have to keep running around the room to avoid getting wrecked.  The imps are also more frustrating than they have ever been with their ability to hang off the edge of things and gun you down with their fireballs.

Nothing Will Save You

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Unlike the original Doom, there is no “save game” that you can rely on.  Instead there are a sequence of Checkpoints that unlock as you go through the level.  When you die you either fall back to the last check point or restart the level in its entirety.  These checkpoints generally coincide with the various lulls in the action that I talked about.  The only frustrating thing is that they sometimes encompass several rooms worth of encounters.  I ultimately stopped last night playing because I died and rolled back to a check point a few rooms back… and simply didn’t have the strength to deal with the shit storm I had just waded though to get there.  Even on normal difficulty that game is really tough at times, and you find yourself having to keep glory killing just to maintain your health long enough to push through to the next room.  Ammunition also feels like a constant problem with both the 20 round shotgun and the 50 round or so Heavy Machinegun.  Similarly the Chainsaw this time around relies upon gas tanks that you find scattered throughout the levels.  What was surprising is just how fast you get into the action, similar to the original doom you are planted in a room with mobs that you have to chew your way through with only a pistol.  The secret areas that can be found feel every bit as meaningful as they used to in Doom, with them often granting access to a weapon before you would find it in the normal flow of the game.

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One of the more interesting aspects of the gameplay is the weapon modification system.  Each gun has an Unreal Tournament style alternate fire system but these are unlocked by finding weapon kiosks scattered through the levels.  Each mod package changes the way your right mouse button interacts, and once you have unlocked multiple modes you can change between them with your R key.  For example with the shotgun its two alternate fire modes allow you to choose from what is ultimately a grenade launcher and a three round burst that can both be accessed by holding the right button for a charged shot.  I personally tend to favor the grenade launcher because it allows me to bounce a grenade between several different mobs taking out the entire pack.  However for boss fights or tougher enemies I could see how the three round burst would be extremely beneficial.  The problem there however is that when you only have 20 rounds in the weapon, chewing those up 3 rounds at a time means you empty the gun quickly.  The big takeaway is that the game is very much a 90s shooter, with 90s shooter sensibilities…  remastered for the 1080p and beyond world.  Some of these work amazingly well in single player, but not in multiplayer.  However I might change my tune once I see how the snap map system works.  In any case I am definitely enjoying the single player campaign, and it has just enough story and intrigue to keep the game moving forward…. but not so much that you get bogged down in character development.  This is in no way the rich narrative environment that Doom 3 was for me at least, but it has enough atmosphere to keep my interested.  If you want a good shooter, give it a shot… but if you are looking for a deep storyline…  this is not the game for you.

The Institute

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Riding the RF

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This coming Saturday it is the intention to record the Fallout 4 show for AggroChat since we ultimately put it off until after the Holidays.  As a result I am back on the mission of trying to finish up the main storyline so that I can discuss it.  I have to tell you…  focusing on the storyline has killed a lot of my enjoyment of this game, and even then I find myself having a hard time of not following my instincts and letting myself get lost in the rabbit holes that are the weird side events going on around the commonwealth.  However I really really need to focus so I can finish up and be read to discuss the path I took.  Tam, Kodra and probably a few others will have likely beaten the game multiple times by the show happens…  but so much of my enjoyment has nothing to do with the storyline that I am going to be hard pressed to finish this game once.  I’ve logged hundreds upon hundreds of hours in the other Fallout and Elder Scrolls games…  and started playing each of them numerous times…  and to be honest… I think I have maybe beat the main story exactly once per game.  Beating them is just not part of what I find crucial to the enjoyment, but instead roaming around and inhabiting the world is what makes them special.  That said I am going to talk a bit about the storyline so if you don’t want to have any plot details spoiled…  please just skip the rest of this post.

Firstly…  I love the Railroad.  I’ve loved everything about the quest sequence so far, from the having to follow the freedom trail to find their base, to the extracting and guarding of runaway synths.  One of my favorite missions was when I had to pick up a synth and guard him while waiting on someone else to help ferry him along to his new home.  I realized by following the path of the Railroad I would ultimately come into conflict with both the Brotherhood of Steel and the Institute, and more or less I am perfectly fine with both of these choices.  The Minutemen however, I am hoping I can retain my position with them, because I really like the concept of them as the unsung heroes of the commonwealth.  The only frustration so far has been that working on the main story, and also the railroad story… has forced me to follow at least to a point the institute story.  Everything about the institute creeps me the fuck out.  They keep trying to tell me that they are no where near the bogeymen that they are acclaimed to be….  but then they want me to go abduct a scientist, and act like they weren’t going to give him a choice in the matter.  They also really wanted me to create a radio broadcast threatening the commonwealth that if they messed with the institute they would destroy them.  Again there is the whole Synth thing as well…  if you create life you have to respect it… and they very much seem to treat synths the same way we would treat a toaster.

Double Agent

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You would think that by working with the Institute I would come to respect and understand them, but instead it has only served to make me more creeped out by their actions.  The only real positive of the institute is the fact that the Courser outfit looks amazing, and I am more than happy to wear it around everywhere.  Basically the Institute reminds me of the Vault, magnified to the extreme.  Everything is cold and sterile, and I believe you are supposed to sympathize with your son….  aka “Father” but he seems just as twisted and misguided as the Overseers from the various vaults.  There is a point where you have this conversation with him, where he basically writes off everything that is happening in the commonwealth as nothing worth salvaging, but instead I feel like I’ve seen so much good already in the people of the commonwealth.  What is killing me is how long it is taking for me to get to the point where I can stop playing nice… and help the synths escape from the Institute.  There are a few of the scientists that I like, but it feels very much like running around in a creepy 1980s police state science fiction film.  Having every single item in the Institute look like 1970s era “high tech” concepts isn’t helping either.  I keep having flashbacks in my mind to movies like Logan’s Run or books like Brave New World.  Basically the whole experience with the Institute is a whole lot of nope.

So much of me wants to just open fire and take out everyone down there….  then give the tech they have to people who will actually put it to use for the benefit of everyone.  They claim that they are the last hope of humanity…. but they seem to be doing nothing at all to benefit anyone other than themselves.  They are a bunch of scientists high on the act of doing science…. and seem go give zero shits about the practical application of the tech they are building when it comes to actually improving the world for anyone other than their cloistered society.  Basically the Institute is against everything that makes me really love Fallout 4, the feeling of honestly saving the world a little bit at a time.  Both the Insititute and The Brotherhood of Steel are these paternal forces, trying to gather power and resources for themselves at the cost of the common folk.  So all of that said… I am going to be damned happy when I can finally open fire and leave the Institute behind me.  Tam kept alluding to the Railroad not being what they seem…. but I just have not seen it yet.  I don’t see the Institute as the noble force worth committing myself to… instead I see a group that causes a lot of harm and ends up thinking of it as “minor collateral damage”.  The hubris is strong with them…  and I am really hoping I am getting close to ending the story arc and leaving them behind.