Doom Review

Doom is synonymous with FPS.  Early games in the genre were dubbed “Doom Clones” and often carried the stigma of never being quite as good as the id-developed shareware hit.  Doom II landed in 1994, just one year after the original, but things would be pretty quiet for the franchise for about a decade after, with Ultimate Doom and Final Doom being the endcaps on the original Doom saga.  Doom 3 brought some new life to the franchise in 2004, focusing more on jump scares and horror elements than just mowing down endless hordes of hellspawn, serving as a reboot to the franchise, but, again, things would go quiet.  There was one expansion, Resurrection of Evil, and several promises of a sequel, but that would never see the light of day.

Fast forward another decade, and enter Doom – no numbers, no subtitles, just DOOM.   Yet another reboot of the franchise, Doom the new brings things back to a more traditional styled action-oriented shooter experience.

The game begins with absolutely no exposition – not unlike starting up the original DOS classic.  You play the voiceless DOOM MARINE and awaken bound to a table and surrounded by grotesque minions of hell.  Evil things need killing and you have the means to do so.  That’s your motivation, and that’s all the exposition you get as the game thrusts you head first into a nonstop killing spree.  There is plenty of story in Doom, though, and you’ll encounter it by way of data logs, infrequent cutscenes, and bits of text on loading screens.  It gives you enough motivation to continue killing (because just shooting ugly bastards may not be enough for modern audiences), but never actually gets in the way of said killing.  It’s a story that does its job to keep you interested for the ten to fifteen hours it’ll probably take you to beat (it took me around 20 on Hurt Me Plenty) but it, thankfully, never takes itself too seriously.

The impressively large single player campaign is composed of 13 huge levels – all of which feature a smattering of secret areas and collectible items.  Progression through the game feels similar to a hybrid of classic Doom and Metroid Prime, with sprawling levels and moderate backtracking to get to the next area after picking up a colored keycard or new ability.  There’s plenty to go back for if you’re a completionist with dozens of well-hidden secrets to test your exploration skills, gameplay challenges for meeting certain requirements in any given level, not to mention just how damned fun the game is.  It’s incredibly replayable.

Gunplay in the new Doom feels absolutely fantastic.  Guns have weight, shots have impact, and, just like the game that spawned the series, there’s no reloading.  You’ve got a number of rounds in your inventory, sure, but you never have to actively reload your guns which have seemingly endless clips.  Ammo is always in abundant supply, as well.  The game never leaves you out to dry and, if you do begin to run low on rounds, you can whip out the powerful chainsaw for a quick, on-demand ammo drop when you rip through a nearby enemy.  To keep things balanced with the chainsaw, which can take down any non-boss enemy with one hit, the weapon runs on fuel and harder enemies will consume more fuel – so a possessed will take one bar of fuel, a revenant will take three, and a mancubus will take five.  As powerful as you feel never having to pause to reload, the game makes sure you never feel too powerful at any given time.  There’s plenty of death to be had in Doom and, depending on your difficulty, you’ll probably get more than your fair share.

Outside the campaign, the game offers a variety of multiplayer modes in addition to a scenario editor called Snap Map.  While the multiplayer modes have received little love from fans and press alike, Snap Map opens up endless possibilities for new gaming experiences.  It’s basically Super Mario Maker with guns.  And demons.  And gobs of goo.  Snap Map is impressive in how much you can do with it – everything from the map layout, enemy placement, items, spawns, and sound effects are up to you.  You can place interactive switches that trigger events in the level, program paths and behaviors for your enemies, set conditions and objectives to win your scenario.  It’s a great, simple to use tool that basically makes you an FPS dungeon master in charge of mini campaign.  The community offerings are hit and miss, to be sure, but there is so much potential with what is possible the Snap Map tools that you can spend countless hours in this game – whether you’re constructing your own scenarios, or playing maps posted by the community.

The resurgence of id’s iconic properties like Wolfenstein and Doom is exciting to me as someone who grew up with those properties for the nostalgic value, but also to see how well the franchises can hold up in these new iterations.  Much like Wolfenstein: The New Order that came before it, Doom is absolutely worth a playthrough.  The multiplayer may leave you wanting, but the campaign and snapmap community should keep you satisfied for, potentially, endless hours.

Good – 3 / 3

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X-Men: Apocalypse Review

“The third film is always the worst.”  This pseudo self-aware line is spoken as a not so subtle nod to the less than stellar reception X-Men 3: The Last Stand received.  And, as painful as it was hearing this piss poor attempt at irony, it couldn’t be more true.

X-Men:  Apocalypse is the third film in the new X-Men timeline and follows the events of the X-Men sequel / reboot Days of Future Past.  While Days of Future Past had its faults, it still stood out as one of the stronger entries in the X-Men film franchise.  Sadly, the legacy of the excellent First Class does nothing to elevate Apocalypse above mediocrity.

The film opens strong enough with a thundering score and the titular En Sabah Nur (Apocalypse) and his four henchman marching to a ritual to transfer his consciousness.  We’re treated to a fun, if a little clumsy, action scene right off the bat before the film tosses up the title card… and then devolves into a muddy mess of mediocrity and wasted potential.

The majority of the film is set in 1983, over 20 years after First Class, and it does little to emphasize this point aside from a few period outfits and a Return of the Jedi marquee.  Despite the cast having aged only 5 years since this new (old) class of heroes was introduced, we’re thrust into yet another decade with little to no reason.  Really, the only cues we have, aside from the punk clothing and movies playing in cinemas, that any time has passed between films is the damage done in the last two movies is barely a passing thought to anyone in this universe and one of the characters has a family now.

With First Class, and to a lesser extent Days of Future Past, the characters felt new and refreshing.  Even if we had seen them before in these films, the new interpretations added a new layer of depth.  In the original X-Men film, we were given a glimpse into what turned Erik into Magneto.  First Class took us deeper into that character evolution with an extended look at Erik’s time in Auschwitz and Michael Fassbender giving us a Magneto that, in spite of his feelings toward them, is more human.  The relationship between Charles and Erik in First Class gives more weight to each instance you hear the line “old friend” spoken in the original films.  It’s a compelling relationship and one I’d love to see more of, but one that takes a back seat to some of the new gifted youngsters as Apocalypse tries desperately to bridge the gap between the old and new.

While Days of Future Past did little to develop that relationship further, being essentially another Wolverine movie, the characters in that go ‘round were actually fun to follow.  Apocalypse shifts its focus to follow Jean Grey, Kurt Wagner, and Scott Summers in their “first” appearance in the franchise.  I’ve never been a fan of how Cyclops has been presented in the film franchise, being a bit of a whiny douche, which is disappointing because he was always my favorite in the comics.  Apocalypse somehow manages to make the character even less likable than the James Marsden iteration of the character.  I understand, he’s going through some unexpected changes that are difficult to handle, but the stilted performance, cringe-worthy dialogue, and lack of chemistry do nothing to make those changes relatable – or even tolerable.

On the topic of dialogue, the script is downright terrible at times.  With a hodgepodge of graceless exposition, ham-fisted attempts at humor, and standard, impact-less “us versus the world” hero speeches, you’re sure to shake your head more than a few times at just how utterly stupid these characters can sound when they open their mouths.  That’s not to say that it’s all bad – there are moments with true dramatic weight, but I think that has less to do with the script and more to do with Michael Fassbender’s better-than-this-movie-deserves performance.  Each scene he’s in is mesmerizing, with one in particular striking nearly every emotional cord.  It’s a shame, then, that he’s such a small presence in the film.  Each scene with Erik is like watching a different movie.  A good movie.

The primary conflict in X-Men:  Apocolypse centers on the return of Apocalypse as he gathers an army of mutants to push the reset button on the world so the strong can survive and start anew.  It’s an idea with potential:  all-powerful being hell-bent on world destruction and domination surrounds himself with other, like-minded powerful beings to see that plan through.  Unfortunately, it’s wasted on unnecessary subplots and stupid characters.

Apocalypse keeps four henchmen nearby and, of those, only two are actually interesting in any way.  Olivia Munn as Psylocke is hard to watch – even if she is just a blip on the radar in the film – and the inclusion of Angel is downright baffling (I don’t remember him being in his forties in The Last Stand).  Alexandra Shipp’s turn as Storm is a vast improvement over Halle Berry’s, but she gets about as much screen time as Psylocke – which is a shame because she manages to be one of the few enjoyable characters in the film.  Apocalypse himself is bland and a waste of Oscar Isaac’s talent as the blue makeup and boring progression do a fine job of making him as unrecognizable as he is uninteresting.  There are brief moments where you can see a glimmer of what could be only to be pulled back down by a groan-inducing line someone managed to choke out.

There was an opportunity to build toward something bigger with ApocalypseDays of Future Past reset the timeline and created the possibility to do something new; instead, they went with another paint-by-numbers standalone superhero flick.  While some of the action is enjoyable and the time you get to spend with the Magneto subplot is absolutely worth watching, there’s little to nothing else in this film worth recommending.  It’s like a cocktail of one part good movie, two parts painfully mediocre movie, and one part absolutely horrible movie.  While it’s not downright terrible as a whole, it rarely ever tries not to be.

Meh – 2 / 3

Powering back UP

Greetings, Programs!  Firstly, thanks for stopping by – your interest in our little site means a lot, and it’s great to have you here.  Chips and dip on the table in the corner.  Mingle a little.

We’ve been offline and out of touch for about two years at this point, but I’m excited to announce that PowerUP Online is back online.  We’ve got a lot of new and exciting things planned for the future including weekly podcasts, daily and weekly Twitch streams, new articles, reviews, app highlights, and more.  We’ll have daily updates (with Fridays being a possible exception) on our main page here, Twitch, or our SoundCloud.  Interested in following us?  Our current schedule is below:

PowerUP Weekly Schedule:

      • Monday – No stream as we’ll be doing our podcast recording.  Check out pwruponline.com or soundcloud.com/poweruponline on Wednesdays to hear our weekly podcast.
      • Tuesday – DC Universe Online 8p – 10p EST (5p – 7p PST)
      • Wednesday – Podcast goes live on SoundCloud 7p EST (4p PST)
      • Wednesday – Andrew plays Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (first run) 8p – 10p EST (5p – 7p PST)
      • Thursday – Tyler plays Game Dev Tychoon 10p – 12a EST (7p – 9p PST)
      • Friday – Wildcard!  Fridays are busy for us (and probably you), so we’re not committing to a stream at this time.  That doesn’t mean we won’t be online, we’re just not planning for it.
      • Saturday – Andrew plays Mad Max (first run) 9a – 11a EST (6a – 8a PST)
      • Sunday – Andrew plays Chex Quest 9a – 11a EST (6a – 8a PST)

Visit us on Twitch, YouTube, SoundCloud, and Facebook.