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


White Noise: A Tale of Horror Review

Proper horror games are few and far between these days, and they tend to creep up more on PC thanks to independent developers and distribution platforms like steam.  Since its introduction, Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) has been largely abused by a community of users determined to make their mark by releasing complete garbage or “me-too” knock offs.  There have been several solid releases in the XBLIG marketplace over the years, yes, but they’re constantly becoming harder and harder to find with each new day of unsolicited downloadable shovelware.  White Noise: A Tale of Horror is one of those shameless copycats… but it’s a very good one.

While I haven’t played Slender: The Eight Pages, I wasn’t completely ignorant to the fact that White Noise was a rip off; despite this, I felt starved for a good scare and decided to give White Noise a try… after all, it was only $1 (80 MSP).  I am pleased to say that it was a very worthwhile purchase.

Since I haven’t played Slender, I can’t draw comparisons between the two (though I have heard they are essentially identical games); instead, I will be reviewing White Noise based on its own merits.

White Noise is a simple game following a simple formula:  plop players in random locations in the middle of a creepy forest with nothing but a flashlight and the will to outrun a terrifying, shadowy creature set on making you dead.  Players are tasked with recovering eight tape recorders hidden throughout various creepy locations featuring run-down architecture and ominous noises.  There are few cues or hints as to where the recordings are located–static noises are used to indicate the player is close to an audio log, but the game doesn’t feature a HUD or any other markers indicating where the logs may be found.  It’s a bit of a cop-out to increase the game’s longevity by encouraging multiple playthroughs to acclimate one’s self to the game’s environment, but it’s surprisingly effective as the game rarely feels monotonous as the tension never seems to subside.

Being placed in random locations, it’s a challenge to get oriented from the beginning, and having the viewing area limited to only what the flashlight illuminates certainly doesn’t make things easier.  While it can be easy enough to get back on a familiar path, once players start picking up the audio logs, the shadowy figure begins making appearances, forcing players to run and (possibly) get lost again.  Audio-visual cues indicate when the creature is close (featuring snowy static around the border of the screen and fitting audio when the shadow figure is near), and a lot times it comes completely out of nowhere. White Noise is incredibly effective at the jump scare, and it manages to make that startling moment last with a sense of danger and tension after the initial startling revelation that there is a monster nearby.  There is no offense against the creature, players’ only option is to run away.  Running isn’t unlimited, either–and it’s certainly not fast.  I found myself tightly gripping the right trigger (used for sprinting) in desperation hoping that I could get away from the creature–it only worked sometimes.

Adding to the tension is the game’s beautifully rendered horror world.  Being mostly shrouded in darkness probably helps this game to be more visually appealing, but there’s no denying that it’s one of the best looking (if not the best looking) games on XBLIG.  The forest is genuinely creepy and the run down cemetery and crumbling monuments decorating the world help add to that feeling of uneasiness.

The sound design is equally effective.  The game’s score appropriately becomes more and more intense with each audio log the player recovers–adding to the heart pounding intensity as each note bursting through the speakers nearly shouts, “It’s coming to get you!”  The sounds of nature and other haunting noises are as misleading as they are cause for dread.

Story, on the other hand, is nearly non-existent.  The game begins with a text introduction before plopping players into the woods to gather audio logs they cannot listen to–they’re merely tokens of progress that can be used to unlock gameplay bonuses from the game’s menu.  I’m a sucker for horror as much as I am a fan of lore–that this game actually managed to frighten me and that it only cost a dollar are reason’s I’m willing to look the other way in regards to plot.  As much as I would have loved there to be an actual story, it could have also detracted from the experience if it were poorly written or thought out.

White Noise may not be a beacon of originality or the zenith of storytelling, but it’s a mighty fine horror experience.  The scares, as cheap as they may be, are genuine and lasting–this isn’t something that can be said about most of the AAA “horror” games out there now.  I’d love to see more horror content make its way to the Indie Games channel on Xbox Live and I think White Noise is a great first step in that direction.  If you are starved for a good horror experience, White Noise is well worth the dollar and time.



White Noise: A Horror Tale A Tale of Horror is currently available on XBLIG for 80 MSP.