Tag: id Software

Doom Eternal: Time to Rip and Tear once again.

Something I’ve constantly talked about on this blog is how eternally behind I am in games. Procuring a massive backlog, buying games thanks to Humble Bundles, cheap Steam sales, and gifts of spare keys from friends has been the primary causes of my never ending back catalog.

Yet, I try to keep myself in arms’ reach of the current video game landscape, even if I’m not a fan of the direction the industry is going sometimes. This results in me playing the newest games usually years after their release. Anyone who’s been a reader of this site has seen me write about big popular games after their popularity, such as BioShock Infinite last year. But this time around I kept myself a bit closer to the zeitgeist this time, by playing a game a year or so after its initial release. And it’s from one of my favorite game developers.

Still fun as heck to this day.

Let’s talk a bit about id software. They’re the absolute pioneers of the first-person shooter realm: Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake. Important games that really made an impact on the industry as a whole. However, there was a sea change by the late 1990s. When John Romero left id on less-than-pleasant terms to form his own studio, there was a very clear change on how id Software worked as a company: Pushing technology at the cost of making games that while good on a technical level, were kinda boring to play.

Any excuse to use this screenshot again.

I’ve talked about Quake II a few times on here, and while my opinion has softened a bit in recent years, I still think that while a technical marvel was just boring to play.This was id’s MO during the age of John Carmack. Stuff like Quake III Arena, and Doom 3, while solid games, didn’t have the massive highs that their early works did. Indeed, their competition – Epic’s Unreal Tournament and Valve’s Half-Life 2 respectively – were making more of an impact on the industry in a way people could easily see.

Rage was sort of the lowest point of this era, the unremarkable first-person exploration game of which the only good things about it were John Goodman voicing a character and its reload canceling mechanics, of which I wrote about way back in 2016, and that was around the point id was no longer the amazing developer it once was. Hell, I even had doubts id Software were ever gonna release an awesome game ever again.

Then John Carmack left, a bunch of people got shuffled around, canned a version of Doom that was more like a big-budget shooter like Call of Duty, and gave us the 2016 Doom reboot. While the multiplayer beta was enjoyable but boring, the rest of the game turned out to be the return of id Software as an awesome company that could make good games. With an amazing game like Doom 2016, it’d be pretty hard to follow up. But in 2020 they decided to give it another try, with Doom Eternal.

Not to be confused with Eternal Doom, a pretty alright megawad for Doom II released in 1996.

The story of Eternal is a bit more pronounced than in the previous game: The Doom Slayer has noticed that there’s been Hell on Earth with demons destroying what’s left of the planet. In typical Doom fashion, the Doom Slayer must travel around Earth and Mars to eventually stop the Khan Maykr’s hell demons from invading everywhere once again. Pretty simple stuff.

It doesn’t help that you can customize the look of the Doom Slayer, thus making them look like an absolute goofass in serious, emotional cutscenes.

It’s kinda weird to see Doom Eternal go all in on story. While Doom (2016) had a story, it was just about enough of it to give motives on why the Doom Slayer must rip and tear and it worked. In Doom Eternal, they go all-in, with cutscenes that take place in third person, giving diatribes that would seem in line with many contemporary games. It’s not bad per se, but compared to the previous game where there was basically one motive — Stop the demons by any means necessary — it just feels a bit ridiculous here.

Rage and the Art of Reloading.

Alright folks, time for me to get a bit “technical,” as it were. This is one of these posts where I’m gonna talk briefly about a game mechanic and how it actually benefits the player subtly. I know most of my content is a bit more fluff, but hear me out on this one.

I recently beat id Software’s Rage, a solid first-person shooter/driving game hybrid. I was looking to play something after trying to beat Modern Combat 5, and this seemed like a prime candidate.

I seemed to go through a phase where I was playing a bunch of older id Software games to see their career trajectory, as earlier in the year I had ran through Doom 3 — the original, not through the somewhat inferior BFG Edition — just to see if it was bad as I remembered it. It actually wasn’t awful, and is a pretty good game. Hasn’t aged gracefully in the graphics department, but what has?

One of the more entertaining parts of the whole game. A shame it’s too short.

Which brought me onto playing Rage. As time has gone on, this game has been mostly forgotten by hardcore shooter fans, shoved off into the “oh right, that was a game” category that other id games like Quake 4, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and that 2009 Wolfenstein game have been victim to.

It was also a changing of the guard, being one of the last major games John Carmack worked on at the company before he left for Oculus, and with most of the original people who made some of id’s classics gone, it just seemed like id was in a weird career limbo where they had no idea where to go next. Basically, they went from being the pioneers of video gaming to attempting to be in with the modern shooter crowd, and failing in the process.

But enough about id software’s midlife crisis. I wanna talk about something this game does that people take for granted. Rage has two minor mechanics that while aren’t explicitly mentioned, but really help out the player. It involves the simple concept of reloading your weapons.

In most first-person shooters, when you reload, you can’t cancel out of the reload until it finishes, leaving you vulnerable to attack. Secondly, the reload animation has to play out fully before you can fire again. In a fast-paced shooter, it can be frustrating to have to wait for your dude to slowly tap a magazine into their assault rifle and pull the charging handle before being able to shoot again.

Rage doesn’t do that. If you start reloading mid-magazine and hold down the fire button, the reload is immediately canceled, letting you expend the rest of the magazine. Secondly, if you’re reloading from an empty magazine, you can hold down the fire button before the player pulls the charging handle, letting you skip the rest of the reload and get back to shooting quickly.

You can see this in the video I shot from one of the bonus Sewer levels, but there’s a better demonstration if you skip ahead to 1:53.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a huge help. Rage has you fighting between the quick and melee-heavy mutants, common grunts, and big boss monsters. The last thing you want is to have to watch a painstaking long reload sequence while having enemies take pot shots at you.

The Spear of Destiny Mission Packs: The Lost Wolfenstein games.

I have a certain fondness for Wolfenstein 3D. Back in the early 2000s when I was just a middling teenager, I was playing a bunch of cool level packs for Wolfenstein. Hell, the first online blog post I ever made was talking about an old Wolfenstein 3D mods website that I thought was cool. Yeah, it’s kinda plain compared to Doom and Quake, but damn it, I still had fun going through mazes killing things.

I’ve played practically every major Wolfenstein game barring the Muse Software prequels and the most recent The New Order. I was even a hardcore Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory player back in the day. But I didn’t know that there was a Wolfenstein game I missed.

They don't make game covers like these anymore...
They don’t make game covers like these anymore…

Mission Pack 2: Return to Danger and Mission Pack 3: Ultimate Challenge are unofficial third party expansions to Spear of Destiny, developed internally at FormGen and released in 1994. If you were craving more Wolfenstein and weren’t playing Doom for some reason, this was one of the many way to fulfill your digital nazi killing urges. That, combined with the Wolfenstein map generator mentioned on the box, and you now had seemingly endless opportunities to expand your Wolfenstein 3D experience.

Both episodes have the same story: Hitler recovered the Spear of Destiny from B.J. Blazkowicz, and it’s up to B.J. to fight Hitler’s Nazi regime once again and recover the Spear before he brings hell demons to Earth. It’s corny stuff, but to quote John Carmack from the book Masters of Doom, “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.”

Well, I hope you like blue because there's a lot of it.
Well, I hope you like blue, because there’s a lot of it here.

So what’s different in these Mission Packs compared to vanilla Spear of Destiny? Surprisingly there are a bunch of changes in this game. New levels (natch), new sprites, new textures, even the enemies look and sound different. So already this is looking promising, right? Oh, if only.