Doom 3 – Demons In The Darkness

We all have games that for one reason or another end up being put in the backlog, usually with the intention that we’ll get back to it after we finish up whatever we’re currently focusing on. For me, I seem to come across games that I begin playing and seem to enjoy enough before…kinda…stopping. What then typically happens is enough time passes that I then decide I’ll just start fresh from the beginning, some games this process gets repeated several times…so I was extra happy to see through to the end a game I have spent years playing off and on – Doom 3; a game I’ve played off and on since its release in 2004. So, after 15 years I figured it was about damn time to see this one through.

After the successes of the first two Doom games, the result of which spawned ports and iterations of the original Doom on just about every operating system and console available (including the notorious Sega 32X and Game Boy Advance ports), iD Software in the early 2000’s their next entry in the Doom franchise would be a remake/reboot of the original first released in 1994. The game spent the next several years in development from announcement to release date. Doom 3 was released on August 3 2004 to critical acclaim and still remains an interesting, if not unusual entry to the franchise.

I can ACTUALLY see you this time!

Doom 3 is a bit of a departure for the series in that the fast paced run-and-gun element of the first two games have been slowed down and takes a back seat to atmosphere and storytelling similar to the BioShock or F.E.A.R, which Doom 3 undoubtedly influenced. You still engage in intense gunfights with demons from the depths of Hell, however the gameplay is more survival horror and narrative than simply shoot everything in sight…though you STILL do plenty of that. The tone of the game is dark and brooding with reanimated zombie soldiers and an entire army of demons seemingly lurking around every corner. The lighting effects and shadows in the game are very impressive and I found myself stopping frequently to take in the terrifying ambience in Doom 3. The story is the same as the original Doom and takes place on the UAC Mars Base Research Facility where scientists have discovered several stone tablets at a nearby excavation site and in the process open a portal to Hell unleashing everyone to unimaginable horrors.

Throughout the game you encounter random survivors, soldier and scientist alike to further flesh out the story of the game. You play as a Space Marines recruit en route to the Mars Facility just as…<don’t say it!>…all Hell breaks loose (no more lame puns 🙂 ). Upon checking into the UAC base, you are given a PDA( REMEMBER those? lol) to keep track of email, as well as audio and video logs; this serves as a way to keep track of your current objective as well as provide further backstory in the events leading up to your arrival as you collect the PDAs dropped by others to listen to their audio logs and email which provide details relevant to your objectives such as locker codes or computer terminal locations.

Back to Hell with you, Mancubus!

The majority of the game takes place inside the UAC Facility with its multitude of corridors, labs, and computer terminals; this further adds to the feeling of claustrophobia keeping you on your toes as this game is DARK, not only in tone but in that you are unable to ACTUALLY see what you are supposed to be fighting. This is probably my biggest gripe about the game – even with the brightness settings turned up, it is very very hard to see. Another element that adds to this is the conscious decision by iD to make you unable to hold your flashlight AND gun at the same time, this being the most common gripe I heard as soon as someone would mention Doom 3. You continue making your way through Mars Base until you are sent directly to Hell via teleporter, this was my favorite and far too brief level in which fight the Guardian and retrieve the Soul Cube – an ancient weapon capable of destroying the army of Hell-spawn. You are then teleported back to Mars and venture back through the remainder of the research facility and proceed to find the excavation site where the Stone Tablets and Soul Cube were discovered. You continue to blast your way through hordes of demons before battling the Cyberdemon and saving the day. The Cyberdemon fight I admit was brief and felt rather anti-climactic due to the power of the Soul Cube annihilating anything in its path(and refilling your health at the same time). Side Note: In later “BFG Versions” of the game the famous “duct tape mod” was added, giving you the ability to see AND shoot.

Though Doom 3 is a reboot of the franchise, the game still contains many of the same monsters and demons from the previous games like the Cyberdemon, Hell Knight, and Pinky, though the design of the monsters were changed around a bit( Pinky’s metal cyborg legs!). It also would not be a Doom game with a complete arsenal of weapons at your disposal, with everything from trusty shotguns to chainsaws and plasma rifles to perhaps the best known weapon in any FPS game – the BFG 9000, which is powerful enough to blow a Hell Knight to bits with a single charged shot….hell yeah!! 😀

This place seems nice…

There’s a lot about Doom 3 that I really enjoyed: the atmosphere is frightfully beautiful, and the graphics have held up remarkably well for a fifteen year old game. The weapons and demons are also well designed and fitting of the venerable Doom series. The levels work well to give the player intense close-quarters combat within the dark corridors of the Mars Base. My only real dislikes about the game were the screen shake when you are hit by an enemy attack to the point where it gets a bit disorienting, along with just how dark the game is, even with the brightness setting cranked all the way up. I know that was a conscious decision to provoke apprehension about just what might be hiding in the darkness as you make your way around, so I don’t feel it’s hugely detrimental to the game. The fact you have to choose to be able to see or defend yourself by not being able to use the flashlight and weapon at the same time is still an annoyance. Nevertheless, the positive things I can say about this game far outweigh a few minor critiques. If there is any other Doom fans out there that haven’t given this a play through yet, I very highly recommend it.

Playing through Doom 3 along with seeing more from the upcoming Doom: Eternal game has made me want to go through and play more Doom games. I mentioned last weekend that I had found a good copy of Doom 64 that I intend to make my way through shortly…as soon as I can find a Controller Pak…the modern conveniences like built-in hard drives that we take for granted these days, right?

Four hits from the Soul Cube and down goes the Cyberdemon

In the process of throwing this week’s post together, I came across a list of the FPS games that were released in 2004 like Doom 3…my god what a list of shooters released for console as well as PC: Doom 3, Painkiller, Far Cry, Killzone, Star Wars: Battlefront…and then there was also Half-Life 2 and Halo 2! Following up on this and writing a gaming year in review sounds kinda fun so I may do that in the near future. Has anyone besides me NOT played Doom 3? Does anyone else feel like if they don’t play a game for long enough without completing it that they need to start all over from the beginning?

Keep on playing…

Ape Out – Going Bananas

This past week I sat down and played Ape Out, a game I had been wanting to play since it was released this past February. I absolutely love playing this game! It’s a vivid, violent, rhythmic smash ’em up that plays like something you could have found years ago in the local arcade but with a 70’s acid jazz kind of vibe to it. A game showcasing video games as an art form. From the second you break out of your cage and begin obliterating the guards watching over you, I knew I was in for an interesting ride.

The objective in Ape Out is simple: make your way from Point A to Point B. The gameplay and controls are simple, but extremely satisfying as you control an APE trying to ESCAPE(NOT to be confused with a PS1 title involving primates 😉 ) from his cage and make your way through the procedurally-generated levels, returning to the wild. As stated, the controls are simple: run, punch, and grab. You are vastly outnumbered by armed guards trying to take you down, and to survive you will need to make an instant decision of simply running past an unsuspecting guard or splattering against the wall. You are able to grab the guards and doors in your way and forcefully propel them at other surrounding enemies; this can also be a critical decision as quickly grabbing an enemy and using them to shield yourself from the barrage of bullets before hurling them at an enemy as if they are being shot out of a cannon…you can even pick up the limbs of the obliterated enemies and throw them at others…I enjoyed this greatly(NOT psycho) 😀

Ape Out is similar to Hotline Miami: utilizing a top-down camera angle, over-the-top stylized violence, and an explosion of colors. In Ape Out however, the top-down camera has been zoomed in, adding an increased sense of caution as you never know who is just around the next corner. There is also an absence of neon lighting and DeLoreans in Ape Out…

The sound design and visuals of this game are one of the more unique characteristics of the game; kind of a Miles Davis 1970’s jazz pastiche that I absolutely freaking love! The graphics are slightly grainy with a warmth around the edges of the characters and objects that exude a visual equivalent of the sound of a vinyl record being played. The colors in the game range from dark, smoky hues of black and gray contrasted by bright bold shades of red or orange. The dynamic contrast in colors is really brought out when you slam a guard into a nearby wall or post and the resulting blood red explosion is a bit like watching fireworks in the night sky. Other levels also shroud the environment in black that is disrupted by only the guards’ flashlights and a few dashes of purple around the level. The entire 3rd album( the game consists of four “albums” which contain eight levels each) – Fugue is washed in a completely crimson and orange backdrop that finds you trying to find your way across a desolate wasteland resembling a napalm-devastated Vietnam battleground. I haven’t even mentioned the music yet…the music in Ape Out is phenomenal! Each level or ALBUM rather, is set to a riveting drum solo whose rhythm mirrors yours as you progress through the level and even accents your very movements. You running down an empty hallway is accompanied by a steady snare drum roll while every time you pummel an enemy the music will add a cymbal crash, along with anytime you break through a wall; this adds a very stylish rhythmic element to the gameplay that is an absolute blast to play.

There are four main “albums” to play through in the game – Subject 4, High Rise, Fugue, Adrift – with four levels making up Side A and Side B respectively. Subject 4 begins kicks off your quest for freedom by escaping from research facility with the first couple levels serving as a tutorial of sorts as you get adjusted to moving around as a gigantic primate. High Rise takes place in a 32-story office building; making your way from stairwell to stairwell through a labyrinth of closets and cubicles before making a mad dash to the exit from the crowded lobby at the bottom. Fugue is a bit more difficult as the “album cover” would imply with a picture of a lit match – fire and lots of it. You cross what appears to be shipping warehouses full of oil drums that if anything OR anyone is driven into them with the force of an angry gorilla it will cause them to burst into a giant ball of flames; a new enemy brandishing a flamethrower pack is also introduced at this time. Fugue is probably the most memorable( and most difficult) level as the latter half( Side B) takes place outdoors in a scorched area surrounded by wire fence while firebombs are being dropped from the sky. The orange and red colors of the levels along with the stark snare drum march seemed to be a bit of an allusion to the Vietnam War. I couldn’t help but think of Lt. Kilgore of Apocalypse Now during this – “I love the smell of napalm in the morning…” The final album – Adrift takes place on a freight tanker on the open seas where you navigate your way through around the levels of the tanker before finally making your way to freedom.

After clearing each of the four albums you can choose the option to now play the game on Harder difficulty; there is also Arcade Mode where you can try to rack up the highest score possible while clearing the levels in the least amount of time and deaths. I enjoyed this game so much that once I cleared the albums I turned around and started the play through them again, this time striving for shorter completion time and fewer deaths. There are no exact same runs through the levels, as the paths through the maze-like levels as well as enemy placement are all procedurally-generated; you thought that same enemy with the explosives was just around the corner only to find out THIS time it’s several enemies with shotguns or none at all…at least until you round the next corner. Every time you take a hit, you will leave a trail of blood behind you for the guards to follow; after three hits you’re dead and will have to start the level over again.

Every time you die, the camera zooms out to show your path taken and progress made through the level.

Violence, jazz, and apes….awesome, right? Ape Out is available on PC and Switch and is a fantastic game that I very highly recommend to anyone looking for something a little bit different to play. Finally…justice for Harambe! 😀

What games have you been playing recently or what games are you most looking forward to hearing about at E3 this week? I plan on putting up another post with my thoughts about all the upcoming announcements after E3.

Keep on playing…

Coffee Crisis – A balanced roast of retro gaming

I thought it would be interesting this weekend to pick up a random indie game on my Switch without knowing really anything about it and write my thoughts about it. In looking through the Switch Online Store, which I believe could use a bit more organization as it seems daunting to look through page after page of titles without there being much for filter options…but I digress. I found the game Coffee Crisis which was developed by Mega Cat Studios and published by Qubic Games. The game appeared to be a bit of a retro throwback to all the 16-bit side scrolling beat-em-up games that I played as a kid on the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo. It also happens to involve metal music, retro games, and as the title would suggest….coffee.

I have fond memories of playing beat-em-ups like the Streets of Rage, Final Fight, and Golden Axe games; everything about this game fits right in with these games. I enjoyed the aspect of playing a game so reminiscent of the previously mentioned early-90’s titles. Mega Cat Studios I discovered, even produced an authentic Homebrew version of the game on cartridge with case and manual to play on Sega Mega Drive/Genesis that you can purchase on their website.

The story is set on Smurglians – a race of aliens who’s entire planet runs on the energy generated from coffee, metal music and WiFi( that’s right!) and have set their sights on planet Earth’s most precious resources. You play as either Nick or Ashley, two metalhead baristas at the Black Forge Coffee House who are not going to sit idly by and let this travesty occur as you fight your way through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh.

Walloping the elderly to save the metal…

The gameplay is pretty standard as far as beat-em-ups go; you progress through multiple levels with the occasional mini-boss appearing every several levels until finally making your way to the boss at the end of the game, which I was mildly disappointed in the abrupt not-quite-an-ending of the game, it more or less just….stops. The length of the game overall I was satisfied with, being roughly the same length as others of the genre. My criticisms of the game are pretty mild, as I any drawbacks to the game are the same that you would hear of games like Streets of Rage. For better or worse, Coffee Crisis is authentic to a fault with negative attributes that are commonplace in games like it. You screen position is difficult to keep track of when multiple enemies attack and you get “Caught In A Mosh”( couldn’t resist!). There is also the annoying abundance of enemies who can shoot projectiles at you or simply have “weapons” such as a lasso or a cane…yes, among the enemies you fight off are humans that have been taken control of by the Smurglians. These can be range from random looking “dude bros”, to western looking…uh…cowgirls, to I guess….the elderly? You fight your way through the streets of Pittsburgh drinking coffee, listening to metal, and pummeling old men and women that attack you with canes and walkers. There is also an array of Smurglians to fight from purple aliens sporting mohawks to tuxedo-clad aliens in wheelchairs who can shoot “mental projectiles” at you ( Professor X as a Smurglian). The game in premise alone is not any danger of taking itself seriously, I ALMOST felt like I shouldn’t have been enjoyed this developing chaos as much as I did. My other critique is also all too common in games such as this where, you have a powerful special move at your disposal HOWERVER, using it costs you a small portion of your health. The game is not an easy game, as it was clearly intended to be played in “couch co-op” with another player alongside you.

I still feel these negatives don’t overly hinder any enjoyment to be had playing Coffee Crisis, I had a blast playing this game. The soundtrack to the game is excellent as well, with tracks being provided by Pittsburgh area metal band Greywolf. There is also a couple small cameos from retro-gaming YouTubers Metal Jesus Rocks and Alpha Omega Sin. Mega Cat Studios clearly shows a lot of love for the 16-bit beat-em-ups of yesteryear and I very heartily recommend to anyone looking for an entertaining indie game to play, it’s got coffee, retro games, and metal, hell yeah!

I thought these dudes looked familiar….

Side Note: Coffee Crisis is currently available for LESS than the price of a coffee house brew at $1.99, a GREAT DEAL until May 27th. https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/coffee-crisis-switch/

For anyone else who would like to purchase a physical cartridge version to play on Sega… https://megacatstudios.com/collections/16-bit/products/coffee-crisis-sega-genesis

Keep on playing…

Apex Legends – No Titans, no problem

There are 8 playable characters you can choose, though the characters Caustic and Mirage initially need to be unlocked

Any given week I’m usually playing several different games, however the past couple weeks most of my time spent playing games has been playing Apex Legends and with over 8 million players in the first 48 hours after launch, a sizable portion of the online gaming community has been too(understatement). 

Apex Legends was launched completely unaware by just about everyone two weeks ago on the date. I awoke Monday February 4 to read news that Respawn Entertainment had announced their newest project; a class based battle royale shooter “set in the Titanfall universe” and was launching immediately. I have to admit I was unsure what to think upon hearing the announcement as I, along with many others were hoping for news of Titanfall 3. I absolutely loved Titanfall 2 and regard it as one of my favorite first-person shooters I’ve ever played, alongside games like Goldeneye, Halo, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. As mixed…well…generally negative feelings as I have for EA, I wanted to support Respawn and give Apex Legends a chance. 

The premise of Apex Legends is standard battle royal fare, (drops, shrinking area of play, random weapons scattered throughout map) but with 8 class-based “Legends” to select from at the beginning of the match. I find the class-based angle interesting in a battle royale game, as each character has different abilities to use throughout the match. Each character has a passive, tactical, and an ultimate ability. This being similar to Overwatch…I’m curious to know how long Blizzard has been contemplating creating a BR mode for Overwatch?

I have been playing Apex Legends for two weeks now and so far I have been very impressed. My favorite aspect of the gameplay would probably have to be the Smart Comms system, where you simply tap a button to point out or “ping” anything from your next map destination to items and weapons to pointing out enemies on the map for your squad to see. This intuitive context sensitive design lets you do ALL of this without having to get on the mic to talk to you squamates. Ask anyone who has ever tried to play in a squad with random players online or simply prefer not to use a mic can tell you what a blessing this is. There is also a respawn ability where even after you are knocked down and killed your teammates can grab your player beacon from your loot; a “death box” and bring it over to a respawn beacon and you will get another chance as your character jumps down from the next dropship. This gives away your position to the other remaining players as well, so you will need to move quickly as soon as you hit the ground.

Your teammate can bring your player beacon to respawn you from an incoming dropship.

The gameplay itself in Apex Legends is as smooth as it gets, this comes as no surprise to anyone that marveled at the gameplay of Titanfall 2 (also the fact that Respawn was founded by Jason West and Vince Zampella from Infinity Ward – developers of the first two Cod: Modern Warfare games). The shooting feels good and tight, the movement has enough “weight” to it, but you don’t feel like you’re running through quicksand. 

King’s Canyon – One large island but has multiple areas and terrain from mountains to swamps and desert

There is currently only a single map you can play – King’s Canyon, but it has become one of my favorite maps in any battle royale game. The map has different terrain, from dry sandy wastelands which look like something out of the Borderlands games to green swampy lowlands with streams running through, reminiscent of SOCOM games.

As with most battle royale games, there is a very slight learning curve. Mostly just familiarizing yourself with which weapons are what and what the attachments and ammo types are, which in turn makes it more satisfying to utlitlize all the different gameplay aspects and see your squad as Champions.

Apex Legends is definitely worth checking out if your are a fan of the battle royale genre and it plays well enough to give a chance even if you aren’t a fan. I am having a blast playing this in the meantime. Here’s hoping the enormous success of this game in such a short time may result in Respawn making Titanfall 3 in the future…