I’m going through my gaming news for the night and I come upon something – id, creators of the Doom franchise – took to the metaphorical podium to explain their lack of timeliness regarding updates for their new entry into said franchise. It would seem that they’re taking the humble side, saying the equivalent of “we don’t want to release a crappy game; we have a set of standards for it and we feel we aren’t reaching them yet,” claiming that the game hasn’t found the “spirit of Doom” yet. I really enjoyed the first two Doom games and I was a casual fan of the third so hearing news about the fourth appeals to me a little but in checking it out I saw id fall in line with a trend that’s beginning to crop up, lately; or, at least, a trend that I’m only beginning to notice recently. What’s that trend, might you ask?
Humbling yourself as an excuse for not meeting expectations.
While this shines a bigger light on some companies’ weaknesses, this also means most people won’t hold the companies accountable, which makes this tactic no better than outright not telling us what’s going on or coming up with some half-assed excuse for not doing things as we think they should. It’s a real shame because I just talked about this when doing my Quickie Review for Two Worlds II and I excused a lot of the poor qualities of the game based on the fact that the company was smaller than a lot of big American and Japanese studios and the fact that they were able to take responsibility for their actions but, in the end, they could have done a lot better in a lot of ways if they hadn’t cut corners. It’s easy to feel better when someone says “sorry, man, we will do better this time” and clears the water but this could easily turn into a “I swear, this will be awesome” pattern that could turn up nothing in the way of real results. I mean, one doesn’t have to even look outside of id Software to see a couple of examples in Rage and Daikatana.
I’m trailing off, though. What do I think of another Doom sequel?
Well, in all honesty, I loved the first two games for one primary reason: pure, unadulterated, visceral action and adrenaline. After a few levels, the game let go of your hand and threw you right into the fire, letting you fend for yourself in some of the most tense FPS action there was in the 90s. That’s not to say that the action was mindless, either; there was some thought that went into dying again and again in a specific spot and having to formulate a plan to clear the room out and proceed. There was also a lot of tension in having to look for keys and items through the levels and there being this eerie calm as you waited for something to get the jump on you. We didn’t have the ability to crumble walls or create jump-scares the way we do now, like those found in horror games and FPS games of today; an enemy would literally get the jump on you by being more intimidating than you expected or creep up on you from behind. There was a certain feeling of less is more in these games.
The one big problem I had with the third game was the fact that it tried too hard to modernize the series while keeping the tension and action of the series intact. They kept the tension high but in a much different way; by creating ambiance and keeping things nice and dark in most areas. There was a lot more story to the game, too, which was something that was very light in the previous games – I mean, there was this storyline going but it was very straightforward and lightweight: you’re a Marine for some military on planet Earth and some douche managed to open the gates straight to Hell on Mars. You need to go up there and close that gate before Hell’s forces can invade Earth. The second game had the Marine come back to Earth only to find Earth invaded by Hell anyway and forcing the Marine on a mission for revenge. Doom 3 added a ton of depth to this that I don’t think the series really needed. On top of that, it had a lot of the stupid stereotypical stuff most FPS games suffer from in this day and age. There was none of the same visceral action from the previous games because, I guess, we changed as gamers and most people’s needs from a shooter required something a little more because the technology has changed, too.
What would I like from the fourth entry? To be completely honest, I would like a game more like the first two in concept but retain some of the improvements from the third, as well. I remember when Metroid Prime came out and a lot of people were really disappointed with the changed approach to a beloved series but I think Doom needs something similar; a game that retains the roots of the series but changes the way you look at it and play it. It wouldn’t feel the same at first but once you played it for a while you would realize that, perhaps, this was a perfectly good way to revitalize the series. Keeping that comparison going, Prime is a great example of how to keep story optional: there are elements of the story you really can’t ignore in order to proceed but there are plenty of elements that add to the story that are completely optional and won’t have to be forced upon people in order to enjoy the game so that way a larger audience can enjoy it, as well. I really dig the idea that id Software is considering this kind of strategy, trying to change things up, but it sounds like they’re really just trying to fight the status quo instead of create a brand new approach to a beloved game series.
Take a lesson from the guys behind Metroid Prime, id, but don’t let it become like Other M. That was just… something else, entirely.