Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Doom Gorefest #2 - The Mid Doom

While the first two titles of Doom can be considered the greatest start, Doom 3 and Doom 64 are often considered the black sheep of the franchise. Doom 64 was created by Midway San Diego and was a different look at Doom as a whole. 

Rather than just port the same game for the Nintendo 64, to further fill out its capabilities, the game was reformed and redesigned. It had different designs on literally everything, even if the change was more subtle. Rather than focusing on just killing demons, it also has a more developed map system with more advanced puzzles. While the weapons are the same in concept, it even included a new ultimate weapon above that of the BFG 9000, retroactively titled The Unmaker.

It has the gameplay and it has the demon hordes, but what was wrong? The drastic change in graphics put off a lot of Doom fans, first and foremost. Another, even larger problem was that people had no idea this was a totally different game. It was seen as just a port of Doom for the N64 and many overlooked it as such.

It really is a good game, one severe, crippling handicap, though, was the N64 controller. Seriously, people had enough trouble controlling Goldeneye with those weird things. This Doom game had a lot working against it.

Doom 64 was not very well thought of at the time, but since its creation, has grown a fairly large sized fanbase. It was about the same story for Doom 3.

The third entry in the franchise came about after Quake 2, when ID was commonly known and was at the end of their legendary run of games. Doom 3's graphics made so many computers heave and cry due to the sheer weight it put on the system. For its time, it was at the forefront.

The problem was that it was darker, slower and more story driven than Doom ever was. It has many of the demons we know already, adds in a few more and changes up the formula. You're still gunning down hell spawns but you're also finding your way around the under levels of a base in gameplay more akin to Halflife.

For what it was, Doom 3 worked and was fun to play. What put people off was it was not what many called a Doom game. It took a few years to get out of the mentality and allow people to appreciate on its own merits. Today, Doom 3 is highly regarded as a survival horror-esque game that resembles Doom. My real problems with the game involve Spoilers for it, so skip the next paragraph if you don't want that.

(Spoiler Warning!)
Doom 3 is fun to sneak around and fun to shoot with. The real problem is the battle with the Cyberdemon in the game's climax. The Soul Cube was a questionable weapon to begin with and having it be the key element against the final boss was not the greatest move. By then, you've used it so much that killing the boss with it was like rolling off a log.

While these two games are plagued with problems, they are still good. They possess the action Doomers crave and bring something new to the table in terms of gameplay and aesthetics. With how long it took for there to be a Doom 4, these games were good placeholders. Waiting so long for the next big Doom game probably helped us grow more appreciation for these titles. That's a good thing, because waiting over twenty years without them would have been a lot worse. Virtua Hellscape!

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Doom Gorefest #1 - Calling the Demons

Yes, there has already been a review, done by me, on Doom. That doesn't mean that I am done with this franchise. This series of articles will be covering one game. There is a lot to talk about and I am passionate about the subject because I have been following it for its near 30 year run. The Doom community is still very much alive. Not only are the Doom mods and Doom maps still being created to this day, but Doom is still widely accessible in Classic Collections, Steam and modern console stores all over the place. Doom is still very relevant, and while the Saturn had one of the more unfavorable ports to its name, that doesn't mean Planet Virtua needs to keep the Doomer side secret! Doom has come to this site and let's keep the ball rolling!

One of the great things about this game is the feeling of taking on entire hordes of demons by yourself and having to prove your mettle to pull off this feat. It doesn't matter how many there are, the game can give you the tools to beat however many.

The trick is to know which gun should be used to defeat which demon. Sometimes this can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Using the starting pistol to take down zombie men and former sergeants is wise for conserving ammo and still killing them. Using the starting pistol on a cacodemon is a good way to waste your time and get you killed.

You can use the rocket launcher on a cacodemon but never use the rockets on a lost soul. One up close shot to them is a good way to take backfire. 

People don't give Doom enough credit, saying it's just a game where you shoot demons. While that is true, there's a depth in both exploring the levels and strategizing how much ammo and weaponry to take down however many number of enemies. Being able to dodge projectiles and knowing when to fall back are also very important.

The demons are also a great deal of variety and each one are very easy to recognize. Once you see an imp, you have a pretty good strategy of what you want to do. That is not a strategy that is easily used against an archvile, though. Their different hit points and abilities will have you improvising a tactic on the fly. This is where that adrenaline kicks in.

If you were to wonder where to start, you should wisely start from the beginning. Ultimate Doom begins with Knee Deep in the Dead, and it would behoove you to start with it and pay close attention. These are the levels where they brought their A game. The levels start simple and have a good progression when they grow harder. John Romero, Tom Hall and Sandy Peterson made these maps to varying degrees, thanks to some creative differences with Hall and his departure from ID soon after.

Knee Deep in the Dead shows off the greatest in Ultimate Doom's level design. Doom 2 are some of their other greatest levels. This time, it was Romero, Peterson and American McGee, who was new to the company. Doom 2 also brought about a myriad of new demons, along with its new weapon, the Super Shotgun.

The Super Shotgun is, bar none, my favorite weapon in the games, classic and current Doom included. It uses two shotgun shells and does more than twice the shotgun's damage. It is the shotgun every other shotgun wishes they could be. It kills everything with efficiency aside from the boss demons, the Spider Mastermind and the Cyberdemon.

The Hell Knight is a fun opponent, although it is just a recolor of the Baron of Hell. It's weaker and softer but it works on the level of filling out demon hordes with dangerous enemies. The Hell Knight is still better than some of their other Doom 2 additions. Who thought that taking one of Doom's most hated enemies, the Lost Souls, and giving them a spawn point was a good idea? 

The Pain Elemental is about as strong and floaty as a cacodemon but spits out ridiculous amounts of Lost Souls if they are not killed quickly.

Chaingunners about as well loved. Their high speeding shots make them a dangerous opponent. Killing them is easy, though, and they drop chainguns for your troubles.

The aforementioned archviles are both loved and hated by the community. If you are in their line of sight, they can use flames to blind you and use it as a slow charge attack that takes off ridiculous amounts of hp. They are also hard to kill with their high hp and can even resurrect all other monsters aside from boss monsters,  monsters with no corpses, or other archviles. If you want to make a demon horde really hard, include one or two of these.

Doom can never be understated in its greatness. The game has stood the test of time thanks to ID's hard work and dedication to greatness. John Carmack created an exemplary game engine and John Romero and the rest of the team formed it into a game that still has the gaming world captivated to this very day.

I love this series so much that, like the Virtua Sonic featurettes, I decided to talk about this franchise a little more indepth. Even if the Doom port for Saturn wasn't up to par, it still was an introduction into the world of Doom and there is always room for more. Let the Gorefest begin!

Friday, 18 November 2022

Sonic 3D Blast - Sonic Snail

If you really need an introduction to the blue blur, there are so many places on this site to get it. Links down below. The basic premise to look at is that he is fast. He loves to go fast. Jaleel White's rendition of Sonic had him saying "Gotta juice!" as a catchphrase. Sega Genesis had a made up feature called "Blast Processer" for the sole purpose of telling how fast Sonic could go! The original Sonic games allowed you to go fast enough to make the background stream by as you spin dash and go through the loops and jumps. It was the biggest selling point. 

Sonic 3D Blast is not fast. There, I said it. I'd say it again if I had to. This game has certain elements in it that can be a little speedy, but overall, you are in a completely different world of graphics, movement and style. While this could possibly work, in here, it is clumsy. You are in an isometric view point in a three dimensional environment and while you can go at a decently fast pace, the game thoroughly keeps you from doing so. This is because the obstacles you face are very close together, and the platforms extend into tight straight aways. One single wrong move and you will either miss the narrow walkway or you will run into a bed of spikes or get shot by a cannon. 

The lack of speed is not the only problem with this game either. The gameplay centers around destroying enemies and taking small birds and animals to a ring to rescue. You get a certain amount of these little things that follow you around and you are able to continue to the next segment of the level. It is not bad as gameplay goes, but it is your lot in life as Sonic. If you are into this sort of thing, then you may actually enjoy it. However, it gets retitive and the game does very little to deviate from this gameplay. 

The ice level, because of course there's an ice level, has you in the clutches of slip-and-slide mechanics. This is especially annoying with the abundance of spikes, cannons and snowmen all around you. The powerups help but you're still sliding all over the place and hoping that you don't run into the many close together obstacles. You need to save these birds!

Is the game devoid of charm? Absolutely not. It has its high points. It does have the 3D run bonus levels from Sonic The Hedgehog 2. With the upgraded graphics and the little extra challenge added to it, it actually does very well. These segments come up rarely, but they are a lot of fun. Then, there's the boss battles with Dr. Robotnik. The isometric angle actually compliments these boss battles quite a bit. 

This game was really not fun the first time I played it, but that was mostly because I was expecting it to be like the first three games. After a recent playthrough, though, I have grown more accustomed to its gamestyle. Does that make it a good game? No, not really, that just makes it more tolerable and easier for me to play through for this review. It still stands that I would rather play any number of other games in the Sonic franchise (See Top 10 Sonic Games) than deal with this vast departure from the tried and true Sonic titles. In a vacuum, it's not terrible, though and you could do worse than give it a try. Oh, I'm sorry, I'm not being hyperbolic enough. Don't play this! It's the WORST SONIC TITLE EVEEERRRR!!!!! Gotta Juice!!!

Virtua Sonic #1

Sonic Jam

Saturday, 12 November 2022

DragonHeart: Fire and Steel - Barf of the Dragon

 If you are an original fan of the Saturn, you may remember a little title known as DragonHeart, starring Dennis Quaid and the late Sean Connery. It was a pretty good film. Not great, not spectacular, but it was entertaining and not a bad watch if you were in the mood for some good old fashioned fantasy. It did well enough to deserve some knockoffs and some film sequels that have actually continued to come out until fairly recently. Yeah, for some reason, the first film came out in 1996 but the latest sequel came out in 2020, go figure. Well, the first film was pretty popular and still has a cult following to this day. That, unfortunately, means it also had a video game that came out for the Saturn, PC and Playstation (it had a Gameboy title too but let's not get too caught up in details). 

This game is a hack and slash platformer that controls like it has rheumatism. Your knight warrior guy walks in a leisurely stroll speed and getting used to this is rather difficult because throughout the levels, you also need to avoid traps. Good luck with that, is all I can say. It's not impossible, but it also demands precise timing that gets to annoyance levels that you may as well not bother with. 

I won't go telling you that the game is outright terrible in all of its mechanics. The hacking and slashing are decent at the very least. The enemies are mundane and basically clones of one another but that can pass as there's obviously a limit with how many people they can photo into the game. There's even some cool elements with the combat like flaming arrows you can shoot at people and light them on fire. 

The problem with this game, though, is the pacing. You slash, block, slash, shoot and repeat. You need to be careful though, because you have an endurance meter. Yes, this endurance meter is probably one of the worst things about this game. The pacing was already bad enough with the walking and blocking mechanics, but then they have to go and limit your attacks by making you run out of stamina.

Presentation is key when it comes to some games, and this one missed the mark. It's not downright ugly to look at but it's just so plain. The photo generated characters clash a bit with the background and it throws off the overall look. The backgrounds are actually quite good, if a bit generic in some places. If they'd maybe replaced the photo realistic people with more Sega Saturn-esque characters, it would have been much more appealing to the eye. As it is now, the two just don't really fit together. It kind of looks like they used a green screen and the keying was just flatout not attempted. 

Yes, I was rather harsh on the game in my Top 20 Worst list, but that's kind of how it goes. If it's taken in spoonfuls, this game really isn't all that bad. On longer playthroughs, though, it drags pretty hard. The slow walking and limited slashing shot the pacing. If you don't slash and block, you'll die pretty quickly, so you need to take everything slow. It's just not a good enough game to merit all of the stalling. The backgrounds are pretty to look at, but that's doesn't really help its case in the slightest. The fact that dragons are scarce is understandable as that's how the movie went as well, but I feel like maybe scattering a few more in for flavor would have helped this game a lot. As it stands, it's just fighting a bunch of guys that look eerily similar and the appeal just isn't there. Virtua Fire Water.

Saturday, 5 November 2022

Neptune - Gaming Graphics - The Taste You Can See


There has been a lot of speculation when it comes to gaming graphics and their importance to gaming in general. More and more, graphics have increased in complexity and detail to the point where even the most minute water droplet is depicted to crisp perfection. That's all well and good, but why? Why are graphics so important to some people? Since when has the book's cover become a means for such harsh criticism?

It's become something of a stigma that each generation of video gaming requires a drastic hike in graphics and creating a game has become so convoluted that it requires at least 10 years to fully finish a large scale product, keep it within budget and prevent developers from growing exhausted and/or burned out. That is the kind of time publishers don't have. To stay afloat and to keep the big wigs fat and happy, they need to meet an annual quota and that means they will cut as many corners as is necessary. This means pressuring developers, cutting game mechanics and features, compromising quality assurance and any other number of troublesome trends we've been seeing in the past decade.

This is all due to the fact that graphics need to be pristine, even immaculately implimented. This is overtly stupid and nonsensical, especially when you stop and think about how the decade of the 2000's are seen as the best games ever created. The era that brought us the Sega Dreamcast, N64, Gamecube and PS3 are cited as the most remade and referenced games from then on. 

They did not need the shiniest graphics to make that happen. Skyrim was marred with glitches, but given the game's nature and fan reaction, it is still being rereleased to this very day. Minecraft's graphics are laughable and yet people still spend a collective millions upon millions of hours playing it every year since its release.

I still play the Sega Saturn, Dreamcast and Nintendo Gamecube to this day. What is the hang-up? These graphics do what they set out to do and they do so unrelentingly, no matter how much they age.

Downplaying the importance of graphics is probably the best thing you could do to help the gaming community. It does not need to be pixelated or polygonal to the very core, it simply needs to look good enough to serve its purpose and get on with the rest of the game features. Cutting graphics to save the rest of the game is preferable to cutting out its singleplayer mode or even entire levels. And yes, this has happened more than once. Games have been straight up shortened to a massive degree, entire online features trashed and huge sections like sandbox features have been left out in order to make way for shinier, more detailed graphics. Was it truly worth it?

There are going to be nay sayers. There are going to be people who cannot live without water reflections and Raycasting in their lives. If you need to see the pores in your character's skin or the sheen in your character's gun metal, then maybe it's time you start questioning how much you actually like gaming. If eye candy is worth sacrificing entire environments in a map, maybe it's time to take up game design and graphical classes to see just how difficult these things can be.

These developers work their fingers to the bone to appease brutal, unrealistic demands and deadlines. Game development has become so unsustainable, publishers are having to set aside five or six years toward a single game's development and that could still end in crunch time for designers depending on the progress. Some of it has to do with a game's complex mechanics but you can surely bet that a great deal of it is for the graphics and the polishing thereof.

Why not go back to 32-bits or 64-bits and create better, more glitch-free games at a fraction of the time and cost? You could work on three or four at a time with the size of the team and money you're spending now and retro gamers would eat that up. Hell, modern gamers would more than likely join in the fun, considering the game dry spell that seems to be getting longer every year. 

Reaching a point in graphics where we can say enough is enough seems like a simple matter. There would be some backlash but let's face it, would it be as bad as the backlash from Cyberpunk 2077 or Battlefield 4 upon their initial releases? Simplifying these things and getting the gaming community back to a creative, more maintainable medium seems far more paramount than seeing each individual strand of hair on a character's head. 

Is it this simple? No, nothing this big ever is. This is merely a suggestion and words of wisdom from someone on the outside, looking in. I am seeing smaller developers begin to thrive with retro style shooters and less graphically inclined games. This is not new. If AAA gaming companies hopped on the trend, it would make a lot of people happier and pull us out of this stigma of releasing half-finished games at full price. Sometimes, less is more and the higher we go, the more room we have to fall. Let's hope someone listens, or at least puts out a pool so we can fall into some water.