The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

A short reflection on the DOOM Demo

“In 1993, we fully expect to be the number one cause of decreased productivity in businesses around the world.” —Doom press release by id Software (1993)

When it was previewed last year at the 2015 E3 Conference, DOOM (the fourth installment in the series) piqued my curiosity. I played through the original DOOM three years ago while supposedly studying for my statistics course in my final undergraduate year, and became hooked on Brutal DOOM, a mod that added some incredibly fun features to a classic. The games in the DOOM series have always generated controversy, and DOOM‘s 2016 incarnation is no different: shortly after the E3 demonstrations concluded, the more vocal parties on the internet voiced their concerns about how it was “really troubling (and depressing) that the #BE3 audience is enthusiastically cheering” about the trailer showcasing the id Tech 6 engine’s capabilities. Built on a combination of ray tracing and raster graphics, the engine was first conceptualised in 2008 and stored geometry as voxels rather than triangles. Watching the id Tech 6 engine’s features in DOOM were a real thrill during the trailer, and so, contrary to claims that “There is something deeply deeply [sic] seriously wrong with anyone” looking forwards to DOOM, I found the demo to really showcase just how sophisticated the id Tech 6 engine is. Fast forward a year, and the criticisms have largely evaporated (the individuals making these remarks have since retreated into the shadows). DOOM is now out on the market, and having seen some of the gameplay, the game shows that id Software has been true to their word with the gameplay: the game handles very smoothly and features the high-paced, breakneck combat of the original DOOM. Gone are reloading and aiming-down-sights mechanics, as is the regenerating health. Instead, the game encourages players to charge aggressively forwards to defeat all foes and progress, marking a return to the gameplay of the classic DOOM.

One of the questions that I’ve had on my mind concerning DOOM was whether or not my rig, just a ways past the three year mark in age now, would be capable of handling this title: the minimum specifications for it are an i5-2400 processor, 8 GB of RAM and a GTX 670. My processor and RAM are easily up to the challenge, but my GPU prima facie falls short. Curious to see whether or not my GPU could actually run DOOM, I downloaded the demo to try the game out. Auto-detection found that my hardware was projected be able to handle DOOM‘s “medium” settings, and so, I loaded into the demo, following the DOOM marine (known as the Doom Slayer in this installment) as he rips and tears his way through a UAC facility where research is being conducted on how to utilise Hell’s energy to solve the Earth’s energy crisis. Even on medium settings at 1080p, DOOM looks amazing: lower texture resolutions, reduced shadow detail and draw distance don’t appear too pronounced. It turns out that my system can handle DOOM at a playable 30-40 FPS, with a minimum FPS of 25. Even at these lower frame rates, the game feels reasonably smooth, and by the end of the demo, which ends with the Doom Slayer moving to the next area, I concluded that my current video card is up to the challenge of playing the game at acceptable frame rates, although the time is ripe for an upgrade: with the GTX 1070 cards now out, I’ll be looking to buy one as soon as some actually become available.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Armed with its Satanic imagery, DOOM is loud and proud of its status as the first-person shooter that popularised the genre. The page quote is taken from an old press release that suggested installing the original DOOM on office machines would result in employees playing rather than working. As of now, my work machine is decisively more powerful than my home computer, and to precisely avoid this, I will not install DOOM on it.

  • The pistol is the first weapon available in the game and its demo: a directed energy weapon, it is very weak compared to other weapons in the game and has infinite ammunition. While useful in a pinch against weaker enemies, it is utterly useless against more powerful foes encountered later in the game.

  • The large glowing fleshy portal at the centre of this room is known as a “gore nest”: these are portals to Hell, and when destroyed, a large number of demons spawn into the room. Destroying the first one in the game gives a taste of the combat style in DOOM: there is no hiding behind cover to regenerate health, as players are generously rewarded for charging head-first into a situation and performing what are known as “glory kills” on demons.

  • Before entering the next area, a shotgun is acquired: the shotgun makes blasting imps and other monsters a breeze compared to when wielding the pistol, allowing for the monsters to be blown away. Once complete, the next area is unlocked. A staple firearm in the DOOM franchise, the 2016 incarnation of the shotgun is a powerful weapon for close and medium range encounters. The high-paced gameplay of DOOM is completely conducive towards shotguns, and as such, this will be a commonly-used weapon throughout the game.

  • Once players exit the interior of the UAC facility, they enter the Martian surface. Far from the azure world presented in Aria The Animation or even the beginnings of a terraforming in the original DOOM, the Mars of 2016 DOOM is a desolate red. A weak sandstorm is in progress, but unlike those depicted in film, a true Martian sandstorm would not be a gale-force event on account of the planet’s thin atmosphere.

  • The Doom Slayer’s armoured suit is equipped with an impact compensator, allowing him to absorb fall damage. In the original Halo, Master Chief’s Mjolnir Mark V armour lacked the ability to take fall damage, but later versions of the suit had energy shielding underneath the soles. I recall a Death Battle video where Master Chief goes head-to-head with Doomguy, with the result being that Master Chief edges out Doomguy with a more diverse arsenal and better luck.

  • Keycards of the original DOOM make a return: they must be utilised in order to move onto the next area. On medium settings, shadows aren’t quite as detailed or sharp as they would be on ultra settings, but as the screenshots throughout this post can attest, the game looks surprisingly good on the lower settings. There is supposed to be a setting, “nightmare”, that defeats any GPU with less than 5 GB of VRAM, but this only looks slightly better than “ultra” in practise.

  • While Doomguy lost to Master Chief in Death Battle, the gameplay in the modernised DOOM suggests that the battle would be even more exciting to watch, and my money would be on the Doom Slayer. Back in DOOM, I was playing on standard difficulty (“hurt me plenty”): the demo does not allow for the maximum difficulty, and I can only imagine what that must be like. On normal, ammunition is fairly common, although players can pick up upgrades to improve their ammunition capacity.

  • Games such as DOOM have long been criticised for purportedly encouraging violence and violent crimes, but one study from 2012 found that there’s no correlation between video game consumption and violence. In my experience, violent video games are actually quite relaxing; partaking in them yields a similar effect to lifting weights in that when my session is over, I’ll be significantly less stressed or bothered. However, being interrupted midway, in both cases, elevates stress.

  • The most vocal of internet critics probably have no hard data backing their claims; they’re merely projecting a personal ideal as the standard around which society ought to rally around. This is not how society should work, and as such, I tend not to give any values to their opinions. Game developers should continue making the games they excel in, and players should play the games they feel are most exciting/appropriate for them.

  • I maintain roughly a similar stance for anime, where I believe that it is a waste of effort to persistently tear down and complain about things in a show for not fulfilling their expectations totally. The anime Hai-Furi is a prime example of that: at least one individual has been complaining vociferously about how Moeka’s essentially a “non-character” who serves no rol and citing declining home release pre-orders as a sign that the anime is terrible.

  • Here, I perform a glory kill on a demon; unlike Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, where the old one-two is explicitly said to be useless against Dementors, the Doom Slayer uses that to great effect here, literally punching the guts out of a demon. The reason why I have very few pictures of glory kills is that they’re very hard to capture as images: a bokeh effect is applied to the viewpoint and everything blurs out as the kill occurs. Chunks of demon flesh and blood spray across the screen, and players get back a bit of health for these kills.

  • I opted to go with the explosive shot for the shotgun upon encountering an upgrade terminal: when used, the shotgun turns into a short-range grenade launcher, great for dealing damage to groups of enemies. Continuing from my point earlier, even if there are other people who feel something should fit their visions, my bottom line is “so what?” If I didn’t like something, I do not feel the need to share it with the rest of the world, since the world doesn’t (and shouldn’t) care.

  • Thus, when I hear vocal figures on the internet bemoan that DOOM is “too violent”, my suggestion, echoed by countless others, is that one merely look the other way. There is plenty of choice in the world, and attempting to strong-arm everyone into accepting one particular branch of thought is futile and inconsequential. Life’s too short to be hating things; it ought to be spent enjoying oneself by doing things that one finds fun.

  • I’ve very nearly reached the end of the demo here after fighting through hordes of Hell demons, and true to the experience id Software promoted, there is plenty of non-stop action. However, once the demons are all dead, there is an opportunity to explore the level in peace, allowing for secrets to be found and scenery to be taken in. There’s an armour pickup here: I find that armour in DOOM is generally only a minor asset, absorbing only a third of the damage the player takes.

  • The demo can be beaten in roughly twenty minutes, but I did not pick up the demo to decide whether or not this game was worth playing. Instead, it was more of a hardware test to see if my computer could run it in its current state. While it’s not 60 FPS and running at the ultra or high settings, that my four-year old GPU can provide a playable DOOM experience (i.e. not “slideshow”) shows that older hardware can hold its own even if it falls under the minimum requirements.

  • The lighting here is reminiscent of the colour palette used in the Higurashi album “Dear You”, a character song album for the Higurashi: When They Cry anime. I love the compositions of the song, and I found the first season to be a solid horror anime. On the other hand, the second season was a good thriller, suggesting that the power of trust and friendship allows one to do what would be impossible were they to be alone.

  • In DOOM, however, all a player has is themselves. With that being said, the vast arsenal available to the Doom Slayer would be overkill for dealing with the sort of thing seen in Higurashi: When They Cry. Generally speaking, horror movies derive their fear off the fact that the protagonists are helpless or unarmed against a supernatural or conventional foe: while the monsters of DOOM appear scarier than the Xenomorph of Alien: Isolation, the latter is horror simply because the player has no capacity to retaliate against the Xenomorph.

  • Upon entering the next building in the UAC complex, the first mission draws to a close, and I return my attention back to the task at hand — I’m presently playing through Alien: Isolation, and while the “jump scare” factor is long gone now that I’ve reached the seventh mission, the actual horror in the game comes from fear of losing progression owing to carelessness. I will do a bit of a reflection once I obtain the flamethrower at the game’s halfway point.

  • The Steam 2016 sale is very nearly upon us: SUPERHOT and DOOM will be on my list of games to keep an eye on, as well as Far Cry 4 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The sale is in three days, and this year, it comes at a very interesting time; with my Master’s Defense on the 28th, it’s going to take every nanogram of my willpower to stay focused and prioritise the defense (the unit deliberately chosen because it relates to my research project).

On the whole, I’m rather excited to play through the whole of DOOM on a GTX 1070: my interest in the card is for its greater VR support, and I foresee that I might be doing a bit of work in VR in the near future, which requires much more graphics horsepower to push the pixels needed for a compelling experience (frame-rates below 90 and lower resolutions break immersion and can lead to cyber-sickness). However, until then, the GTX 1070 will be a powerful upgrade from my current video card: besides DOOM, I’ve also got my eye on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. So, contrary to the ill-founded claims that “This level of extreme violence shouldn’t be considered normal. It not an excuse to say it’s expected because DOOM“, I counter-argue that DOOM without awesome gunplay is like a car without an engine. Moreover, titles such as DOOM, and the game engines they run on, drive improvements in game engine and graphics technology. DOOM‘s gameplay features plenty of mesh destruction (tearing demons’ appendages off), decal materials (blood splatters), particle effects (sparks and weapon flash) and lighting; far from being depressing, it’s exciting: things like DOOM that push the boundaries for what game engines and graphics technology are capable of carrying out. Consequently, once I purchase and install my GTX 1070 (whenever that is), I’m going to make a beeline for DOOM on Steam (when the price is right), put down my coin and enjoy DOOM as it was meant to be enjoyed: as a grotesque, over-the-top, excessively violent, high-paced and surprisingly cathartic shooter.

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