The Steam Winter Sale. Pride of the PC master race and devourer of free time. It is something that I am acutely familiar with, however since I have always been a console fanboy my whole life I had always been sitting on the wayside while my friends filled up their libraries with the past years most popular games at stupidly reduced prices. No more I told myself! Not this year! I have finally bought a PC setup capable of living up to the hype and I have been loving the hell out of it for the last 365 (Playstation will always have my heart though). So in between the holday events and family gatherings, I found myself with a couple of days free time before I needed to go back to work, and decided this was the perfect opportunity to dive in headfirst and really fill out my current steam collection.
I won’t go all the way into what I bought, because I plan on writing some more posts as I make my way through, but suffice to say, it was almost immoral how much fun I was having taking advantage of the sale. What I will say is one game that I purchased on a whim was the newest Doom. I still don’t completely know why I purchased it. First Person shooters have never been my thing, and the nostalgia factor wasn’t there because the only Doom I had ever played was Doom 3 back when I was in high school. The only thing I really remember about it was that I never finished it (which is pretty normal for me when it comes to shooters) but I remember that I certainly wasn’t impressed. Not to say that it was a bad game, I genuinely don’t think I got far enough into it to make an opinion like that, but I just know that there was nothing about it that stood out to me as special or engaging. I also grew up in a strict no violent video games household, which meant that Doom and Doom 2 were basically figments of my imagination. I did remember when doom launched last year though. I remember seeing the videos and being blown away by the pace and the violence of it all. Looked like a wonderfully bloody spectacle and the reviews were pretty kind, so it was added to my “maybe one day” list, and then kind of forgot about it. Enter the STEAM WINTER SALE. It was the last thing that I grabbed before wrapping up for the night, and I decided it would be the first thing I tried out in the morning.
I’ll be honest, when I first started playing, I expected to switch to something else within the first hour or so. That’s usually what happens when I have a few too many games and too much time on my hand, I basically start jumping from game to game every hour or so until I either run out of time or Amy comes to make me do stuff. So that’s what I fully expected to happen when I started playing Doom. 16 hours later (there was a short sleep break in there somewhere) I had finally defeated the armies of hell and saved Mars, although I’m not really sure why Mars was worth saving in the first place. But that’s beside the point. The point is once I started playing I was completely sucked into the frantic and fast combat to the point that I cannot remember ever enjoying another shooter this much.
I can tell what specifically it was that pulled me into the game so hard so fast. There was the fact that movement and jumping were so important to not getting killed. The fact that I always had enough ammo to keep shooting, but not enough that I was able to rely on a single weapon or even two or three primary weapons the whole time. The fact that the enemies were varied enough that I had to memorize and adapt depending on who was in front of me. There was so much to enjoy. Especially because my style when it comes to shooters was typically to be as tactical as possible. To find the most accurate semi automatic weapon and hang back, keeping enemies in front of me and at a distance while I pop off as many headshots as possible. Doom basically shit all over that from the beginning. You stop moving, you are dead. You try to take time to aim precisely, or specialize in just one type of gun? Also dead. It immediately forced me out of my comfort zone and made me play in a way that I enjoyed. I am sure if you are familiar with Doom or Quake or any of the other shooters in the genre, none of this is news to you, but for me it was a refreshing way to play.
Outside of the gameplay itself, one thing that stood out to me was the outstanding difficulty curve that meant for the first 40% of the game, I didn’t die once, but as I got farther and farther in, even though my skills were continuously improving, I started dying with more and more frequency. Although this would always leave to much cursing and gnashing of teeth, overall there was never a point when I felt the game was unfair or stacked in a way that meant I was SUPPOSED to die in a section. I could easily see how someone who was better at the games than I was, or even someone that made better decisions up until that point would have been able to breeze through. Aside from all of these details though, the one thing that stuck to me was that the game just got more fun the more the game began to stack enemies against you. I was never able to fall into a specific pattern meaning I was constantly improvising what I was doing on the fly, even if I played through the same section multiple times. It was fast, it was just difficult enough, and it was fucking FUN. The fun part being the main thing.
It isn’t often these days that a game can come out and genuinely surprise me. I know how annoying that sounds, and I don’t mean it as an ego thing. Really it’s just as I have gotten older and spent more and more time playing games, you generally get to know developers, or genres, or types that mean after a few minutes you start finding familiarity within the first few minutes of a game. That’s not always a bad thing. But I still miss that feeling of holy shit this game is going to be different. I remember the first time I played Ape Escape with a dual shock controller. The art style was similar to Spyro the Dragon, I had become pretty familiar with platforming RPG’s in general, but as soon as I plugged in the controller and discovered the possibilities of a second joystick. Your first 20 minutes into Dark Souls, when you face off against the asylum demon in the bleak landscape and realize that this is going to be something different. It is going to be a completely new experience. That’s what I felt when I played Doom this weekend. I have since moved on to the next one on my list, but I think Doom is going to have around for awhile. Maybe another playthrough on the hardest difficulty is in my future. Either way Doom was the standout hit of my Christmas season, and it’s all thanks to that glorious Steam Winter Sale.