Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Obligatory Halloween post

It is Halloween and I managed to not play either The Evil Within 2 or Observer (thanks Ys!!) but I do want to, at the very least, bring up a very effective moment in an old, underrated game. This is not a classic moment from a dedicated horror game. Nothing like the pyramid head rape voyeur scene from Silent Hill 2, the bleeding walls in Silent Hill 3 or the ropes in Fatal Frame. It is not a modern example like most of Amnesia: The Dark Descent or the spooky crib from Layers of Fear. I would put it more in line with a frightening section from an otherwise not terribly frightening game; think the shalebride cradle in Thief or the haunted hotel in Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines. Unexpected and effective.

Step into the way back machine with me so we can talk about Doom 64.

Doom 64 was my Nintendo 64 launch title in spite of it not coming out at launch. Neither Super Mario 64 nor Pilotwings 64 did anything for me so I bought the console and waited, patiently, for something to play. Doom 64 did not disappoint. For the uninitiated (or the young) Doom 64 was not a port of any existing Doom. It was its own monster, designed specifically for the new Nintendo system, and is viewed as something of a side story to the main Doom series. It has never been legitimately ported, remade, or in any way made legally available for purchase since its initial release. Midway, its publisher, is long gone, so there is no hope to see it again.

It was also a legitimately exceptional shooter. Concessions were made for the bizarre controller and they worked. Monsters were redesigned in a distinctly late 90's manner. Weapons were reskinned and levels took advantage of what the Nintendo 64 could do. The shooting was good, the level design expansive, but the sound, oh my.

I was in college in 1997. I did not have as much time on a daily basis to play games as I do now but was capable of incredible marathon sessions on the weekends, provided I was sober(ish). I once played Turok 2 for so long that when I closed my eyes I was still running down corridors. It was just that kind of session, hours upon hours of Doom 64, sitting unmoved, cross legged, on the floor of a darkened dorm room, when this happened:

That is how you break a man. I was sleep deprived, zoned out, bleary eyed and that starts playing? I do not recall the level but I recall my reaction: pause the game, turn and look around the room. No one here? Am I sure? Ok, maybe I'll play a little more. Just a little. Even the BFG is no match for a terrifying soundtrack.

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