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I was playing Vanquish and Doom 16 a bit ago and had an epiphany about “octane shooters”

Content of the article: "I was playing Vanquish and Doom 16 a bit ago and had an epiphany about “octane shooters”"

I made up the phrase "octane shooters" just now, but if you don't know what I'm imagining, basically think of shooters that pride themselves in wall-to-wall action with minimal breaks and try to make the player achieve combat flow. All the Doom games and many of their imitators hit this mark.

If you've played Vanquish, you might agree with me that it fits this mold, but if you don't, at least bear with me. Vanquish is a TPS that gives you a supersuit that lets you slide around at hyperspeed and trigger slow-mo at will. You have a total of like 6 samey guns (been a sec since I played), so the game tries to create variation by making you use your abilities differently. That's not the point, but it's probably relevant.

If you've never played Doom 16, it's an FPS that takes the opposite philosophy: it gives you about 12 very different guns that allow you to take a couple different approaches to combat (by which I mean short, medium, or long range). Again, not the point, but important.

What I realized playing these games boils down to this: the horseshoe effect applies to video game action too. If I'm always shooting, always moving, always killing, I'm gonna fall asleep. There's only so much heavy lifting that sound, music, and visual design can do to maintain tension. I'll admit that Vanquish does a slightly better job of it by giving you breaks from action where you go to a new area. Those transitions do a bit to create tension by making you question whether you're going to see a new enemy type or just when the combat will start. Doom sorta does it too, but to a lesser extent.

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The weird thing is, I've always liked fast-paced games. Hell, I just made a post a bit ago about how much I liked Titanfall 2, and I've sunk a few hundred hours into games like Destiny 2, Warframe, Borderlands 2, etc. Over-the-top shooters are kind of my main genre. The key difference for me, I think, is that the latter four games have pretty frequent changes of pace. Titanfall has platforming, Destiny and Warframe have ability/buff/debuff management and "skybox moments" where you enter a new area and kinda just stare before the fight starts, and Borderlands 2 has you looting and managing ammo/loadout stuff between fights. The more linear, one-trick-pony shooters like Vanquish and Doom have a harder time making their breakneck pace actually feel breakneck. If my minimum speed is 90 mph, it's gonna feel like standing still after about an hour. Sure, these two games have moments where it cranks up to 200 mph, but when it slows back down to 90, you realize that you're now doing the same thing slower.

I'm really not sure if this is a controversial opinion, but I really think that too much action is a bad thing. I started to find Doom very tedious by about halfway through because of how repetitive the combat became, so I haven't even begun to try replaying it. I haven't finished Vanquish yet, but I might just to see what the rest of its bossfights look like (those were fun so far). I considered getting Doom Eternal, but jumped back into Doom 16 to check whether I still liked it first and decided against it; about an hour of gameplay footage further convinced me that it's just going to be way too much action for me.

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This isn't a condemnation of the people who play these games–it's entirely possible I just don't have the right mindset to enjoy them–but I feel confused by the apparently vocal group of action game players who want their meat raw off the bone. For me, playing Vanquish or Doom feels like a healthier version of chugging an entire glass of straight whiskey shirtless on the beer pong table at a frat party; I know it'll get me where I plan to go, but I'm not gonna like the way I get there. Some people prefer to party that way, but I can't help but realize that those people lead very different lives than me.

TL;DR action is bad and every game should be slow and make you stare at skyboxes and manage your inventory for 3 hours before every fight /s


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