A game set in a The Office style mockumentary with eight different gameplay styles sounds pretty awesome on paper, and such was the potential of Doug Hates His Job by freshly minted developer Super Villain Games. Breaking into the industry and having your first title premier on Xbox One is nothing to sneeze at, but unfortunately Doug Hates His Job misses the mark on so many levels to the extent where it ends up making you hate it more than your actual job.
Our hero Doug is a disgruntled employee who works the daily grind in a drab office environment, filled with eccentric colleagues he doesn’t really like and all the office politics that most of us have unfortunately dealt with at some point. It takes a surrealist mockumentary approach to presenting the story and characters, which for the most part is quite amusing and relatable. The surrealism actually works well for its video game setting, given that the daily shenanigans Doug goes through are mostly a reflection of his own imagination as a gamer, where he transforms even the most mundane aspects of his life into a video game challenge, whether it’s beating the traffic to get to work or stealthily sneaking into the office late. The way gameplay ties into these otherwise everyday adult life situations is pretty clever, and these are perhaps the coolest moments of the game. Until you actually get down to playing these various segments, that is.
With eight different gameplay styles, Doug Hates His Job becomes an unfortunate case of “master of none” as each of these are barely functional. The gameplay segments include things like driving, stealth, beat ‘em up, shooting, hack and slash, platforming, and of course a few visual novel styled distractions. In a way, it is almost an ironic metaphor of Doug as a character as he finds himself pursuing different failed avenues with his dead-end career, even attempting hobbies and alternative career paths (acting being one of them) to no real success.
Much like Doug and his life, Doug Hates His Job could have worked had it focused on developing and fleshing out a couple of strong gameplay systems rather than barely attempting the eight for the sake of variety. None of these gameplay options function and are riddled with buggy mechanical problems. The list of problems includes things like unresponsive controls, poor collision/hit detection, inconsistent hit boxes, painfully sluggish movement and, worst of all, being trapped in an attack loop during the many drawn-out beat ‘em up segments. It’s no exaggeration: these segments provide an absolute unplayable slog of a gameplay experience.
The actual story and dialogue portions are pretty fun, and usually there are choices in Doug’s response to an uncomfortable social situation which can impact the direction of the game. The writing is fun and witty, with a dry sense of humour that most can probably relate to. It’s just a shame that these clever bits are tucked between frequent painful gameplay segments, which are designed only to pad out the experience rather than providing any enjoyable variety.
The visual style is actually pretty cool, with a nice fusion of 8-bit style character designs set in a classic 3D environment. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is heinously put together with tunes that rarely fit the context of the game and, in many cases, it feels like listening to white noise rather than any semblance of music. The presentation as a whole just feels tacky and unfinished.
Doug Hates His Job on Xbox One has an interesting setup for what could have been a gamer’s dream game, because a lot of us still play video games well into our adult life as a fantasy escape from our dreadful jobs and responsibilities. Instead, it ends up being an experience far more dreary and painful than a day job. With its dry and whimsical writing, it probably could have been a fun adventure game on its own, but sadly the advertised eight gameplay styles collectively amount to something that barely feels like a video game.