Get ready to fight like Hell.
Ten minutes into the new DOOM, you’re standing knee deep in an elevator full of dismembered, unrecognizable body parts, shotgun in hand, listening to sparse exposition from a digital voice pumped through a faint video screen. You crack your knuckles, wordlessly tell the voice what you think of their reasoning, and the heavy metal soundtrack explodes into a title sequence. This is DOOM, in all of its over-the-top glory.
Look buddy, I’m just as shocked by your lack of pants as you are of mine.
Anyone even passingly familiar with the DOOM series understands the basics: fast combat, big guns, buckets of blood, and colored key cards. Going into the quasi-reboot, it’s immediately obvious that the failings of Doom 3 (an ok game, but lacking in a lot of areas) have been stripped down in favor of a lean, streamlined experience. You shoot, you run, you smash door controls and decapitate demons with a chainsaw. There is no aim correction, no ‘take cover to heal’ mechanic, and no forgiveness. DOOM encourages quick thinking, quicker reflexes, and a decent amount of respawning.
There’s always a bigger skull to decorate with.
It would be easy, with source material like this, to push the needle too far to the right in an explosion of nonstop gore. Instead, DOOM features some wonderful pacing, spreading the bloodiest brawls around the massive levels with exploration, platforming, and simple puzzles. For anyone cringing at the last part of that sentence, yes, DOOM features a decent amount of platforming, though tight controls and a forgiving grapple system keep it from ever being too frustrating. Instead, these segments break up the violence, and give players a chance to explore a world with a surprisingly well-done amount of lore. It’s no Bethesda RPG, but the story and setting of DOOM manage to be more than an excuse for gun-play. The best thing about DOOM is it’s tone, which is somehow the 90’s shooter it originally was, and a darkly funny modern game. For every half-eaten marine corpse and chainsaw fatality, there’s an action figure to find and fist bump, or a holographic parroting a corporate motto. This feeling is backed up by a fantastic soundtrack that erupts whenever the action heats up, and stays low and menacing when the mood becomes more creeping.
Seriously, tell me this doesn’t get you pumped up to blast demons with a shotgun.
However, combat is the main focus, and this is where DOOM really hits its stride. Every weapon feels unique, fun, and powerful, from the lowly pistol to the terrifying BFG. Even on the higher difficulties, ammo is plentiful, and you’ll need it; past the ‘hard’ setting, DOOM pulls no punches. However, even the most difficult segments rarely feel ‘unfair’, and instead the pure adrenaline rush of the game is an encouragement to get right back in and try again. The only big addition to the streamlined DOOM formula are ‘Glory Kills’, wherein a stunned demon can be gruesomely defeated by being within range of a melee attack, guaranteeing a health drop. At first, these kills seem to slow down the manic pace of the game, but as the difficult ramps up, mastering the rhythm and timing of this system is important to staying alive. It meshes well with the speed of the fights, though, and unlike a lot of forced ‘enhancements’ to the standard shooter template, it’s as fun the first time as the last. And with a decently long campaign (about 10-15 hours if you really explore the maps) it never gets stale or tiring. Replayability is also high, with numerous hidden challenges, secrets, and collectibles packed into every huge level. And you’ll want to explore, as every secret uncovered awards points that go into a simple, but fun, upgrade system for both your weapons, and your suit.
Finally, a chance to customize the color of the inside of the screws in my gun.
Packaged with the main campaign are two separate modes, Multiplayer and Snapmap. Multiplayer is exactly what you might expect from DOOM, though the pace and level design really bring back memories of early online shooters. Leveling up unlocks customization options, and there are the usual assortment of game types to play. The customization option, however, deserves special praise, as artistic marines can change the colors, wear, age, and lights on nearly every gun and armor piece in the game, resulting in a fantastically customized loadout that you’ll see for eight seconds before being liquidized by a rocket launcher. The progression of unlocking weapons gets out of the way early, ensuring a relatively balanced playing field.
The third mode, Snapmap, is one part level editor, one part challenges, and one part co-op missions. In fact, based on the parameters of the particular map, it can also be an arcade game, perfect recreation of original DOOM maps, a dubstep generator, or an arena with scaling challenges. Even only a week after the game’s release, the amount of creativity shown with the Snapmap system is staggering. Of course, there are duds as well, but the well-done filtering systems keeps the best maps and challenges at the top of the list. The editor itself is robust and easy to grasp, yet concepts like multiple logic chains exist for builders that want complete control over every aspect of their world.
Well, at least I know what to do with that ring I found.
For all of its good points, there are a few bad that bring the DOOM experience down slightly. First and foremost, the load times are horrible on console, even when installed. 15 seconds may not seem that long, but when it’s breaking up the pace of an adrenaline-pumping battle, it adds up very quickly. There are also some strange design choices, such as the customization for the Snapmap mode and the Multiplayer mode being entirely separate, forcing players to unlock options twice to have them for both. Finally, the color pallet is a bit limited for most of the game; you’ll be seeing a lot of grey and red for the first six hours, at least. None of these are deal breakers for DOOM though, just minor annoyances on an otherwise great effort to bring back a classic franchise to a modern audience.
DOOM probably isn’t for everyone, as those offended by ultra-violence and demonic imagery won’t find much to enjoy (though I can’t imagine they would think they could in the first place.) For anyone craving a break from the military-inspired shooters with overbearing cut-scenes that dominate the current market, DOOM is the perfect breath of fresh air. Just be sure to keep gas in your chainsaw.
Images from Doom.com and my PS4.
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