PC, PS4, Xbox One
Doom holds a lot of fond memories for me. It was a huge part of my gaming education and was the first ever game I had to upgrade my computer for. Those initial Shareware levels are a part of my DNA, every secret, every enemy an ingrained muscle memory. So it was with some trepidation that I approached Doom 2016. After all Doom 3 was a bit below par and ID’s last game Rage was a mess from both a technical and gameplay standpoint. Add to that the reported development difficulties the team suffered in creating this game and things weren’t looking great. But I held onto hope that Doom would be a release to do the name proud and return the granddaddy of FPS’s back to its throne. Thankfully I was brave enough to boot this game up because while it may not be the best game out there it certainly is a bucket load of gory fun.
Doom, for better or worse, is simply Doom. That may seem like a redundant statement but that is exactly what ID software have created. This game feels like the Doom of old and that is no mean achievement. Sure it has flash graphics, weapon/suit upgrades and a jump button but somehow it still captures the essence of what made Doom so popular all those years ago. Labyrinth like maps, colour coded keys, secret rooms and brutal in-your-face combat evoked those same feelings I used to get when running through 2.5d hallways in 1993. Somehow ID have managed to update and modernize the classic Doom gameplay and in the process have created something that feels both fresh and familiar at the same time.
The story follows the Space Marine as he is awoken from an extended slumber inside a demonic sarcophagus. This led to a little mystery with the game because it appears that the game could be either a reboot or a sequel (and it goes out of its way to remain ambiguous on this point) and it was nice to have a little slice of intrigue in the tale being told. The rest of the story unfolds as the Space Marine discovers a power plant on Mars has been invaded by Hell’s minions and he is the only one equipped to stop the incursion. It certainly isn’t an award winning tale but it added enough to the formula that I actively sought out story logs and data pads so I could find out what was happening. It was generally quite enjoyable sci-fi b grade fun which was only let down by a weak ending.
The gameplay, however, is where Doom will make longtime fans happy. The combat is wonderfully old-school with no default scoping, no reloading (except for the Super Shotgun) and relentless enemies. Each level was essentially a series of kill rooms with waves of demonic hellspawn sent to attack me. This design could have gotten old if it wasn’t for the fact that the enemies themselves were wonderfully varied and the levels were beautifully designed. Mobility was the key to survival and dodging, jumping and out and out running were essential skills for me to master to make it through the fight. The game gave me a couple of finisher moves to use as well. The first, the glory kill, occurred when I used my melee attack on a stunned enemy. This would then trigger a brutal kill (some of which you have undoubtedly seen in the game’s trailers) and give me back some health and ammo. These glory kills became an essential survival tool allowing me to pick up some much-needed health in some desperate situations. The second finisher move is the chainsaw. This machine of death was an instant kill for any (non-boss) enemy as long as I had enough fuel. Any enemy decimated by the chainsaw exploded into fountains of both blood and ammo making it the perfect tool to use when my ammo reserves were low.
The combat was truly edge of the seat stuff but that intensity would have been simply too much if that is all there was to the game. Thankfully all the demon slaughter is broken up by some surprisingly enjoyable platforming. That’s right platforming in an FPS that is entertaining, trust me I was shocked too. This platforming was improved throughout the game as a few key pieces of armour were added to my inventory (like double jump boots) and it made traversal across Mars’s surface and through Hell’s Caverns a pleasure. This extra mobility also gave me a few more options in combat and that was certainly welcome. I also found that the game was surprisingly vertical, with tonnes of secrets and alternate paths available to me if I remembered to simply look up.
Graphically and Sonically Doom also impresses. The new ID Engine looks stunning ( I played on a high-end PC) and I had basically no graphical problems barring some very slight pop in when levels first loaded. Everything looks suitably hellish and depressing, the Mars base is a cold sterile institution that has been splattered with appropriate amounts of demonic touches and Hell could have come straight from the cover of an Iron Maiden album. The classic enemies of old are all back and have been suitably upgraded, all looking terrifying. The sounds of these beasts were equally scary and the weapons all sounded great. Special mention should go to the music which provided a haunting background in the quiet moments before it ramped up into a forceful industrial metal crescendo during the intense combat. Funnily enough, it reminded me of another ID game, Quake 2, which I can assure you isn’t a bad thing.
One of the big features touted before launch was SnapMap, the built-in map editor that makes creating Doom levels a breeze. While it isn’t quite as easy as the trailers made it appear it is certainly a powerful tool that I am sure members of the gaming community will embrace wholeheartedly. There are already a ton of great maps available, from recreations of classic Doom levels to stunning original creations, and I am sure as time goes on things will only get better. I applaud ID software for including this in the game and I can’t wait to see what the community has come up with 6 months down the road.
Finally multiplayer. This is an area that I can see the game putting people off. Not because it is bad (it isn’t) but because it doesn’t feel like an ID Software multiplayer game. In fact, the multiplayer felt much more like Unreal Tournament than Quake which I am sure will upset some people. I for one, however, have enjoyed my time so far. It is simple, fast paced deathmatch fun that holds a pickup and play appeal. There probably isn’t the depth there to keep me coming back for a long time but I am certainly enjoying it while it lasts. All of the traditional play styles are there with TDM, Capture the Flag and various spins on the Domination formula all making an appearance. Multiplayer, in this case, is an enjoyable side dish to the singleplayer’s main meal and not the reason to go to the restaurant in the first place.
What Doom does is update the classic gameplay for modern systems. No more and no less. People raised on newer first person titles may find the game’s design choices archaic and even painful but for people like me who were raised on the originals, it is a wonderful return to a classic style. Doom won’t win any game of the year awards and it will probably be forgotten by most in a year’s time but it does offer some truly entertaining and visceral gunplay that will have players engrossed for the entirety of the campaign. Add to that a solid (if a touch light in features) multiplayer component and an excellent map editor and there is a lot to like about the Doom remake. If you go in expecting the type of FPS revolution the first game in the franchise brought about you will be disappointed but if you just want to kill demons in a heart racing, white knuckle 8-9 hour story then Doom is just what the doctor ordered.