DOOM is a first person shooter for the Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC developed by id and Bethesda released on May 13th, 2016.
DOOM was first announced in May 2008, originally slated for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. At this time, it was known as Doom 4. Unfortunately, Rage, Bethesda’s acquisition of id and some development issues pushed the game out until it was ultimately scrapped and restarted in 2011. It was then that Doom 4 became DOOM as we know it. A teaser was released May 18th, 2015 preceding it’s showing at E3 that year. An open multiplayer beta was launched earlier this year on April 15th, a few weeks before it’s May 13th release.
Birth of a Legend
Doom I, together with Wolfenstein 3D, helped pioneer the first person shooter genre – so much so that early entries in the genre were known as “Doom clones” for a large portion of the 90’s. Doom set the pace for the genre with its fast paced combat and extensive arsenal, creating a prototype that’s still followed to this day.
“But can it run Crysis?” might’ve become a meme in the last decade, but Doom has developed a reputation for the complete opposite reason, being so popular it has been ported to many unlikely devices such as smartwatches and graphing calculators. Out of the numerous iterations and spinoffs, there are roughly five main titles: Doom I, Doom II, Doom 64, Doom 3 and DOOM
DOOM cold opens with the eponymous Doom Marine strapped to a table. You break free just in time to dispatch a couple of possessed enemies. At this point, a voice through the Com Link informs you that the facility has been overrun in a demonic possession. The game chronicles the exploits of the Doom Marine as he pieces together just what on Earth (and Hell) happened at the Mars U.A.C. facility and put a bloody end to it in the way only he can.
Id’s aim with DOOM was fast paced, gory action that was different from other entries in the genre. That being the case, it may be best to first mention what’s NOT in DOOM – namely sprinting, iron sights aiming, regenerating health or reloading. DOOM intentionally forgoes these conventions in support of its “Press Forward” gameplay dynamic. DOOM, isn’t slow and methodical like its predecessor, Doom 3, which was a survival horror game. This time it’s all about staying on the run, taking quick shots on the fly and practically feeding on the slaughter of your enemies. To these ends, the Doom Marine comes with a few new tricks. The Doom Marine can now climb ledges. Levels all have a good deal of verticality to them, being full of drops and tunnels to duck into or higher alcoves and platforms to climb to, helping to facilitate the mobility that’s a such a vital part of the gameplay. More relevant to combat is the “Glory Kill” mechanic. Drawing inspiration from the execution ability in the Brutal Doom mod, glory kills allow you to jump to and execute an enemy you’ve staggered.
Your arsenal gets a few new tricks as well. You’ll get your standard pickings (shotgun, super shotgun, plasma rifle, rocket launcher, chain-gun, chainsaw). Even the BFG returns – would it be a Doom game without it? However, like their counterparts in Doom the Roguelike, weapons can now have mods that affect their effectiveness and functionality. A mod can allow you to transform your chain-gun into a mobile turret or charge and fire a cutting wave from your plasma rifle. These mods can be further upgraded using points earned in combat. Most weapons have two mods, barring the chainsaw and BFG, which have none. Those two are their own beasts this go around. They’ve been upgraded to power weapon status, using their own special ammunition (fuel and BFG cells respectively). The chainsaw acts much like a special glory kill, killing instantly without a need to stagger an enemy, but there is a discrete fuel requirement that varies per enemy. Initially, you may not even be able to carry enough fuel to use it on some of the more powerful enemies. The BFG functions much like its previous incarnations, but it’s much more powerful, laying waste to every non-boss entity and staggering bosses, but the player can only hold three rounds at any time. This iteration functions a little more intuitively, having the orb zap enemies while it careens towards its target.
Not to be outdone, your favorite denizens of hell return in rare form. The demonic cast is much more nimble and much leaner than before. Imps will skitter and hop all over the terrain, lobbing fireballs mid-bound or even charging up hadoukens to throw at you. Hell knights will sprint and bound to close the distance for devastating melee attacks. Barons of Hell are monstrously big, Cacodemon blasts blur your vision for a couple seconds, Revenants jetpack around and flush you out of cover with their rocket barrages, Summoners (the spiritual successor of Arch-viles) teleport incessantly, filling the battlefield with enemies and the beloved Cyberdemon has been upgraded into a macross missile nightmare.
Story – Believe it or not, the thing I was most concerned about while I awaited DOOM was the story. Are we going to have a coherent, prominent narrative? Considering the type of character the Doom Marine is and Doom I and II’s primary focus on combat, how would you even go about that? I’m glad to say my fears were alleviated. I don’t expect it to win any awards, but it’s a solid story that carries the game. There are enough characters and factions to make you feel as though there are events that are bigger than you transpiring and that you are getting to be a part of them. It’s nice to feel like the DOOM universe is bigger than you, the demons and a shotgun. More impressive, though, may be how the events of Doom I, II and 64 were arc-welded into the narrative of this universe.
“Press Forward” Gameplay – DOOM is all about frantic “run and fun” action. Emphasis on the the “run” portion because you really can’t stand still in a fight at all. Mobility is just as much a necessity as putting buckshot in an Imp’s face. You’ll be constantly moving to put space between you and your enemies, using the level’s verticality to get the drop on your enemies. Mix in just how satisfying engaging enemies is and the “Press Forward” dynamic really shines. There are resources to be found in your environment, but those are static and finite. Fortunately you don’t have to rely only on those as success in combat can yield health and ammunition periodically. However, the more aggressive one is, the greater the rewards. Blasting an enemy might yield a little ammo and 5 hp or so, but performing a glory kill guarantees that, if not more, and a second or two of invincibility. Use the chainsaw and you’ll turn your foe into a pinata of ammo and health pickups. To put it simply – killing your foes gives you the shot in the arm you need to stay in the fight. The high mobility and positive combat feedback loop create this knife edge frenzy of scaling terrain, making hit and run attacks and exploiting openings to brutalize some poor soul for a combat stim – just so you can do it all over again in all of its brutal glory
Characterization & Lore – A large portion of this was covered in my previous blurb on the story, but I’m revisiting this topic in relation to the Doom Marine himself. For the first time in my history with Doom, the Doom Marine actually feels like a character and not a construct. The name of the game is “Show, Don’t Tell” and just because a character doesn’t talk doesn’t mean that they can’t easily be characterized, nor does a desire for the player to live vicariously through them keep you from fleshing them out. The Doom Marine visibly shakes in anger when he’s not buying someone’s crap. His conviction to destroy the legions of Hell are easily seen in the brutal efficiency of his glory kills. An observant player will even notice a few surprising moments of thoughtfulness on the marine’s part. While the Doom Marine is definitely proficient in the art of “Rip and Tear”, it’s nice to see that there’s more going on behind that helmet.
Multiplayer – I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t despise the multiplayer. I’ve had some fun and I’m confident that there’s some to be had in it for many players. However, I expect the reception to be bittersweet at best (and alas, it seem to already be). Id wanted DOOM to stand out in a landscape dominated by Halo and Call of Duty, a worthwhile goal. I’m assuming this philosophy extended to the multiplayer as well and, in a certain sense, they delivered. The multiplayer plays like a sampler plate of FPS mechanics from the last couple decades. You’ve got an arena shooter reminiscent of Quake Live with the “guns and grenade” dynamics and armor customization of Halo and weapon loadouts and class perks (in this case, consumable “hack modules”) like Call of Duty. The most interesting thing DOOM offers of its own is the Demonic Possession Runes that transform the player into one of the mid-tier power demons such as the mancubus) for a short time. It’s definitely an odd mix. DOOM is playing catchup in the genre that has had strong multiplayer offerings in its absence and this very much hit or miss.
Snapmap – Snapmap, the map editor that lets you create single and multiplayer maps, is phenomenal in theory. When I heard about it I had flashbacks to my brief stint with Halo Forge in Halo: Reach and was elated that I would be able to do something similar in DOOM. It wasn’t quite so. The options you have are pretty good and the ability to script events on the map are nice. However, some options, such as boss monsters or platforms and walkways are missing. Furthermore, I think it would’ve been better if the functions of Snapmap were merged into single or multiplayer mode. Having the official and related user generated content in the same place would’ve gone a long way towards not making the latter feel like it was cordoned off. While these doesn’t ruin Snapmap, it does make it feel a little underwhelming despite how groundbreaking it actually is.
Story – Did I say DOOM’s story alleviated my fears? It did – mostly. It was a solid story, but I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed with the fact that I’ve played through this campaign before. It’s a refined, satisfying interaction of the age old Doom Story, mind you. But it’s still the age old Doom story. Perhaps I’m forsaking what makes Doom, well…Doom, but I’d love to see the series go beyond U.A.C.’s R&D department went all “Even Horizon” with their Mars base. The world-building done with the recent lore is a good start – I was just hoping for more.
DOOM turned out much better than I think most of us were expecting. I was pleased with what it had to offer, even if there were a few kinks here and there. Bethesda and id did a great job with DOOM and it definitely worth picking up.
9 out 10 blazing barrels.