Game Reviewed: DOOM
Release Date: May 13th, 2016
Developer: id Softworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: [Reviewed: Xbox One], PlayStation 4, PC
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Rated: M for Mature
In the beginning of the FPS genre there was id Software, and Wolfenstein was born, the precursor that laid the foundation for other games in the genre to follow. But then id created DOOM – it not only surpassed Wolfenstein on a technical level, but in the impact that it left on the gaming industry, being widely held as one of the most influential games in the industry’s history. Now DOOM returns, bloodier, gorier, and even more demony than before.
After waking up, chained and surrounded by possessed UAC scientist, you quickly break free and dispatch the rest in the room. You soon reclaim and don the Praetor Suit and discover that the entire UAC base on Mars has been completely taken over by a demon invasion. Known simply as the Doom Marine, you set out to kill every demon in your path and stop a deranged woman from making matters even worse.
In a sea of annual and increasingly generic shooters, DOOM is a refreshing breath of fresh air. Simple in its premise and straight to the point, DOOM doesn’t beat around the bush and knows exactly what it is – and it’s damn good at what it does. Harkening back to what made the original so great, DOOM is fast-paced, throws legions of demons in your path, and gives you plenty of guns, a chainsaw, and your bare fists to tear through them all.
As much of a badass the Doom Marine is, he can become even more powerful. Each weapon you wield can be upgraded by collecting mods, which can be found being carried by field drones located somewhere in each level. Each weapon has two mods that can be switched out on the fly by pressing up on the d-pad. To further increase a mods effectiveness, each level rewards Weapon Upgrade Points by completing challenges, which can then be spent on your weapon mods to reduce the time it takes to reload for some or adding armor penetration to others. And grenades have been introduced to DOOM for the first time and come in three different flavors: Fragmentation, Hologram, and Siphon. Frag grenades need no explanation, but the Hologram grenade projects a second Doom Marine to divert attention away from the player. And the Siphon grenade is particularly helpful; when thrown they leech the life of any demons caught in the grenade’s field and heals you in return.
As you explore the Mars base, the more observant and tenacious players will find secrets and collectibles tucked away or cleverly placed where you wouldn’t normally look. Finding these secrets and collectables unlock neat character models to look at and what’s a real treat is that if you find the hidden levers (one in each level) you can unlock and play classic DOOM and DOOM II levels. Find these secrets earns you more Weapon Upgrade Points, but more importantly, you can stumble across new weapons a level early. If you’re in desperate need of more firepower, don’t overlook anything, that hunch you may have might lead you to a powerful weapon.
The Doom Marine can also improve his own abilities by four different means: upgrades to his Praetor Suit, the use of Argent Cells, powerups, and Runes. You will eventually come across dead elite soldiers around the facility and retrieve a chip embedded into their suit’s chest; these will upgrade your own suit to enhance its abilities like environmental resistance and powerup duration. Argent Energy is energy straight from Hell that has been processed for safe use. Finding canisters containing this energy will increase your health, armor, or ammo capacity. Powerups are tiny floating orbs that can instantly be picked up to grant temporary boosts in speed and power. Lastly, runes are side trials that you must complete in order to gain passive abilities that can stagger foes longer, gain armor shards along with health when performing Glory Kills, and even have unlimited ammunition.
The first moments of DOOM will have you facing off slow, lumbering husks of former UAC personnel just to get players accustomed to the controls, but then they throw much more adept and cunning demons at you. You are always moving and always swapping weapons and mods to suit your immediate needs. Stopping for a moment while facing a group of demons will guarantee you taking damage as they never wait for you and are hunting you down as much as you are hunting them. This means that every encounter is fast and frantic as you’re dodging enemy fire and need to think quick on your feet on how to get the upper hand by using your arsenal, navigating your surroundings effectively, and using environmental hazards, like explosive barrels, to your advantage.
Even when you complete the campaign, you can go to the Level Select and replay old levels with your current gear and upgrades, just incase you want to 100% the game and need to find whatever you left behind. You also unlock two new difficulty modes: Nightmare and Ultra-Nightmare. As the name suggests, Nightmare is the game’s hardest difficulty, but that is child’s play compared to Ultra-Nightmare. In Ultra-Nightmare, if you die at any point, you will go back to the very beginning. To make matters worse is that you cannot save in the middle of a level, that is only possible in between levels and even quitting in the middle of a level will simply end your playthrough, so quitting is only reserved until after you beat a level as well. So if you feel like subjecting yourself to DOOM’s ultimate challenge and think you are up to it, you can certainly try – however, even the devs put a warning message before actually starting an Ultra-Nightmare run.
The only true gripe I have with the campaign is that it doesn’t change up the gameplay. Killing is honestly all you do, but with an ever-increasing number of guns and demons. Games like the original Wolfenstein and DOOM have left a huge mark on the gaming world, but that was in the infancy of the genre, and it slowly evolved to offer new ways to play. You don’t see games like DOOM anymore, but I think that even if it may seem like a “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” type of game, id brought back this beloved franchise at the right moment. With yearly Call of Duties and Battlefields diluting the market, here comes this game that does away with the conventions of shooters today, and provides a pure, fast-paced, and unrelenting first-person shooter. This game is so unlike others in the same genre that it breathes back life into an overly saturated market and turns what would be considered a weakness into a powerful strength without even changing DOOM’s original formula. It’s genius.
Outside of the single-player, id has graciously provided even more content for players to delve into. Multiplayer harkens back to the days of classic DOOM multiplayer. No large maps and definitely no motion tracking; this is classic run and gun multiplayer. Soul Harvest is a kill-and-collect mode where players needs to collect the souls of players they killed in order to earn points and pick up ally souls to prevent the opposing team from scoring. Warpath is a chaotic King of the Hill mode with constantly moving points, the usual Team Deathmatch, and perhaps my personal favorite: Freeze Tag. Spending most of my multiplayer time on Freeze Tag, It is similar to Destiny’s Trials of Osiris where two teams of five face each other. Instead of getting killed you are frozen in place, and when one team is completely frozen the round is over. The twist being that your teammates can unfreeze you, giving teams a chance to make a comeback if most of your crew is frozen.
If that wasn’t enough for you, players can also go to DOOM’s most fleshed-out offering: SnapMap. In SnapMap players can play thousands of user-created maps and you too can create maps that place players in unique scenarios with different rules and objectives. You can make single-player experiences where players must traverse darkened room creeping with demons, or pit players against each other in a mutiplayer match in a map you created – If you can imagine it, you can make it. And if you’re having trouble, there is a quick walkthrough that teaches you how to use SnapMap as proficiently as possible.
Every level is widely varied, incredibly detailed, and is really fun to explore. In later levels, you are transported to the terrifying, bloody landscapes of Hell that really keep things interesting. There is one instance where you play the same level again, but it changes so much that it doesn’t even feel like retreading old ground. DOOM is a stellar looking game from star to finish, with some slight hiccups, like textures taking a bit to render or seeing the skybox freak out once. However, the game ran buttery smooth as the framerate stayed surprisingly consistent, even when facing larger and larger groups of demons – and that’s saying something for consoles.
There is no melodramatic story here, there isn’t some convoluted political power struggle between nations, or annoying teammates to talk your ear off with banter or their wife back home baking cookies or whatnot; you’re sole purpose is to wipe the demon horde off the face of Mars and do it as violently and as brutally as possible, and game is stunningly gruesome and visceral.