Nearly 12 years out from Doom 3, the next Doom game is finally here, simply and annoyingly titled “Doom.” I hate when they do that. So how does this 2016 version of Doom stack up with a new development team at id Software leading the charge? Well, what I was looking for was a game that made use of each of the components that make Doom “Doom.” For me, those components are a combination of controls, level design, pacing, weapons and atmosphere. I’m using the original Doom as my benchmark here because while you could treat this as a sequel to Doom 3, it’s also not, seeing as it’s a series reboot and the entire gameplay philosophy of that game has been thrown out a pressurized Mars window. So, if you’re expecting another slower-moving, flashlight-wielding monster closet horror experience ala Doom 3, then this new one will not be cutting any mustard or any other condiments for that matter.
And that’s fine with me because while I did enjoy Doom 3 for what it was, it did not hold up as a Doom game, personally. It got the horror aspect of Doom down pat, and the tech was downright amazing at the time, but it completely ignored the over-the-top, fast-paced, metal-head aspect, and I missed that. This new one, though Contrary to its cliched dude-bro cover art, it rightfully earns the moniker of “Doom.” At least if we’re talking about single-player, and let’s go ahead and do that, because right off the bat, the single-player mode tosses you straight into the line of fire, handing you a gun and a suit of armor. And not just any suit.
It’s the Praetor Suit, which combines the look of the old Doom Guy’s outfit with this new game’s sci-fi sensibilities. Like so many things in the game, this suit signifies what id Software is trying to pull off here. A heavy wink and a nod to the ’90s with a firm footing in the modern day to move forward and I am So happy to say they succeeded because the single-player for Doom is probably the best first-person shooter campaign I’ve played since Wolfenstein: The New Order, another id Software reboot from Machine Games in 2014. But even more so than The New Order, Doom doesn’t reinvent itself too much, and instead goes for an approach that I like to describe as “Zeitgeist Doom.” That is, it’s Doom as seen through the eyes of the current sphere of popular culture.
You know the culture that makes fun of the Doom comic book, has seen Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wield a BFG, and over every new incremental release of the Brutal Doom mod. Doom 2016 is a game for the people that have watched dozens of videos about Doom, yet maybe never played it for themselves. And yet, it’s also good for those of us that grew up with the original, kept up with the modding scene for decades, treat our original Doom floppy disks with more respect than our fellow humans, and are getting bored of many modern first-person shooter tropes. It balances itself in this cozy spot that pits the fondest of rose-tinted nostalgia and the height of contemporary gaming tastes against each other.
And instead of fighting it out for dominance, they hold hands and waltz off to kill some of Hell’s minions together. Let’s dive into the gameplay proper and take a look at my key components of Doom again, starting with controls. I played through Doom on the PC, so I can’t speak for how it plays on consoles, but as far as keyboard and mouse input goes, Doom is spot on.
Doom Guy may not move as quickly as he did in the original Doom, but it’s a hell of a lot faster than I expected it to be. In a landscape of first-person shooters where you control a huge dude that feels like a walking M1 Abrams, the speed and agility you wield in Doom is shocking at first. I’ve genuinely missed running around at 90 miles an hour while jumping over obstacles like a ring-tailed lemur on a cocktail of performance enhancing drugs that would make a Major League Baseball player blush. And it isn’t so much that you feel like you’re out of control, it’s quite the contrary.
Circle strafing, jump dodging and clamoring up and down ledges become second nature in a hurry, which is fortunate because the level design requires a surprising amount of nimbleness. Not only do they sprawl out and twist around in a manner that conjures up the bones of ’90s first-person shooters of yore, but most of them feature a remarkable amount of verticality. I’m not always a fan of platforming in first-person games, but when it’s pulled off this effortlessly, and balanced with the rest of the gameplay so well, then put me down as a fan right now, at least for this game!
I loved grappling my way up to the top of industrial complexes and winding my way into the bowels of some hellish cavern, especially because there are a swath of secrets and Easter eggs to find. There are also areas where you activate a demon heart thing and you’ll be locked in a room while hoards of enemies come for you at once. And seeing as there’s usually a Berzerk mode powerup nearby or even something borrowed from Quake, like Quad Damage or Haste Mode. These areas stayed fresh and continued to fulfill the old dopamine producer. However, a big change here is that most of the time you’re not just running into random demons along your path to the next key card. Instead, you often enter an empty room, the doors lock behind you, and a ton of enemies will spawn in over the next couple of minutes in waves. This becomes too predictable a few hours in, and is one of my chief complaints about the game’s pacing and level design. It feels more akin to games like Painkiller or Serious Sam, which, I love those games.
And seeing as they’re both obviously imitating the original Doom games, it makes sense that this new one would seem a bit similar. I just wish there more levels where the demons were already there and you had more freedom to explore as you pleased instead of seeing so many obvious trap rooms ahead of you. It did not make me enjoy it any less because, like I said, I do like that style of gameplay, it’s a bit different than what I expected. But still, you do get that awesome end-of-the-level thing where you’re provided with that familiar stats screen, telling you what you found. What you killed and what can improve on next time you play it. Beyond finding more secrets, what you can improve largely depends on your enemies, which falls right into the overall pacing of Doom.
We’ve established that it moved pretty quickly, but it’s also full of incentives that push you to do more than just run and shoot. For one thing, there are these glory kills, which are gratuitous finishing moves ripped from the Doom comic and Brutal Doom in equal measure. And while they’re fun to pull off at first, it started to get a bit draining before long simply because it breaks up the flow of the combat. Once you reach a point of no return a few levels in and the game starts throwing legions of demons at you at once, these finishing moves become crucial to survival. Ripping and tearing huge guts not only gives you health, which is useful because it does not regenerate and health packs show up only so often, but they also help you work your way towards points to upgrade your abilities and weapons. Your suit can also be upgraded by finding chips embedded on your fallen comrades, which add abilities for finding more secrets, staving off certain attacks, and other specific tasks.
And finally, your overall stats can be upgraded by finding this Argent Cell. things, which contain, I don’t know, hell fuel or something. I’m of two minds with all of this upgrading stuff because it kind of feels out of place in a Doom game. Just because Doom 1 and 2 were such straightforward simple-to-understand games that it seems ridiculous to add so much upgrading and skill point fluff. I mean, isn’t Doom Guy enough of a badass that he doesn’t need a bunch of light RPG mechanics to keep him alive? On the other hand, an area where I’m not so divided on the upgrade system is the weapons. Each weapon has a selection of alternate fire modes once you unlock them, and these modes can be upgraded even further to turn the basic guns into something absurd. Shotguns with explosive launchers, assault rifles with micro missiles, plasma rifles with stun bombs, rocket launchers with lock-on burst firing, chain guns with mobile turrets, and so on.
Even without the copious bolt-on firing modes, each weapon feels as solid to use as it did in the original Doom. Even more so in some cases with the exception of the pistol, though. That thing is just stupid but the rest of them it’s a canned animation and it uses up fuel now, but this makes it a much more calculated move to use it, instead of just rubbing your nads all up in a monster and hoping for the best. And finally, there’s the atmosphere of the game, which well it’s pretty Doom-like, but it’s missing something for me. It’s got all the spaceports and hellscapes and lava cities that I hoped for, that much is true, and graphically, Doom looks incredible, making full use of the sixth id Tech engine. It looks great, runs great on PC and didn’t give me any problems with crashing or anything, but the environments are also not as vibrant or surreal as I’d hoped for.
And it never went to a place of pure horror, instilled a sense of dread, or even made me think, maybe I should think twice about going into that dark hallway.” Instead, I was like Doom 2016 is all about adolescent wish fulfillment, a power fantasy as old as time. It revels in tearing through a crapload of ugly demons and making your guns absolutely overpowered, all while blaring a soundtrack that can morph into a cacophony of chaotic noise.
All right don’t get me wrong Mick Gordon did an excellent job blending giant metal and glitch electronica here, but it also gets so overwhelming sometimes that it can act as audible coarse grit sandpaper, dulling the senses down by just ripping into them. The whole game does this, really. It’s a non-stop gut punch of metal-driven insanity so much so that I had to put it down occasionally because it was just too much all in one sitting. Speaking of which, there’s also the story, which ironically is also too much because of how threadbare it is. It’s the same basic story we’ve heard in pretty much all the Doom games. The Union Aerospace Corporation has opened a portal to Hell and it’s up to you to put an end to it however you can which is usually with guns except this time, it’s Ultron telling you what to do. But know this we exploited Hell and its resources because it was in mankind’s best interest to do so. It’s so trite that Doom Guy often smashes apart the computer consoles telling him what’s going on. Which I mean he’s got the right idea so props to him, Lame storylines in Doom make people angry so just get through the plot points you have to and get to killing more demons for the 8 or 9 hours the campaign lasts and call it a day.
Unless you want to dive into the multiplayer but prepare to take things down a notch. For all the things that the single-player does right, there are two or three that the multiplayer does wrong, or at least rubs me the wrong way. To give you an idea of what to expect, this is another one of those cases where the multiplayer was outsourced, this time being developed in conjunction with Certain Affinity. This is the same development group that most recently did the multiplayer for Call of Duty: Ghosts and the Halo: Master Chief Collection, which is a sign of things to come indeed.
I played the closed alpha, the open beta and now the full game and I haven’t enjoyed it in any incarnation. A few things bother me right off the bat. There’s a two-weapon limit with the obligatory load-out system they put into place, the pacing and overall action feels slower than it should for Doom, and the progression and customization feels shallow, predictable and rather pointless. Granted, there’s stuff to enjoy too, like the design of several levels that I find to be really fun. Freeze Tag mode is a nice twist on team death match and getting the demon rune is neat the first couple times you get it but I don’t know. In a world of a thousand other shooters that do each of these things better I can’t be bothered with this. And compared to Doom’s phenomenal single-player, the multiplayer is forgettable and engaging. And I don’t really have anything more to say on that, not exactly because there’s also Snapmap, which is Doom’s in-game editor.
It allows you to take a bunch of pre-made assets, snap them into a map and alter their properties to create anything from new single-player levels to new multiplayer modes. It’s pretty easy to use and seems like it’ll open up some fun possibilities, but as of yet, I haven’t seen anything made with it that really gets me going. I’m sure it’s great to have on consoles where modding is less common but on PC it just seems like a stopgap for true custom content. Last I heard, though, there will be no officially- supported modding of the game outside of Snapmap, so that’s a bummer. Still, this mode shows potential and I do look forward to seeing what a bit of creativity can do later on.
So final Doom the verdict on this Doom, not Final Doom, that’s another game anyway is that Snapmap is promising multiplayer is forgettable but the single-player is bloody fantastic! And if you’re like me and have been craving a good sci-fi campaign to play through then this is a solid choice I wouldn’t blame you if you felt the need to wait for a discount on the $60 price tag or more. Depending on the version you get due to its being a lacking thing in a few areas, but you know, discount or not, I would absolutely recommend it for the campaign experience alone. It’s a premium flavor of silly fun, paired with worthwhile gameplay that only comes along every so often these days, which makes this new Doom an event worth savoring.
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