Review: DOOM is a troped out blast from the past in all the right ways
The best shooter of 2016 to date has just arrived
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Xbox One
Publishers: Bethesda Softworks, ZeniMax Media
Developers: iD Software, Certain Affinity
DOOM is the epitome of what shooters used to look like in the 1990’s. Before the spectacle of Modern Warfare, there was the controlled and bloody chaos of shooters like Wolfenstein, DOOM and Quake. These games were far more cerebral than they appeared on the surface. Sure, all of them pretty much boiled down to shooting stuff in the face until it died; but the carefully timed movement and flow of the combat kept you constantly engaged and on your toes. A split second of lost concentration and you were done.
There has been a prominent fear in the gaming community that DOOM is simply a Call of Duty clone with a different coat of paint, especially emanating from the PC crowd in the wake of the game’s Open Beta. While there were some legitimate concerns, I can safely say that the Multiplayer Mode is not the best reflection of what DOOM has to offer you.
Single Player is King:
That honor goes to the game’s stellar campaign mode that will make fans both old and new rejoice at something legitimately new to the modern market. DOOM’s take on the modern FPS combines the best of old and new school and relies solely on the skill of the player to bring you as bloody and satisfying a shooter you’re likely to find anywhere. Battles are constant and deceivingly thoughtful affairs as you navigate the space around you while dodging a plethora of different enemy attacks from melee charges to fireballs and lasers all while managing your health, armor and ammunition.
The game rewards careful aggression through the use of a system called Glory Kills. Glory Kills initially appeared to be little more than tacked on animations, but that could not be further from the truth. They are arguably the biggest reason why the campaign works so well. In DOOM, you can expect to take a lot of damage, and as such the game compensates by creating skillful opportunities to gain it back just as quickly.
There is no such thing as wasteful fodder:
Every enemy type serves a gameplay purpose from the hulking horned behemoths to the lethargic, zombie-like walkers. Each enemy has its own unique strategy to take down, and a big part of that revolves around changing weapons to match the enemy type. This keeps pretty much every weapon from becoming irrelevant (save for the Pistol).
During some of the late game battles, you will come to find the lesser enemies to be a welcome reprieve rather than an annoyance. Given that your health and armor will be in a constant state of flux, strategically Glory Killing lesser foes for health boosts becomes a recurring theme during hectic battle scenarios. This ends up making health boosts feel a great deal more rewarding than simply finding them scattered on the ground.
Story? Who plays DOOM for story?
Technically, DOOM does employ a narrative, but in my opinion I never really cared to give it much attention. It’s not that it was terrible, DOOM just prefers to do most of its talking with its chaotic battle sequences, that when things do settle down, it was more of a mental cooldown for me after being so locked in that I was too busy reflecting on the action that had just occurred.
You’re probably just going to find yourself following way points rather than thinking about how vital it is to reach the Vega lab, and that’s not a bad thing.
Multiplayer is functional, but fails to really take off:
It’s kind of odd when you first see how stark a difference there is between the quality of the multiplayer and single player. It just doesn’t feel like quite the same game, and you won’t know why. But after a while, it starts to make sense.
DOOM is all about empowering the player by providing a tool to get out of every conceivable situation in the campaign mode. It’s impossible to empower 10 different players in the same way at once within the space provided without the whole thing devolving into a hot mess. Your tool set in the multiplayer mode is (understandably) more limited as you are forced to pick from a customized loadout rather than have everything on you at once.
The stripped down tool set at your disposal ultimately makes the multiplayer feel watered down and a bit tacked on. I can’t help but feel like the game would have been better suited to just copy the formula from the old school Halo games and make it about forcing players to remember where each gun on the map is located.
If you are a shooter fan, you owe it to yourself to play DOOM, just for the campaign alone. The game is a master class in how you design a level; not in how it looks like, but how it functions. Every single level in the campaign is designed in a way that promotes that 6th sense of movement where you may not always be consciously looking where you are going, but you can feel it.
The game is all about momentum and successfully maintains it on what is a surprisingly meaty (roughly) 12 hour campaign mode. Although the multiplayer may have its shortcomings, it can still be a good time if you hop on with a group of friends. If the game’s Snap Map feature really takes off, DOOM is going to have plenty of player driven content for years to come.