I can’t stop thinking about DOOM. Not the originals, the new one. ID’s reboot of the legendary granddaddy of the FPS genre is unquestionably my favourite game of the year so far. If you’d have told me it was going to be this good, I’d have called you stupid. Looking back at the first gameplay we saw during Bethesda’s E3 Conference in 2015, it didn’t look good. It was grey, a little slow and altogether a little boring to watch; it really didn’t do the actual game any justice. Then Bethesda decided to hold back review copies till launch day. Mixed with the negative reaction to the multiplayer beta, and it looked real bad for DOOM.
RIP AND TEAR
So imagine my surprise when I found myself gleefully smiling as I violently slaughtered the minions of hell with my bare fists. I’d walk out of huge gunfights with demons thinking to myself: “Man, that was awesome.” DOOM flies out of the gate and never slows down. The opening moments of the campaign involve the silent protagonist known as the “Doom Marine” easily breaking free of steel chains and killing several demons in the room. Then he finds his armour, ignores the first person that tries to make contact with him and moves on his merry way towards ending the demonic invasion.
This is one of the things I love most about DOOM. The story is simple: demons have invaded the UAC base on Mars, and you’re the only guy who can stop them. DOOM doesn’t waste time of the little details. It doesn’t try to beat you over the head with storytelling. The brief moments of rest are just that, brief — they only exist to make sure you know what your next step is.
The story takes a backseat to the real star of this game: the violence. Demons are everywhere, and they’re angry. They want to rip you limb from limb, the only problem with that? Your claws are sharper. DOOM kicks it old-school with good old fashioned kill rooms. Demons are furious and come in many different forms. Possessed are simple zombie like foes, imps still throw hot balls of fire at you, pinkies run fast and hit hard. If you know DOOM, it’s almost exactly like you remember it.
One of the biggest surprises of the game is the player character himself. The DOOM Marine is a man of few words. OK, no words. He says nothing, but actions speak louder than words. Yet his personality is clear. He’s a violent man, filled with rage and anger. He’s the kind of guy who when instructed to carefully remove an expensive piece of technology, he repeatedly kicks it instead. He’s the kind of guy with the technical know-how that means he can knock a demon to the floor, then snap his leg, twist it and make a demon curb-stomp itself. He’s the only guy violent and angry enough to end this invasion.
Going Old School
DOOM‘s biggest strength is its commitment. They took everything that the original did and figured out how to make it work in present day gaming. The range of weapons return, the high speed and hordes of demons around every corner. It all still holds up, but it’s augmented by the new supporting tools, double jumping, and glory kills. It really commits, though; no reloading or regenerating health in sight.
DOOM‘s all about relentless, chaotic combat. Health regeneration and reloading would break the endless momentum of combat. So how do you keep up that fast-paced nature? Glory kills. That’s how. Those brief but brutal melee takedowns will cause enemies to drop health. Meanwhile, the chainsaw runs off of fuel but also releases a golden shower of ammunition and body parts upon use. These two mechanics are what keeps you fighting. Running low on health? Go punch a demon in the face. Running low on ammo? Go cut something in half for more. DOOM is a really stupid game, but that’s part of the charm, it feels like this game rarely takes itself seriously because it’s too busy letting you rip the horn off a demon and slap them in the face with the wet sloppy end of it.
The old-school design isn’t just in the combat. The map design is anything but straightforward, the levels big, open and varied. This is where a real keen eye can prove rewarding. Each map is littered with collectables, little Doomguy dolls that unlock character model showcases, energy cells that boost health, armour and ammo values, weapon drones that provide new attachments for weapons and amour upgrades that unlock passive upgrades. Making collectables more useful makes them more rewarding to collect as well.
What rounds off a truly strong campaign is the pacing. There’s a huge variety of enemies and the weapons with which you can destroy them. It’d be easy to overwhelm the player with all these toys, but DOOM carefully introduces each weapon, mechanic and enemy in a way that gives you plenty of time to understand it.
To hell and back again
I don’t think too highly of DOOM‘s multiplayer or Snapmap features, but the campaign is the best FPS campaign I’ve played in years. Better than Wolfenstein, maybe on the same level as the critically under-appreciated Bulletstorm.
DOOM is a big, violent, demon slaughter-fest. One that I can’t stop thinking about. RIP. AND. TEAR.