‘What’s old is new again.’
Doom may be the most fun I have had with a shooter in recent memory. It’s everything I wanted it to be, a non-stop, action-packed, metal-inducing ride from beginning to end. It’s hard to imagine how a 23 year-old franchise can remain relevant in this day and age, especially with shooters iterating ever-so-slightly year after year. Bethesda seems to know what they are doing, like their reboot of Wolfenstein under the development of Machine Games, Doom is re-invented in a way that feels like a call-back while also being a breath of fresh air for gamers.
The main story presented in Doom is simple. Stop the invasion of demons after a portal to hell has been opened on Mars. While the story is straight-forward, it’s a breath of fresh air in the wake of modern-day shooters that try to relate to real-world problems. Doom radiates with a vibe that just says ‘Have Fun.’ That same vibe doesn’t only stem from the story, it also comes from the gameplay. When the first Doom came out in 1993, it revolutionized the first-person shooter. Many gamers take for granted the blueprint from where our modern shooter mechanics come from. While the 1993 original changed how we see shooter’s, this reboot doesn’t need to be that…it just needs to be fun.
From beginning to end I was hooked by the addicting gameplay loop that was presented before me. First off, the constant, frenetic pace take’s some getting use to. Even though modern shooters are fairly fast-paced nowadays, the speed of movement in Doom feels like you are gliding around, almost as if you are skating. Games of late have the player take cover to regain health; Doom throw’s away that notion, telling the player the key to success is movement. The speed at which you move complements the arsenal of weapons you will find along your play-through. Like Wolfenstein: The New Order, Doom uses old-school, arcade mechanics such as health and armor pickup’s. Health can additionally be gained by performing Glory Kills-Glory Kills are executed with the simple press of a button-once activated a brutal death animation occurs killing the enemy and spilling out health packets like candy from a piñata. The same goes for ammo, though you can alternatively get ammo by using your chainsaw to kill enemies.
It wouldn’t be Doom without the big, over-the-top weapons the series is known for. Every weapon feels useful in enemy encounters; I constantly found myself using the game’s weapon wheel to switch between the one I wanted to use on a particular enemy. At the start of the game your simple pistol and shotgun will get the job done just fine, but as the game progresses further along, the battle arenas start becoming more complex. Bigger enemies start spawning in, making it tough to rely on just one weapon. Almost all of your weapons used in your arsenal can be upgraded by finding Field Drones. These drones have up to two mod options for the weapons displayed; these mods can be improved by earning points. Points are earned by finding collectables, secrets, and additional combat challenges.
Even with the extra accessories decked out on your weapons, battles can still be tough if not careful. Luckily there are certain power-ups found during these hellish (pun intended) encounters. These power-ups are named Quad Damage, Haste, Berserk, and Invulnerability. The player can do great damage, move faster, earn a one-hit kill, and become impossible to hit for a period of time; respectively. Power ups are not a gimmick, the frenetic, fast-paced combat can become overwhelming at certain points, and that little extra boost using power-ups help the player in the long-run. Another addition that adds help to the game are Runes. Runes are located throughout the game, once interacted with, the player has the option to try the rune challenge in front of them, or continue on with the story. There are twelve Rune challenges, each are timed and offer different objectives to achieve completion. Once earned you can choose to equip up to three Runes, each give you a different helping hand in combat. For example, I had two runes equipped for a good portion of the game, one helped me perform a Glory Kill at a longer range, the other Rune dropped armor packs along with health when I performed Glory Kills. Runes are not necessarily a requirement in order to complete the game, but it does add a bit more fun. Each Rune challenge, once found, can be played from the main menu, if you feel like taking on the challenge again.
One core element of Doom that makes combat encounters fun is the level design. Each area where fighting commences is thoughtfully laid out, providing much more freedom and verticality to play with, especially when the ability to double-jump comes in. Even for a game that never had a jump option in the original, it seems quite fitting here. Being able to climb over obstacles, and even use some platforming fits well in this game more than I previously thought. With the gameplay elements put in place, there is just one more element that adds to the overall insanity Doom has to offer; the music. In retrospect, Doom can be quite a fun game without music pulsing through the action. But there is something about Mick Gordon’s soundtrack that pumps me up every time. As soon as enemies show up on screen the soundtrack kicks in, consisting of musical genres such as metal and electronic. This type of music may not be for everyone, but it sure fits the overall tone and action of the story at hand.
Dooms campaign is fun in itself; so the addition of multiplayer would seem as an added bonus. The concept sounds fun in its own right; have fast-paced combat found in the core game and apply it to multiplayer. The problem with multiplayer is that it’s generic and uninspired. The game modes we all know and love are in here, such as Team Deathmatch and Domination, as well as Warpath which is a unique take on King of the Hill that involves a moving hill, as well as many others. These modes are entertaining, but the by-the-numbers safe design of the multiplayer component make for a frankly boring experience. For starters, Doom has a set of loadouts depending on which set-up you prefer. Each loadout is different ever-so-slightly, but I found myself sticking to the same particular loadout nine out of ten times because the other loudout’s couldn’t get the job done. There is a fun side to the multiplayer however, and that is in the form of power-ups found during matches. Power-up’s involve a pentagram that will randomly spawn, turning the player into one of four demons: the Prowler, the Revenant, the Mancubus, and the Baron of Hell. Once the player becomes the demon, all attention is directed at you, since the power-up makes you harder and tougher to kill.
I spent only a handful of hours playing my fare share of what Dooms multiplayer had to offer, and during those hours I took nothing away that made me appreciate it. Maybe it was the weak rewards I earned when leveling up-which consists of Hack Modules (variants that help assist the player’s performance)-or maybe its the host of multiplayer characters doing ‘The Carlton’ dance as an emote. Either way these additions to multiplayer feel out-of-place, and more like a testing ground to see what sticks; maybe for the new Quake? I’m sure the really devoted will get hours of enjoyment out of the multiplayer, especially with the endless possibilities of the SnapMap mode.
Combining fast gameplay and frantic action (all while running at a steady 60 frames per second), Doom lives up to the legacy that has been previously established by its predecessors. While the multiplayer may be generic and uninspired, the real strength stems from the solo campaign, which begs to be played again (try it on Ultra Nightmare for a real challenge). Doom isn’t only one of the most fun games I have played this year, its also one of the best games I’ve played in recent memory.
*originally written on June 24, 2016