id Software rips and tears apart any naysayers who might scoff about a soft reboot for “DOOM.” This is a game that races circles around modern FPSs while smashing rockets up their asses. The single player portion has hours of fun, tons of secrets, and hellish challenges. MP might be a bit wet-socked but it holds up well when coupled with a brilliant SnapMap feature that should funnel unique content for players of all skills and desires. The Nine Circles of Hell are grinning. “DOOM” is amazing!
Platform(s): PC, PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One
Release Date: May 13, 2016
Developer: id Software
The first moments of “DOOM” are pitch perfect. Awoken from a rune-sealed stone sarcophagus, the Space Marine breaks free from his chained prison, smashes an imp to bloody bits, recovers his emerald armor, then racks a shotgun shell. BOOM, Late title emblazons — DOOM. The next 10 to 14 hours are a blisteringly fast ride consisting of you and a horde of demonic targets begging to be torn asunder. HELL YEAH!!
id Software has done the impossible. I do not know what long dead gods they worship, nor what they sacrificed to do it but it is done. “DOOM” recalls a simpler age of shooters while adding just enough to modernize the franchise. Purists should not fret as “DOOM” remains a speedy race between collecting powerups and ripping through demons.
It may be reductive but this “DOOM” is basically the old “DOOM.” You are a vector of pure violence, single-minded in wanting the scourge of Hell stone dead. An endless swarm of snarling drooling demons stand between you… and more demons to rip and tear apart. You’ll shoot rockets, slugs, lasers, and fists at anything and everything who is stupid enough to get in your way all while dodging fireballs, hellish plasma beams, teeth and claws pausing only to wipe off the blood, flesh, and vomit caking your screen.
The controls are so silky that it feels almost too indulgent in how quickly you move about plowing through enemies. It’s balls-to-the-wall running. There’s no goddamned sprint button or any stamina bar. id has tweaked everything to feel just right. And boy does it. I do enjoy more “realistic” FPSs but nothing is quite as punchy and smooth and athletic as a proper “DOOM” game. Fairly early, you’ll get a double jump to help you vault over ledges and quickly climb around for better vantage points. If you’re used to slower paced games there might be a slight learning curve; veteran demon hunters will have a wave of nostalgia surge over their bodies and feel right at home.
I love how everyone refers the main character as “Doomguy,” because the real heroes are the weapons. The guns are a tether between you and the game. The sounds roaring out of the barrels as each new round is chambered compounded with the anguished groans of your defeated foes is a concert of pain. Shells and casings eject everywhere. Plasma bolts illuminate dark corridors. Rockets blaze in a volcano of fire. Each gun has a unique feel to them. The chaingun pelts demons with a storm of lead from a distance as the infamous super shotgun rips apart flesh if you prefer an upfront fight.
You can upgrade your weapons by uncovering little robot buddies that give you a modification. For instance, the pump shotty can launch out a grenade for the cost of a few more ammo points. Or you can blast out a shockwave damaging Hell beasts surrounding you by overheating your plasma rifle and pulling the left trigger. My favorite is probably the microrocket mod for the heavy machine gun — basically it loads up six rockets that you can stick into multiple enemies and then explodes after a few seconds. Super useful for dealing out retribution on the go. Furthermore, you can upgrade your mods and even your armor by performing various feats and challenges or discovering secrets. If you sniff out every corner and really rock unique kills you’ll become one tough son of a gun for later levels.
Big meaty guns blowing apart big dumb demons. So this all sounds great, right, but what’s new? Well this old hell-hound has learned a few new tricks. Glory Kills debut in all its gut-wrenching action. Essentially, enemies stagger after taking enough damage prompting you to literally punch holes into them for an instant kill. There’s plenty of variety depending on how you approach the kill. Weaken a foe then run behind it and you’ll kick in its knee and rip its head off. Or you can jump off a ledge for a curb stomp. The name really says it all as it’s glorious.
However, it’s more than just a slick kill. Glory Kills act as push-pull mechanic as each kill grants health pickups. It keeps you in the fight longer and allows you to think more tactically. Running low on health? Do you just shoot them dead and hope you can make it to that armor powerup or do you throw a haymaker into the next demon for some health? It might seem sacrilegious for purists but it makes for a more intense fight without being overly punishing. Don’t worry if you think it might be too easy, trust me, Ultra Violence mode will push your shit in.
It wouldn’t be “DOOM” without a bit of exploration. There are tons of secret on every map, many leading to upgrades while others are just to tickle your nostalgia bone. Every stage as a throwback to previous games in which you’ll unlock iconic levels in all their pixelated glory. Also hidden are little Doomguy toys reminiscent of those plastic blind-boxed collectible figurines which unlock hi-res models of guns and demons. Not super thrilling but pretty cool all the same. I mentioned challenges for each level. Basically, you’re tasked with something like kill such and such number of enemies with exploding barrels or kill a Baron of Hell with your pistol. Completing these grants more mod points to better your gear so you’d do best to try to complete them.
While my brethren who have high end PC rigs are flouting the graphics, “DOOM” is very much a visual force on consoles. I’ve been playing on PS4 (I know, blasphemy for this holiest of PC franchises) and id has performed some magic to keep the frames high while the action rises. Occasionally, you might see texture pop-in or maybe witness some post death twitching but if you’ve got the time to inspect every nagging seam or temporary blur, then you need to bump up the difficulty.
The visual stew is equal parts Slayer album cover and a too edgy 14-year-old’s devil inspired scribblings from inside his Sunday morning church bulletin (which later his parents find out and gives him a stern talkin’-to). id Soft divines the original haunting sprites from 1993 and fleshes them out on current tech. Demons range from wiry possessed humans with melted faces to the bloated and rotting Mancubus and floating mouthed flesh-ballooned Cacodemons. All rendered in glorious hi-res textures complete with slick animations that had me jumping out of my seat. It’s a true delight to soak in all the viscera as id makes the gore kinda beautiful — if you’re into that (protip: we are). Every level feels fresh and unique as you hoof it from tight corridors in science labs, to docking bays on the surface of Mars eventually teleporting through the mouth of madness that is Hell and beyond. “DOOM” is a visual feast in which you’ll gleefully gorge yourself.
There is a story and its campy take on overly serious reboots has just enough to keep you interested between each beat. In some ways it has a somewhat solemn tale of an ancient and vengeful demon slayer (that’s you) and how the demons fear him. There’s also a basic plot of how the hellish realms are being exploited for a powerful fuel that keeps future Earth and Mars running. It’s dumb and great. It’s just enough to give you a reason to fight beyond just wanting to waste a bunch of evil fuckers in the bloodiest way possible.
In a weird way you learn a lot about Doomguy through his actions alone. As a silent protagonist his main voice are his fists — and shotgun. He’s kind of a dick to the little mod-bots while he snags the weapon mod then punches our metal friend. He snaps off keycards or rips off hands from corpses as he needs their fingerprints for verification. Doomguy knows he’s a dick and doesn’t care. One cutscene early on has him kicking delicate and valuable machinery as the CEO of the company wails about it on the comm. It’s all very juvenile and dumb and perfect in the way “DOOM” encapsulates the raging testosterone of a jerk-ass teenage boy. I was there. I know.
Filling out the package are several multiplayer modes. Unfortunately, I cannot go too in depth with this as my connection hasn’t been exactly friendly with me lately. The few games I did play were a blast and I might get back into it when I figure out what’s up with my router. There’s Team Deathmatch, Domination (I don’t remember what it was called but it’s the one where you capture points and hold them) and a Domination mode that has a single point to capture that travels along a path in which your team must guide it to the enemies’ base while preventing them from doing the same.
It’s all pretty straightforward as MP goes, yet strays a bit away from the distilled mayhem that was the original multiplayer shooter. You have a loadout, gain levels as you play, and unlock new equipment and customizable outfits. It’s neat and works but lacks some of the punch the campaign has. Perhaps the most awesome feature is the ability to transmorph into a demon by nabbing a powerup. You’ll truly feel the terrifying power of Hell as you rend the opposing team to chunky bits. It’s fairly fun but I’m not completely sold on it.
The coolest new thing is SnapMap — a kind of Satanic “Minecraft” of sorts. I want to dive more into it as it’s a robust platform for creating all sorts of interesting and unique content. Already there’s a bunch of neat permutations of the code that makes up the basic game. Users have figured out how to recreate classic maps, create weird challenges, shooting ranges, and more. If id and Bethesda competently promote SnapMap or highlight excellent creators I’ll be very interested in seeing where it’ll lead future content. I was a bit disappointed when “DOOM”‘s season pass was just more multiplayer maps. I’m still hoping they’ll announce more single player DLC later but for now I’ll rely on the millions of users to flesh out “DOOM” and give it some legs.
How is it that a near-perfect new “DOOM” game has been released in 2016? It boggles the mind. By all accounts it would seem impossible and I’ve not ruled out that I’m living in some alternate dimension after having eat all those expired cans of tomato soup. id rips and tears apart any naysayers who might scoff about a soft reboot for “DOOM.” This is a game that races circles around modern FPSs while smashing rockets up their asses. The single player portion has hours of fun, tons of secrets, and hellish challenges. MP might be a bit wet-socked but it holds up well when coupled with a brilliant SnapMap feature that should funnel unique content for players of all skills and desires. The Nine Circles of Hell are grinning. “DOOM” is amazing!