Modern shooters have given us many things- regenerating health, plenty of ammo dumps to refill our supplies, plenty of cover, and, if we’re very lucky, we also get a few decent characters and, at the very least, a serviceable story. Shooters have come a long way from dreary corridors to maneuver to open areas and big set pieces. It’s been 23 years since DOOM first appeared on the scene in 1993, introducing us to a chaotic stew of blood, bullets, and demons. And now, in 2016, id software and Bethesda have teamed up to bring us the latest incarnation of mayhem to the current gen of consoles and the PC. Simply titled DOOM, the game bursts forth onto a modern landscape as a notable throwback to an earlier time, even with a few modern concessions like a leveling system being made. But how does DOOM hold up in this modern era?
Quite simply, it holds up very well indeed.
The story for DOOM hasn’t changed much since its inception. A portal to Hell has opened up, allowing demons to infiltrate our universe. You play a no name, mute character, whose sole reason for being is to kill demons. For those who pay attention and read the entries into your Codex, there is a slightly deeper story here. The Union Aerospace Corporation has established an outpost on Mars, and those who run the facility developed the crazy idea of taking Hell’s energy for our own use. Naturally things go awry, and demons invade the outpost, dispatching most everyone into bloody chunks. You have survived, and with a nice, varied arsenal that comes to be at your disposal, you begin shooting everything demonic in sight. Along the way the robotic Dr. Samuel Hayden tasks you with thwarting the plans of Olivia Pearce, who wishes to unleash hordes of demon armies upon our universe. Of course, much blood and gore follow.
And that’s really all there is to know. DOOM doesn’t want to waste time with character set up or backstory. There are no sudden twists to be revealed. There is only bullets and blood, and both are in abundance across the campaign’s 13 missions and prologue. Traversing the corridors of the UAC station and the paths in Hell can take you anywhere from 8-15 hours, depending on your skill level and desire for exploration. Exploring all the nooks an crannies pays off, with secret areas full of extra supplies and items to level you and your weapons up along with collectibles and some classic Doom maps. Most of these areas require a bit of first person platforming to get to, and despite that being merely serviceable (some bad camera angles can make those jumps harder than they really are) it’s often well worth your while to do so. Leveling up can mean the difference between life or death, especially when confronting the larger, more powerful demons.
DOOM starts things off simply, with slow moving, shambling zombie types, moving on to the swift, fireball hurling Imps, and then introducing bigger and badder demons that hit harder and come in greater numbers. Checkpoints are fairly well spaced, so dying will never set you back too far. The checkpoints even extend to two of the game’s three boss fights, as the first two bosses have two stages. Oddly enough, DOOM seemed to work in reverse, with the first boss being the toughest and the final boss being the easiest. Not that the final boss is a cakewalk, even on easy (called here “I’m Too Young to Die”). Being in constant motion is the key, as staying still to line up a shot will get you hammered and quickly dead. Learning weak points and landing your shots is key, and you’ll need to keep an eye on your health and ammo, as both are in short supply in the boss arenas. You need to make decisions quickly and on the fly, as bringing up your weapon wheel doesn’t halt the game, just merely puts it into slow motion. Take too long picking a weapon and you could end up taking a lot of damage.
There are eight weapons for you to choose from, ranging from a pistol up to a rocket launcher. The pistol is all but useless after the first couple of levels as it won’t make a dent in the stronger demons. You have two shotguns, your normal type and a gleaming double barrel super shotgun that packs a hefty punch. The rocket launcher feels weak by comparison, taking multiple shots to take down the larger demons. All weapons can be upgraded, provided your first find a drone to enable you to pick a module. Your Praetor suit can also be upgraded to make you more proficient in weapon handling, finding items, or surviving environmental hazards. other items can increase your level of health, armor, and your amount of ammo you can carry.
In addition to your gun and fists, you get a chainsaw, which is mapped to a face button (Square/X). Fuel for the chainsaw isn’t plentiful, but using it at the right time on an enemy rewards you with plenty of ammunition. The BFG-9000 (mapped to the Triangle/Y button) also makes a return from earlier games, and can clear a room for you with a single shot. To keep this gun from making life too easy, ammo is in an even shorter supply than fuel for the chainsaw, so you’ll need to choose wisely when and where to use it. Pickups for health, armor, and ammo are littered about the levels, but with many demons being bullet sponges you can exhaust your supply quickly. Staggering an enemy to make them glow blue and orange allows you to make a Glory Kill, a brutal melee attack that rewards you with health and ammo. Glory Kills have varied animations depending on your angle of attack, and slow things down to a slow motion crawl as your eviscerate your foe. Once the animation is finished, combat returns to its standard frantic pace, and you need to move quickly, as savoring a kill could easily backfire.
Boss fights, though there are only three, will keep you moving and may also prove frustrating as attacks can come fast and furious, barely giving you time to catch your breath. There are no health or ammo pickups in the boss arenas, any extra need to be gotten by damaging the boss sufficiently enough. The first two bosses come in two stages, and thankfully there is a checkpoint between them, so you won’t be forced to fight both stages should you fall in the second one. The bosses do have their patterns, but you need to be careful, because if you get too close they will change things up and you can easily be caught by surprise. The final boss fight leads to the game’s ending and delightfully entertaining credits sequence. The ending certainly leaves things open if the game does well enough to warrant continuing the franchise.
Once the single player campaign ends, you have a couple of options to keep the fun going. Playing through the campaign again on harder difficulties (including Ultra Nightmare, where you have only one life) will keep completionists busy, as will finding all the secret areas and collectibles. Other options include Multiplayer and SnapMap.
The multiplayer is fast and frantic, offering a few familiar modes like Team Deathmatch and Domination. Certain power ups will allow you to play as a demon for a short time, giving you a new way to destroy the opposing team. There really isn’t much in the way of new or innovative offered here, though what is here is competent and nicely done. Some will try out the multiplayer and play it only for a short time, while others will love the fast pace. Your skill level will most likely be the determining factor in how much you enjoy this mode. Getting into a match can be iffy depending on when you want to play. I waited 20 minutes to get into a match with no avail at one time, at another I was thrown in quickly. You can customize your weapon and armor in the multiplayer to make your Doomguy stand out from the crowd, with points being awarded as to how well you do in a match. It’s fun, but ultimately wore a little thin for me. Others will devote many hours to laying waste other players.
More interesting is the SnapMap, a level editor that allows you to create your own maps as well as play others created by the community. The feature has a great tutorial to walk you through setting up levels, adding enemies and power ups, and setting conditions for victory. There’s plenty here to indulge your creative side, and you can play your own levels as well as publish them for others to try out. Players can rate each other’s creations, and maps can be set for solo, co-op, or multiplayer. There’s already a nice amount of community content to dive into, and that’s sure to grow as time goes on.
For the most part DOOM is an entertaining experience, but a few missteps hold it back. While the series has never been about story, it’s now 2016, and story has become an integral part in gaming. For fans, the lack of story won’t matter too much. After all, they come to slay demons, and there is plenty of that to be had. For others this may pose an issue, as there is little to motivate you in your demon killing, save for the fact that they’re trying to kill you. Platforming sections at times go on too long and feel somewhat shoehorned in, as the mechanics to pull them off feel awkward. Poor camera angles in some spots can lead to cheap deaths or needlessly retrying an area. The camera can also trip you up during combat, especially if backed into a corner. Also the color of the demons can blend in with the background in a couple of spots, making them difficult to pick up, especially as the screen gets tinged red when your health gets low. Control inputs can also get a slight lag at times. The game does run smoothly, and I encountered no slowdown in frame rates on the PS4. The voice acting is serviceable but typical, and the script, such as it is, is nothing to write home about. The multiplayer, while fun and competently made, is run of the mill and lacks any real innovation. Load times can also be an issue at times, especially if a section is giving you a hard time. There’s nothing here that will completely ruin the experience, but it does hold the game back from being better than it is.
That said, this is still a very solid game, and the bullets and blood equals barrels of fun as you shoot and slice your way through the demon hordes. Glory Kills provoke a grin each time, and triumphing over the bosses gives a feeling of satisfaction, even as the fight itself may prove frustrating. There’s fun to be had, even if just for a short while, in the multiplayer, and the heavy metal soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment to the mayhem. The SnapMap will add hours of gameplay on its own as you tackle other player creations while indulging your own creative side. All in all, it’s a game that is worth your time and money, and fans of the series should be well pleased alongside newcomers. Multiple difficulty levels accommodate players of all skill levels, though know that even on the easiest mode this game is no cakewalk. It is fun and satisfying, and for those looking to scratch that demon killing itch, this is just the ticket.
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