Doom Review

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Posted May 24, 2016 by Roshan Krishnan in Video Games

Developed by: id Software

Published by: Bethesda Softworks

Available for: PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

In many ways, Doom is like a teenager; it’s aloof, seems to like metal a lot, and acts like it just doesn’t care about anything. Doom is a love letter to old-school shooters and in that sense, it is a triumphant return for the series. While the game has its fair share of faults, Doom is really, at the end of the day, a great shooter.

You are thrust in the role of the protagonist, Doomguy, a Union Aerospace Corporation marine who awakens to an invasion of demonic forces from hell. Wasting no time, you immediately get to work dismantling the invasion of Mars. From the beginning, it is clear that Doom is an extremely atmospheric game. The klaxons in the UAC’s Mars facility shriek in the distance, while ventilation fans make the lights flicker. Corpses strewn over the facility increase the level of dread in the player. When the demons of hell appear, they make truly unearthly noises and unsettle the player, while angsty metal, that’s either amazing or awful (probably both), plays in the background. The environmental clues and recordings over the facilities also try their best to weird out the player.

Maybe this isn't a good time...

Maybe this isn’t a good time…

Even though everything in Doom tries to make you anxious, playing as Doomguy makes you feel in control. He is utterly unfazed by the hordes of demons and punches his way through the entirety of the campaign. The notion of control is conveyed primarily through the incredibly responsive controls. The speed of classic shooters like Quake and the original Doom translates well into its modern counterpart, even though speed is never compromised for stability. Doomguy has an aura of urgency around him that exists beyond movement as well; the introduction of glory kills – quick executions of stunned enemies – speeds up combat even more.

Doom never feels like a twitchy shoot-em up because of these glory kills. As they result in health and ammo drops, they force players to play strategically. These pickups are vital for survival as they are scarce. Doom also ditches regenerating health in the spirit of old-school shooters, making the glory kills all the more important. Glory kills seem spiritually similar to Mortal Kombat’s x-ray moves in that they are incredibly satisfying to watch and never really seem gimmicky.

Hey buddy….let me help you up

Gameplay is shaped, for the most part, by the glory kills and the gunplay. The latter is incredibly polished and is one of the game’s biggest strengths. As a shooter, Doom hits it out of the park. Your arsenal of weapons is varied to make each horde of demons feel a little different. Every shot feels satisfying, whether it comes from an assault rifle that fires rapidly or a Gauss rifle which is a much slower weapon. The game gives you two shotguns, two assault rifles, a rocket launcher, a cannon-esque rifle, a pistol, and a minigun, on top of a chainsaw and the BFG-9000. The pistol is the most disappointing of these as it is never used after you get another weapon early in the game. The other weapons all seem to have their own voice, partly because of their upgradability. The assault rifle can be upgraded to add a scope, which turns it into a pseudo-sniper rifle, especially if you choose other upgrades that increase headshot damage. The other upgrade tree for the assault rifle gives it mini-missiles that make it a very different kind of weapon. In this way, a weapon can feel quite personal based on the types of upgrades that you choose. The chainsaw is an interesting resource management tool rolled into a weapon as killing enemies with it drops a cornucopia of loot. Because of its limited fuel capability, the chainsaw sometimes only takes care of one demon before becoming useless in combat. The BFG-9000 is what it should be – a devastating instant win weapon that kills everything in your path. It also has limited ammo, so don’t expect to pull it out every time you face some demons.

Chain-saw that coming?

Who chain-saw that coming?

Many of these weapons share ammo types, meaning that there is another layer of resource management every time you fire a weapon. The Gauss rifle is powerful, but uses a significant chunk of your plasma ammo, which means that you might just be stuck with low ammo when you want to use the plasma rifle. The super shotgun is powerful at close ranges, but is near useless at anything beyond that, while the combat shotgun fires faster and could have explosive ammo that makes it better at medium ranges. These interactions made some harder stages a lot more challenging as I was forced to constantly switch between weapons to survive.

These stages are fortunately designed as microcosms of hell which seems more in line with OG Doom. Clearing a room and moving on to the next one conveys a sense of progression that feels very satisfying, especially when you’re upgrading weapons in between these rooms. It also means that you enter each room with full health and a bag full of ammo. These rooms also help set the pace for the game as they switch from giant chambers with verticality and tunnels to dark, enclosed, claustrophobic rooms.

doom2

This stage has multiple levels and THE FLOOR IS LAVA

The only part of gameplay that left me with a sour taste in my mouth was the weird platforming that took place in the downtime between these rooms. Considering how fast Doomguy moves, platforming becomes tedious very quickly. It also seems out of place in the game as it doesn’t have the levels of polish that most of the other parts of the game do. The most annoying part of the platforming is that it is often the way to reach the game’s secrets. I will say that the platforms in certain stages often leads to ammo or health packs, which are often the difference between life and death.

Interestingly, Doom’s best kept secret is perhaps the plethora of secrets in every level. There are multiple types of collectibles in each level, some of which upgrade aspects of your character. My favorite type of collectible was the hidden weapon; most of the weapons that you eventually obtain can be found in a secret location in a previous level. There are also runes that provide buffs to your characters like a speed buff that makes you zip through stages even faster. Similarly, there are upgrades to health, armor, ammo capacity, your combat suit, which give the player the opportunity to craft their own playstyle.

doom4

While I emphasize the level of control in combat and movement, it is restricted to the mouse and keyboard. I tried playing the game with an Xbox controller and the game immediately felt very different; I no longer felt in control, the speed made me a tad nauseous, the shooting no longer felt as fluid, and my playstyle was significantly different. I don’t use controllers for shooters often so I am sure that people would disagree about playing the game without a controller. The bottom line is that I would recommend playing the game with a mouse and a keyboard in order to fully appreciate gameplay.

In terms of performance, the game is great for the most part. There are no framerate issues or overly long loading times. During combat though, there were many times when I encountered clipping issues that would force me to reload a level. This would get annoying especially if I didn’t hit a checkpoint as I would lose a significant chunk of progress. At the highest graphical settings, the game looks incredible. Every texture looks like it has been rendered painstakingly as Doom tries to convey the classic horror movie look. The demons from the classic Doom that looked like pixelated jpegs now ooze horror from every polygon in their weird bodies – something that is also accentuated by their grunts.

The single player campaign is only one of three pillars that make up Doom, though it was definitely the most enjoyable. Doom also features a multiplayer mode that I spent a few hours playing, both in the beta and in the finished game. The multiplayer mode does carry over some strengths of the campaign like the speed, but it leaves out others like the resource management and the range of weapons. Doom’s multiplayer allows you to equip two weapons of your choice with an item – standard procedure in shooters now. The lack of robustness of the weapons means that the multiplayer mode feels very muted compared to the campaign. Even though the gunplay is the same, shooting no longer feels as nuanced.

Perhaps the biggest sin of the multiplayer mode is that there is truly nothing remarkable about it. Doom brings nothing new to the table, even though the original Doom arguably inspired all of today’s shooters. This might seem like an unreasonable expectation for the game; the game feels uninspired because the franchise essentially inspired the entire genre.

Although I haven’t spent too much time with SnapMap, I can tell that it is going to yield some interesting maps to play through. SnapMap allows you to piece together a map with ease and populating it with AI that do very specific things. Spawn timers and AI actions can be customized to the player’s liking. SnapMap is extremely intuitive and might be a fun way to play with friends. The maps that players have created – like a working keyboard and a tower defense game – already showcase the customizability of SnapMap. Unfortunately, SnapMpa doesn’t feel like it has the same power as a modding SDK, which makes it seem like an unnecessary addition to Doom. In fact, the lack of modding support means that we might not see Randy Savage in Doom for quite a while.

That’s a lot of snapping and mapping

Overall, Doom truly shows us that a modern rendition of an old-school shooter can be good and can even go toe-to-toe with industry giants like Halo and Call of Duty. The game is immersive, handles like a dream, and is a lot of fun to play. Its faults are easy to ignore when the game feels so fresh and engaging. In fact, I’m willing to guarantee that anyone playing the campaign will be wanting more when it ends, marking a success for id.


About the Author

Roshan Krishnan

Roshan is an avid writer and was recommended by four out of five doctors. He loves watching TV shows, reading as many novels as he can, and generally surfing the internet. He would be a much better writer if he knew how to finish stuf