When you look at a studio like iD or the creative energy of John Carmack, only one word is needed to describe the combo. Legendary.
As a franchise, DOOM is not perfect. The series suffers under the weight of it’s own legacy. For awhile, the only game that offered a first person ultra-violent experience was DOOM (preceded by Wolfenstein of course). The original DOOM was the inspiration for the modern first-person shooter: it was the catalyst for a new generation of game programmers, artists, and writers. Most, if not all, modern shooters pulled inspiration (i.e. the entire formula) from the game. This would normally be a compliment, but due to the fast paced nature of the gaming industry, where the latest and greatest is king, DOOM struggled to maintain a footing in the genre it created.
Without dwelling on the missteps, so many games took the formula that gamers started to describe first person shooters as a “Doom-Clones” (Rise of the Triads, Duke Nukem, and Dark Forces come to mind). Following the many clones, the series needed to reinvent the wheel with the release of DOOM 3. An atmospheric horror take on the original storyline, the game was initially met with good reviews but technical issues left DOOM 3 treading water with mediocre sales. The series then laid dormant for close to a decade.
But DOOM is back in a big way with the most recent iteration. A gore-filled, brutal, heavy metal experience that takes the original formula and throws it into a mosh pit of next-gen development.
There is no better description for this game. Doom’s aesthetic of hardcore futuristic spaces on the red expanse of Mars isn’t exactly unfamiliar, many games have a space marine on a foreign planet. But this is DOOM, a game that doesn’t need exposition or cutscenes to tell its story. In fact, you don’t have much by way of a story at all, the game starts by immediately putting a gun in the Doom Marine’s hand and away you go. There’s no larger crisis, the demons aren’t motivated by politics or terrorism. Instead, you have a satanic invasion from the denizens of the pit and a fistful of bullets. The bloodied walls, glowing viscera graffiti, and bloody, well... everything are weirdly comforting given the trend of bland brown military shooters that followed the original DOOM and in 2016, it feels refreshing that a game embraces the absurdism of satanic runes, heavy metal, and the grotesque.
The game gives you no information about the character you play, and it’s great. You learn why humanity has been toying with hell, attempting to control the darkness and chaos for (as usual) selfish reasons. You actually get to learn why the horde fears the Doom Marine as well. There are interesting tidbits distributed throughout the main campaign, but the point of the game isn’t to provide an awesome narrative, it tells a better story through it’s environment and gameplay.
iD outdid themselves with the levels. The traditional hallway to open room progression is somewhat dated, but compared to the single-lane checkpoint-to-checkpoint mission structure every other shooter uses it’s a breath of fresh sulfur-infused air. The game uses modern interpretations of each demon and even some of the classic environmental touches like pentagrams, eviscerated (almost comical) victims, and demonic iconography. The unabashedly arcade-y ammo/armor pickups are bright, cool, and fit the fast moving gameplay.
The gameplay itself is incredible. DOOM has always had some quirks : you never reloaded, you couldn’t aim freely, and you held ten weapons at once. Granted, the only thing that’s changed is the ability to aim/move at the same time and a nifty double jump. The movement and shooting is quick, if you are used to ducking behind cover to take out enemies, you’ll have a bad time. The key is constant movement, and always go for the glory kill. Glory kills are new to DOOM, but the basic idea is that an enemy can be stunned, then brutally executed with multiple gory animations. My personal favorite is shown above. Keeping the glory kills rolling, mastering the moving/shooting technique isn’t everything though, you need to explore. In classic DOOM, there were fake walls and extra keycards. In the newest DOOM, it’s about paying attention. The game will always show you something worth hunting down, it’s up to you to find the path towards it. Most times, it’s not just extra ammo or health, you can get some weapons a level early or you can upgrade your armor/health/ammo capacity.
In short, this game kicks ass.
Admittedly, it’s not going to be everyone’s favorite game and it might
even miss the mark of a wider audience. But any new fan who gives this a
chance will love the wild gameplay and nonstop challenge, and any
lifelong DOOM fan will be happy that the series has finally entered a
modern age while still being the same great, bloody mess that it always
- bullets, blood, brains
- intense immersive graphics
- glory kills
- fast fun gameplay
- just enough nostalgia
- no real story
- level design progression is dated
- difficulty for the average player
- bullet sponge bosses
Bottom Line: Buy this game if you want a crazy, fast, fun time. Rent it if you haven’t played another DOOM.
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