The original DOOM released in 1993, and alongside its peer WOLFENSTEIN 3D, pioneered the first person shooter. Id Software’s creations defined the genre for over a decade, back in an era where challenge was valued above all else. These days, many of their ideas have been long forgotten in favor of overdrawn plots and linear level design to funnel players into specific, scripted set pieces, as games more and more resemble film, with even 2004’s DOOM 3 feeling more like a horror title than a true shooter. Now, in 2016, DOOM is back, and it takes all of these “cinematic” ideas and chainsaws them in half and stomps on the remains. Id has brought back DOOM in all of its glory, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: DOOM feels incredible to play. This is a game about aggression and speed. There is minimal cover in the game’s combat arenas and there are hordes of demons out to tear you to shreds. You only have your massive guns and the speed to dodge fireballs, and with no regenerating health or walls to cower behind, you’ll have to utilize both of these aspects to send the demons back to hell. If that sounds violent and brutal, that’s because it is. DOOM does not shy away from gore and violence; in fact it embraces it, coating rooms with blood and demonic viscera. Shotgun shells splatter demons against walls, the chainsaw gruesomely cuts them open, and brutal finishers tear them in half down the middle with your bare hands. It’s disgusting, yet so perfectly DOOM.
I’ve got a bone to pick with you!
Waking up on a stone slab, you play the Doom Marine, tasked with preventing destruction on a Mars space station when a woman opens a portal to Hell and demons overrun the facility. Using the powerful Praetor suit and an arsenal of destructive weapons, you must traverse the planet, and even Hell itself, to find the source of the invasion and find out how to stop it. Though the plot is thin, DOOM actually offers extensive background and lore, with collectibles that unlock information in the game’s codex. The antagonist has a motive, and the demons even have a certain reverent opinion of the Doom Marine himself.
But none of that really matters to you, or even to the Doom Marine. Humorously, Id Software has made the Doom Marine a reflexive extension of the hardcore gamer after so many years of overcomplicated shooters. There is a complex narrative and world, but really the Doom Marine couldn’t care less. He is here for one job and that is to destroy demons in the most violent way possible. An NPC tries to explain his motives? Doom Marine tosses the monitor aside and cocks his shotgun. DOOM is the most self-aware shooter I have played in a long time. This is a game about nothing other than running, gunning, ripping, and tearing, and it knows it.
Not sure if Kojima knew what this was about, though.
I haven’t enjoyed an FPS campaign this much in a long time, and that is perhaps because DOOM is a such a welcome breath of fresh air. Its open level design encourages exploration to find its incredible number of secrets and its gameplay encourages aggression unlike anything else on the market at the moment. When you lose much of your health, you cannot take cover and regenerate. Instead you are encouraged to rush forward and execute enemies with a Glory Kill offering you with health pickups. And when you run out of ammo for your badass guns, you run forward with a chainsaw and watch your enemies explode with ammo like a piñata for the NRA. This is not a “set behind cover and pick people off” kind of game, this is about charging forward into danger, only to slaughter everything in your path.
Even when I was afraid the combat might grow stale, the game offers an upgrade system which allows the player to modify their weapons to their favorite playstyles. Your shotgun can evolve to shoot bursts of shells or launch explosive cartridges. It’s your choice. DOOM’s single player campaign doesn’t restrict you. It gives you tools and tells you to kill however you like.
Yeah, definitely not just a flesh wound
DOOM also offers two other modes: multiplayer and SNAPMAP, a level editing tool. Multiplayer fares less well than the single player, in that it seems to combine the fast-paced nature of the campaign while introducing aspects from more modern shooters like customized loadouts and low time-to-kill. This makes the multiplayer feel like a more aggressive HALO, which makes it less unique. I would have rather the mode stick to its roots as an arena shooter, with everyone starting with stock weapons and pickups lingering around the map. My favorite additions are powerups which enable players to become a demon themselves, wreaking havoc around the map. But the nature of these abilities leaves one team in complete control of the match. With only the demon abilities and one or two power weapons per map, there is little strategy aside from “grab the game-winning token first.” This, alongside the create-a-class system, leaves matches unbalanced and less endearing. There is some fun to be had, but I quickly found myself wishing for that classic DOOM gameplay.
SNAPMAP has been compared to HALO’s Forge Mode, but I would sooner compare it to the old Timesplitters series Mapmaker more than anything else. It’s fairly intuitive to utilize, and content creators can have a field day crafting single player levels and challenges. It might not be as versatile and some other modern mapmakers, but it easy to see the potential and gives the single player of DOOM even more longevity beyond the playthroughs of the campaign. I look forward to returning back to the game in a few months to see what people have manage to create through SNAPMAP.
Now you’re in demoney
DOOM is everything I was hoping it would be, a revitalization of the first person genre and a return to form for the series. With this reboot, id Software has proven that what was old can be new again and that we really shouldn’t forget the past when we innovate. What was old can be great again and can be exactly what we need when the genre becomes stale. Even in a modern world filled by incredible shooters, DOOM is my favorite shooter in a long time, kicking down modern clichés and stereotypes and playing by its own rules.
Welcome back, DOOM. I have seen Hell and I don’t want to leave.
Reviewed on Xbox One, also available on PlayStation 4 and PC.