Doom (2016) review
[Note: I’ve had such a lackluster interest in the multiplayer components that I am omitting my thoughts on them in this review to avoid bogging things down with half-hearted apathy. Because of this, this review will be based on how the game performs as a single player experience.]
I’ll have to admit I was feeling rather cynical about the announcement of a new Doom being in the works, figuring that we’d get an overly modernized take that has little relation to the original product other than by name alone. My cynicism turned out to be wrongly placed as Doom (4) ends up being a satisfying, gory romp through hell and back. The single player campaign is well worth the price of admission as it’s full of large levels to traverse, sneakily hidden secrets and of course, droves of enemies to cut through. At the risk of sounding pompous, this is a return to form for the Doom series.
Initially to my chagrin and dismay, there is a narrative to Doom other than ‘demons are invading from hell, go shoot them all’. Thankfully the writers knew what game was being made and the story is there merely to give the player purpose in their progression, with cutscenes lasting only a few minutes to get major plot points across before you’re sent on your merry way again. There’s even a codex that has information regarding your arsenal, characters, locations and so on — This is all optional, shining some light on details and elements that the series has typically not addressed. What’s also grand is that the protagonist of ‘Doom Guy’ has no real purpose in the story other than being a bringer of death to the demonic invasion; no long, drawn out backstory, no sappy flashbacks to his history — Doom Guy is a no-nonsense brutal jerk of a man and it’s a riot. Despite being mute, you’re quickly informed of his intentions during an elevator lift where the administrator of the planet’s facility is talking to him, and he responds by punching the communication screen after cracking his knuckles, only for a late title card to splash — I laughed a little more than I should’ve. A story really wasn’t needed, but the fact that the included narrative isn’t overly invasive and optional to ingest in most cases makes it very easy to tolerate between waves of monster slaughter.
Doom has monsters and demons in it — A lot of them in fact. Combat has the benefit of verticality and makes great use of the environment, so the shooter mantra of ‘strafe to win’ will only get you so far in later battles, especially when on higher difficulties. This is only improved by the enemy roster that forces you to remain in motion but also be aware of your surroundings; sure you can duck past a cacodemon’s projectile fire but you don’t want to leap into the maws of a grumpy pinky, nor hop off a guardrail and into a pit while an imp laughs it up at your expense. Even with upgrades to Doom Guy’s suit for ammo capacity, ammunition will most certainly become tight during later battles which forces you to juggle guns for maximum efficiency, knowing what to use against which enemies and for how long. Big battles are consistently frantic, hectic and exciting — In many instances I caught myself smiling like an idiot after skillfully dispatching a gauntlet of enemies, certainly with help from the awesomely brutal sound effects and the hard hitting, dirty metallic soundtrack. The carnage is a sight to behold and a spectacle to listen to.
The ‘Glory Kill’ system certainly throws an interesting if not odd spin on things; when an enemy is near death they will glow, and a close proximity melee attack will perform a wonderfully violent finisher on said enemy which then spits out supplies. Glory Kills end up becoming a needed lifeline and due to how frequently you’ll be exploiting this system, it’s a good thing these animations take mere moments to execute. At first it’s bizarre to have enemies not explode in a shower of gibs when a rocket goes off at their feet, but eventually it becomes second nature. Lesser enemies are no longer just disposable cannon fodder; they become vital dispensers of needed ammo and health once static pickups in the environment are used up. Even the chainsaw, a kamikaze weapon that typically did more harm than good in the previous games, is redone in fantastic manner so that it has very limited uses in terms of charges, but upon cleaving an enemy in twain they’ll hemorrhage ammo and health in a glorious shower of pickups.
Along with secrets to uncover that’ll improve your weapons or Doom Guy’s suit, there’re also runes that can be unlocked via brief challenges that revolve around killing enemies or traversing an obstacle course. These runes give various benefits but are limited to how many can be equipped, not to mention they improve further when certain milestones are achieved. Even with the gaggle of upgrades and runes equipped, I never felt comically overpowered, and I suspect a skilled player could easily bypass these optional upgrades and win the game just as handily. The nature of battles means that even with these upgrades, each victory feels hard-fought and earned, especially when your preferred weapons run of ammo and you’re forced to swap something you’d seldom use or go scrambling for a weak enemy to execute by violent means for needed rounds. Of course, when encounters are conquered this does mean that the maps become eerily quiet, making exploration a bit dull in the downtime. Thankfully navigating the levels is relatively easily thanks to the solid 3D map system which keeps you from running around in circles, so these periods of calm don’t last long once you know where you’re headed.
After Doom 3 which tried to play itself off as horror game more than anything else, this new iteration is such a welcomed change of pace; a no-nonsense, fast-paced violent shooter that can be easy to coast through or offer a great challenge and has very little wrong with it, other than the multiplayer aspects being not entirely well realized. Unlike Call of Duty or Battlefield however where the multiplayer is the big selling point, you’re buying Doom for its campaign first and foremost, and damned if it’s not a great one. If it isn’t obvious by now, I can absolutely recommend Doom for any shooter fan, though I must warn that anyone who suffers from motion sickness in gaming will likely have to play this in short spurts lest illness becomes too great.