DOOM (PC) - ReviewDan Carreras , posted on 15 May 2016 / 6,751 Views
It’s been 12 years since Doom 3 graced computers and consoles worldwide. At the time it was an absolute stunner in terms of presentation, heralding in an era of more atmospheric shooters that was spearheaded by impressive real-time shadows tech, but many fans were left feeling hollow after completing the campaign; gone was the fast-paced, strafing combat of Doom and Doom 2, and in its place was an entirely story driven game. This identity crisis perhaps explains both why it's taken so long for the series to receive another entry.
DOOM is in many ways a love letter to the shooters of yesteryear and should appeal to many of the series' original fans. Yes it's been given a fresh coat of paint, and yes the control style and feature set has been updated to appease certain modern gaming sensibilities, but a real effort has been made to bridge the gap between that atmospheric, graphics-driven style of shooter that Doom 3 was the precursor to and the gameplay-centric style of earlier entries. The results of this balancing act won't appeal to everyone, but for the most part DOOM is a great success for iD and a return to form for the series.
The campaign starts off as it means to go on, providing little in the way of story or context; rather you pretty much get straight into the action. After a few seconds spent donning your suit, it’s time start demon killing. DOOM wastes no time in giving you plenty of demons to take on, either. The short thrift given to the narrative and any contextual background forces you to focus on the gameplay and the visual spectacle of combat (rather than the scenery), which is a fantastic change of pace compared to Doom 3.
One of the first things you notice when you begin navigating DOOM’s corridors is its incredible sense of pace. After years of shooters gradually slowing down, becoming more and more realistic, DOOM's fast pace feels like a breath of fresh air. This speed works really well in combination with the game's large levels, especially the more open ones that give you a large sense of freedom with how you approach combat with the demon hordes. You traverse the environment so quickly that it almost causes you to overlook the beautiful levels and art that are on display.
It’s not long before you'll also start 'glory killing' demons that you've weakened enough to stammer. These brutal animations split up the action somewhat, allowing you to witness the brutal and gory destruction of demons close up. At first this seems like mindless violence for the sake of violence, but it’s actually an essential gameplay mechanic because each time you kill an enemy this way you’re rewarded with health (the amount depends on the size of the demon you kill). However, if you glory kill in the middle of a fight then once the animation finishes you'll briefly be vulnerable to attack from other enemies, which creates an inherent risk/reward element with the mechanic.
DOOM also has a great sense of rhythm and flow; you emerge in a new area, then proceed to run in circles, strafing out of the way of incoming imp fire while pelting out your own.
As with classic Doom games, DOOM contains plenty of secrets. There are also side objectives and enough bonus loot to drive you insane. Each side objective can relate to either combat or map searching, for example some may require five different imp glory kills, with others require you to find three secrets on the map.
Where most modern shooters have you focussing on the weapon with the left trigger, in DOOM there’s no need to zoom in. There's no need to reload either. Instead there's a new 'gun mode' system in place of the traditional left trigger zoom which activates a second mode on the currently equipped gun. For the assault rifle, for example, pressing the left trigger activates a missile mode which uses twice as much ammo but mows down demons like it's nobody's business.
These weapon mods can be acquired from utility robots that are scattered throughout the game and can be upgraded using points unlocked by either defeating enemies or completing the aforementioned side objectives. Each mod has an upgrade tree which accumulates to a 'master' unlock, which naturally makes the weapon even more powerful. The upgrade tree also applies to your suit, should you find the necessary upgrade parts hidden in levels - from health and armour boosts to increased explosion resistance.
Naturally, the campaign isn’t the only mode DOOM has to offer; there's the obligatory multiplayer mode present and more interestingly a new 'SnapMap' mode. The former is what you’d expect from an iD title - fast, hectic, free-for-all multiplayer across numerous maps and game modes. Strangely, though, the multiplayer doesn’t feel as fast as the campaign or SnapMap modes, with the 'hacks' and weapons all feeling clunkier and more akin to other modern shooters. It is not DOOM at its best and is a case I fear of the developer shying away from the approach it took with the campaign
SnapMap mode is more appealing to me personally and I expect this will hook a great many players in the coming months and years. In this mode people can make their own custom maps and game types by utilising contextual information and most (though not all) of the assets from the campaign. Current early offerings from the community are raw but packed full of potential, from boss rushes, to story modes, and time trials, all with the same gameplay from the campaign but played with friends should you so wish. It reminds me somewhat of Left 4 Dead’s hectic and frantic mod scene on PC, where all-new stories and modes were crafted by the community.
DOOM is also absolutely stunning. Everything is pristine and sharp, demons look beautifully gory, and the environments feature some fantastic particle effects which really help bring the action to life. It can get a little overwhelming at times; the fast action and explosions galore make for an extremely active screen, but it's all planned destruction rather than random effects. The weapon sound effects are stand-out too, giving you a great sense of feedback. Finally the soundtrack, whilst actually quite sparse, is especially entertaining during intense battles when heavy metal booms out of your speakers.
DOOM is a more authentic Doom experience than many will have expected; it pays careful homage to shooters of yesteryear while - for the most part - only making minor concessions to the modern shooter era that most new players will be much more familiar with. It all then comes together to form a package that's worthy of any gamer. The high-octane action will take some getting used to if you weren't born and raised on old school shooters like most older Doom fans but it's well worth the plunge regardless because DOOM really is great fun.
This review is based on a digital copy of DOOM for the PC