The hour leading up to the launch of DOOM may have been one of the most emotionally conflicting moments I’ve had in all my time playing video games. Twelve years after the ho-hum Doom 3, we were finally getting a new Doom. It was a draining hour, an intense mixture of excitement, dread, and most of all, curiosity. After all these years, I was finally going to get a real Doom 4. And with hell conquered and a mound of demons at my feet, I think I can safely say that DOOM might honestly be one of the best first-person shooters I’ve played in the past decade.
DOOM is not a game that bothers with a lot of story. You get a quick monologue at the start, sure, but the literal second you get control of Doomguy you have a pistol in hand, and there’s a group of zombies shambling towards you. Minutes later, you have a shotgun. From there on out, DOOM has been a breakneck rollercoaster ride of ultra-violence, with only a few short stops for the occasional exposition. The rest is saved for collectible text logs to deliver backstory, which is a nice compromise.
While I feel the exposition is largely unnecessary for a Doom game, the way it’s handled is surprisingly great. Doomguy is a feared individual after his wrecking-ball run through Hell from the first games and has been imprisoned by the demons to stop him from getting in their way. Strangely enough, I got a bit of a John Wick vibe from the way the human villain talks about Doomguy, less as a person and more of an unstoppable demon-slaying force of nature known as the ‘Doom Slayer.’ If you had to give Doom a story, I figure this is the right way to get it done.
Doomguy himself isn’t quite as fast as he was in the original Doom (Although he still is fairly speedy), but where he lacks in supersonic movement speed he makes up for it with verticality. Jumping plays a huge role in the gameplay, and there’s always a constant struggle for the high ground against some of the deadlier foes. Enemies aren’t too fond of standing in place either, and it’s not strange to see imps dart across a battlefield, giving you the need to have your head constantly on a swivel.
Along with the imps, pinkies, and other assorted classics come a score of new enemies, and all of them add to the gameplay. My favorite among them are the new security officers, big guys who trudge around energy shields not quite unlike Halo‘s Jackals. While they can certainly take a lot of frontal punishment, their design allows for you to take them out via shooting their exposed backs, something that the primitive sprites of the 1993 classic simply couldn’t pull off.
Also stepping up to the plate are some iconic bosses from the original, along with a fitting newcomer. These encounters were honestly some of the game’s highlights, and seeing the Cyberdemon using a mix of old and new tactics was quite a treat. Sadly, all of the bosses seem to be stuck in the second half, and the first few levels are barren when it comes to unique encounters.
To combat the unholy hordes you have ten distinct weapons at your disposal, a refreshing mix of old and new. Old standbys like the chaingun and super shotgun are still a blast to use while some of the newcomers such as the Gauss Cannon fit in quite nicely. None of the classic weapons are changed too dramatically besides the chainsaw, which now functions as an instant-kill on a monster if you have enough fuel. However, while the normal firing modes work just fine, DOOM spoils players with a variety of fantastic alternate firing modes.
Once you hunt down one of the field drones scattered across the levels, you can unlock a weapon mod to change up your alt fire drastically. For example, the shotgun can either fire off explosive shells or quick bursts, which can be switched on the fly with a press of the R key in the blissful absence of reloading. Once you have your alternate fire, you can upgrade said firing modes with weapon points gained from either killing enough enemies or completing level-specific challenges.
However, the biggest mix up to combat is probably the glory kills. You’ll be encountering a lot of enemies during the game, and there aren’t enough health pickups to keep the average player alive during the brutal confrontations. So to compensate, you can perform a quick canned kill on an enemy, turning them into proverbial health pinatas. While the idea of the glory kills did bug me quite a bit at first, I soon warmed up to them, and the animations are snappy enough that they don’t slow the pace of the slaughter.
While levels don’t feature as much backtracking as one might assume considering DOOM‘s heritage, they’re still quite vast and packed with secrets. From armor upgrade points to challenge maps to new models for a model viewer, exploration will usually pay off with a nice reward. However, the holy grail of these has to be the classic maps, which you can find snippets of during a level. Once said fragment is found, you’ll find that you can play the entire level through the main menu, just with the gameplay and monsters of the new DOOM. I must say, walking through the nuclear plant again just might be one of the most nostalgic moments I’ve personally encountered in gaming.
Not only are the levels fun to play through, but they’re also exceptionally nice to look at. While the standard UAC environments might blend together a bit, Mars is breathtakingly beautiful, and Hell feels like you’re walking right through an Iron Maiden album cover. There are also quite a few clever shout-outs to the series past sprinkled in, such as the Icon of Sin and old Super Turbo Turkey Puncher arcade games, really adding just that extra bit of fanservice.
Also helping with the presentation is the phenomenal sound design, filled with enough explosions and meaty shotgun blasts to make the biggest Hollywood blockbusters blush. Sadly, the music isn’t nearly as good, mostly relying on industrial tracks that all sort of bleed together. The tracks are serviceable for what they are, but when compared with Bobby Prince’s phenomenal tracks for the original Doom or even Quake‘s industrial soundtrack, it’s just thoroughly forgettable.
Speaking of forgettable, the multiplayer mode that was developed by Certain Affinity is a total slog. Things start out nice with a surprisingly in-depth customization system allowing you to change limb types, patterns, and even wear-and-tear, but it all goes downhill when the shooting starts. It’s floaty, it’s weightless, and guns are one-dimensional and possess no punch thanks to the lack of feedback and hilarious numbers accompanying your damage types.
While the multiplayer may be bland and forgettable, SnapMap hinges on being borderline offensive. The original Doom‘s modding tools are superb, and the sheer power and versatility of said tools have to lead to some of the most interesting conversions in gaming history. SnapMap, on the other hand, is constrictive and laughably limited, with a baffling choice to use the ho-hum multiplayer gameplay style over the far-superior singleplayer shooting. To put it in simpler terms, if Doom‘s modding tools are a big bucket of LEGO, DOOM‘s are a handful of Duplo blocks. Fun for beginners, and not much else.
Despite the additional modes’ numerous and obvious shortcomings, the sheer glory of the single player has managed to right their wrongs. With every death I suffered in a garbage Deathmatch or poorly-created SnapMap I slogged through, I simply remembered the overwhelming joy I felt when gunning through hordes of demons, and suddenly, things didn’t seem too bad. The truth of the matter is that if any single player campaign over the past ten years deserved the moniker of Doom, it’d be this one.
DOOM was reviewed on Steam with a copy bought by the reviewer.More About This Game
Not even tacked-on multiplayer or a weak level editor can stop DOOM from being a total blast from start to finish.