The King Wants His Crown Back.
It’s been well over a decade since we’ve last stepped into the shoes of the DOOM Marine. Was it worth the wait? In a word: HELL YES. Bethesda and id Software’s reboot of the beloved FPS franchise delivers non-stop, frantic, visceral demon-killing action like only DOOM can deliver. From blowing enemies into paste with the Super Shotgun, to curb-stomping skulls with the new Glory Kills, to literally tearing demons apart with power-up punches, DOOM is exactly the game long-time fans of the series have been hoping for.
Personally, I was worried that we’d have another Duke Nukem Forever on our hands, especially considering the development hell that this game has gone through. Thankfully, that is not the case. While this reboot of DOOM simply can’t recapture the glory of the original (after all, the original completely pushed the envelope of what computer games could do back in 1993), it comes pretty damn close. The mixture of old-school design with new-age FPS elements is very impressive and works beautifully.
In today’s contemporary FPS landscape, it seems like every shooter that comes out funnels you towards your goal, with that usually being an uninspired quick-time event or lengthy cutscene. Even Halo 5: Guardians still felt like 343i was holding your hand through each level, despite its map layouts providing multiple branching pathways. DOOM harkens back to the old-school maze-like level design of yesteryear while still managing to be relatively clear on where the main path lies. Each level is chock full of hidden areas and collectibles; I’m no slouch in finding hidden paths, yet I was consistently humbled by my inability to find half (if not more) of the secrets in each level. With 13 missions to blast through, there’s plenty to explore.
DOOM’s arsenal is also fantastic. There are only eight different weapons in the single player, but each gun comes with two mods to add some extra flavor (except the pistol, which has one, and the Super Shotgun, which has none because it’s already perfect). Each gun feels wholly unique, and none are left by the wayside. I used every single gun in every single level, despite the ammunition being split between two weapons (i.e. the Heavy Assault Rifle and Chaingun use the same ammo). There’s also no reloading in DOOM, so feel free to fire away to your heart’s content.
There are a few special aspects to the combat that need to be addressed, as well. Firstly, the chainsaw makes its triumphant return. Besides bosses, you can carve any demon into mincemeat, provided you have the requisite amount of fuel in order to do so. DOOM also introduces a new element called the Glory Kill, which is as glorious as its name suggests; demons will stagger if damaged enough, flashing blue to indicate their vulnerability. Get in close, and the blue turns to orange, allowing you to completely annihilate them with one hit of the melee button. These kills aren’t just brutally graphic, they’re also completely necessary to staying alive; Glory Kills provide you with extra health pickups to keep you in the fight, something that you’re sorely going to need on the game’s Ultra-Violence difficulty.
On top of having to find health and armor pickups (rather than use a regenerative health system) DOOM allows you to hold all of your weapons at once. You can only swap between two at a time, but holding down the swap button slows down time to a crawl and opens up a weapon wheel for you to decide what weapon you’d like to use. The game’s speed is also fast- very fast. If you’re used to contemporary shooters, you’re going to have to get adjusted, but fans of the original will feel right at home.
As for the campaign’s story, I was pleasantly surprised. I’ll take any reason to blow apart demons, but DOOM’s narrative was actually pretty interesting and mysterious. The game starts off with you chained to an ancient sarcophagus, already in the middle of a demon invasion at the UAC facility on Mars. According to Samuel Hayden, the brilliant scientist-turned-robot who solved Earth’s energy crisis by harvesting Argent energy from the Hell dimension, the demonic outbreak was caused by Olivia Pierce, a project head who became obsessed with the occult. I won’t spoil any more for you, as the origin of the DOOM Marine is pretty cool, but know that the story has you moving through multiple areas of the UAC installation, as well as a few sight-seeing trips to Hell.
Unfortunately, while finishing off the final boss is incredibly satisfying and BFG-induced, the game’s epilogue fell a little flat. It’s a bit of a cliffhanger, with a very obvious promise for a sequel. That’s definitely not a bad thing, but it came across as a little contrived in my opinion and stands in juxtaposition to an otherwise great campaign. There’s still plenty of replayability, however, with unlockable difficulties and opportunities to enhance the DOOM Marine’s capabilities via Trial Runes (scenarios that provide you with gameplay buffs).
Of course, DOOM wouldn’t be DOOM without its multiplayer. After all, the original DOOM was pretty much the first true multiplayer FPS game (with some companies even going so far as to ban the game specifically from being played at work). I only played the online for a few hours, but I came away mostly satisfied. There’s a plethora of customization options, from your character model to weapon loadouts. There are even a selection of taunt animations you can bust into mid-match, making tea-bagging feel like a thing of the past. I sure do love giving defeated players the horns.
There are also weapons you can unlock exclusively for multiplayer, giving it a bit of a unique identity when compared to the campaign. Further, at various times throughout each match, Demon Runes will appear, granting one player the opportunity to transform into one of four different demons you’ll fight against in the campaign. It’s a lot of fun, and only happens a few times in each match so it doesn’t feel too unbalanced. With a myriad amount of game modes to choose from, DOOM’s multiplayer component is robust.
Unfortunately, the online has some serious bugs that pop up. It took me three minutes just to find a game of Team Deathmatch, and some friends and I had major issues trying to party up together. I also ran into a weird glitch where I was pulled out of the match but still stuck in the game. I couldn’t do anything but watch as players ran around the map killing each other. It’s a bummer, considering how fun the multiplayer can be, but I’m sure these issues will be patched sooner rather than later.
Another detriment to the game are the load times. The load screens aren’t super lengthy, but with the game moving at such a fast pace, the load times can sometimes kill the vibe, especially when you die in the heat of glorious combat. Not a major issue, but one that can be annoying if you’re stuck at a particular firefight.
These issues in no way detract from an otherwise excellent game, however. DOOM is back in gorious fashion (see what I did there?). While it’s sure to attract a whole new age of gamers with its brutal, energetic, and addictive gameplay, it also stands as an excellent model of fan service. With a revived, classic feel, an easy-to-use community-focused map editor (SnapMap), and even the ability to unlock classic DOOM maps to play through, this is how a reboot is done. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to pick it up, I assure you it’s an incredibly worthwhile investment. Move over Halo, Battlefield and Call of Duty– the FPS king has returned.