DOOM fans have been waiting for a reboot of the series to be released since rumors started to spread back in 2008; with Bethesda and ID delivering the much awaited game only last week after attempting to guard their treasure for as long as they could. Holding his trusty combat shotgun in his hands and well protected inside the only existing suit of Preator Armor, it is now DoomGuy’s time to resume doing what he’s most adept at: smashing stuff and kicking ass.
DOOM‘s campaign is a clear attempt at creating an experience that is far from the standard modern shooters we grew accustomed to and the title manages, at least partially, to succeed in doing so. No lengthy opening cut-scenes will welcome you at the start of a new game and provided that your aim is good enough the first heads and entrails should be repainting the walls within seconds, only to be briefly interrupted by the occasional hologram or audio log that deliver a short account of the events that led to the invasion. Scattered throughout the levels, these consoles will automatically activate as you walk by but can be easily ignored by sprinting past them and won’t impact the overall pace of the game. The result is a quick, brutal, violent, and – sincerely- rather enjoyable experience that feels and plays just like the DOOM of old.
You will find yourself scouting every hidden corner and platform as you try to find additional health and ammo pick-ups and rushing through hordes of demons opening several holes in their bodies with a few well places blasts of your weapon at point-blank range. It’s a shame that this blissful feeling only lasts roughly two minutes and is immediately dissipated by the introduction of the so called “glory kills“, one of the new mechanics DOOM brings along with this reboot. After receiving enough punishment, most of the in-game enemies will eventually be stunned.
Your suit’s helmet will then inform you that these poor souls can now be executed by engulfing them in a pulsating blue light that invites you to get up close and personal to administer your very special brand of tender loving care. Hitting the melee key while in range will see our dear DoomGuy performing rather artistic executions that include ripping his opponents’ heads in two or even detaching one of their limbs just to use them as an improvised mallet, normally aimed at one of their weak spots. The poor demon that found itself on the receiving end of such a brutal treatment will then make friends with the floor and drop several pieces of health an ammo, practically rendering all of that beautiful scouting we mentioned before a pointless task and making you virtually unable to die, at least as long as you keep yourself relatively mobile and continue ripping your enemies to pieces. Glory Kills can be disabled through the in-game menu but even the chainsaw and the Big *REDACTED* Gun, two of the most iconic pieces of weaponry in DOOM, have been modified to act as a last-moment lifesaver as if dying hasn’t always been an essential part of the experience.
Once you have collected enough ammo, the former allows you to instantly kill any non-boss opponents and make them explode in a glorious looking rainbow of consumables, completely replenishing all of your weapons and some of your health, while the latter has the ability to turn anyone unlucky enough to be standing in its radius into delicious demon-flavored blood pudding. Ammunition for both is relatively scarce but the right timing will give you the chance to walk off even the hairiest of situations.
Quick, Brutal, And Violent
Additionally, your new old armor can now be upgraded to render you immune to self damage and to those evil red barrels that might have enough guts to be standing right between your bullets and the target you were aiming at. Were you unfortunate enough to hit the floor, DOOM now features a checkpoint system that will put you right back in the fight just a handful of meters away from where your corpse is now acting as a shiny piece of furniture. It seems like this title simply went for a different approach to the trope of regenerating health by giving you enough med-kits to never really put you on the spot to begin with. This is only partially solved at Nightmare and Ultra-Nightmare difficulty, where death is permanent and your opponents deal enough damage to force you to dodge the majority of their attacks unless you want to experience an early demise.
Upgrading in general plays a huge role in the game. As you push through the levels you will be given the chance to improve both your weaponry and your armor. The former set of accessories will allow you to experiment with more efficient ways to bring down your foes as you quickly turn into the ultimate killing machine you are supposed to be while the latter will give you the chance to increase your maximum health, armor, and ammo or to develop almost supernatural powers.
Combining your fully upgraded DoomGuy with a touch of your own skills will make you feel like a complete badass as you mow down hordes upon hordes of neatly designed demons through the infested plains of hell, only to be briefly given pause by the occasional boss. Glory Kills and fountains of loot apart, the combat in DOOM feels outright amazing: you are literally the only thing the demons should be afraid of and this is shown whenever you find yourself locked in one of the many arena sections that characterize this title. Moving through the levels, on the other hand, feels like it was dumbed down in order to cater to a larger audience. Many of the later levels will quickly become repetitive as you move from one arena to the other and it also seems like whoever designed the UAC facilities was considered enough to mark any partially hidden passage with a set of blinking green lights. Just in case these lights were not enough to lead you to the next objective, DOOM now features a compass and a set of indicators that will make sure to reduce backtracking and looping to a minimum.
A Small Masterpiece Of Modern Technology
From a technical standpoint, there’s no denying that DOOM is one of the most optimized games of the year and one that makes the most out of its own engine and assets. The majority of the locations within the game look vibrant and beautiful, even on low settings, and reflect the mood of the experience. The external surface of Mars looks just as dusty and barren as it should be while the UAC bases are rich in details and reflections. The smooth animations and the whole shooting-demons-in-the-face affair are accompanied by a superb soundtrack that gives off vibes of TOOL’s and Nine Inch Nails’ albums such as Lateralus, 10000 Days, The Fragile or With Teeth. The game also seems to run great on a wide variety of systems. I personally had the chance to play it on several setups and even a dated AMD 6800HD with only 2GB of video memory managed to provide me with an enjoyable experience, albeit forcing me to lower some of the in-game settings to their respective minimums.
Finally, there are several minor details in DOOM that could be easily overlooked but that I personally found having a negative impact on the overall experience. Most players won’t need a proper reason to bash a few demons’ faces in but, for those who like to know what’s going on around them, having to pause the game and access a separate menu just to go through several lines of text in order to receive bits and pieces of the lore and storyline is a poor design choice that slows the pace of the match, especially when talking about a game that seems to focus solely on putting you into a never ending state of alert. This could have been easily solved by producing a series of audio files that that players could have listened to while they kept fighting, just like ID previously did with Doom 3. Aside from that, the lore is actually well written and enjoyable and sheds light on some of the most obscure details of the UAC or DoomGuy’s past. As for SnapMap and Multiplayer, it feels like those options were added to the game in an attempt to elongate its life-span. While the former might actually succeed in doing so, much like modding did for all of the previous iterations of this series, the latter feels so generic and uninspired that it will probably struggle to survive the waves of multiplayer-focused titles flooding the market in the months to come.
In short, if we had compare what going back to DOOM feels like to a more common life experience, we could describe it as randomly meeting your old high school sweetheart at a party and accepting that coffee date she’s now inviting you to. You never really got over her and she now seems to be hell-bent on leaving a good impression, to the point where you push through the awkward moments and her shortcomings just to see where the thing is headed, only to be left disappointed and curiously angry at the fact that your expectations where way higher than they should have been allowed to be in the first place. If you want to try DOOM out for yourself, the game is currently available on Steam for the price of $59,99 USD. An additional multiplayer-focused season pass is also available for as little as 40 more dollars and is said to allow you to access more maps, customization options, and playable demons whenever they are released.