Review: DOOM (2016) – Hella Good

Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
RATED M FOR MATURE

Formats: PlayStation 4 (REVIEWED), PC, Xbox One
Released: May 13, 2016
Copy purchased via PlayStation Network.

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS IMAGES AND FOOTAGE OF EXTREME VIOLENCE. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED…

In the early days of PC Gaming, id Software’s Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake series broke the mold for first person gameplay. In regards to the original Doom, the game’s controversial graphic violence made it the game other shooters would emulate for over a decade. The current gaming landscape has changed since id put out Doom 3 over a decade ago. After many years in development Hell and getting bought out by a new publisher, id Software has finally released DOOM. But was it worth the wait for this spiritual successor to the venerable shooter series?

KNEE-DEEP IN THE DEAD

Like its predecessors, DOOM has you in the shoes of a nameless space marine colloquially  known in game as the Doom Slayer. In the not too distant future on the planet Mars, the Doom Slayer wakes up in the Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) research facility and it’s infested with demons. After killing the initial wave of monsters, Facility Director Samuel Hayden asks for your help in regaining control of the UAC facility from rogue scientist Olivia Pierce and to shutdown the portal to Hell. Refreshingly, the Doom Slayer don’t care about any of this as his personal involvement is strictly to kill the demons. The silent protagonist is nothing new in the realm of video games but simple things like shoving Hayden to the ground and tearing the limbs off of demons with ease makes for some very compelling characterization of the Doom Slayer. Flavor text found in the codex and holograms that replay prior events do a great job of fleshing out this world but to reemphasize, the story is more of a loose frame work for the cathartic experience of shooting demons in the face.

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And that experience is DOOM’s greatest strength. Whereas Doom 3 focused on the horror aspects of the franchise, DOOM rightfully places emphasis on the power fantasy of being a badass space marine. The Doom Slayer starts out with a weak pistol but finding each new weapon creates this sense of satisfaction as you use them to turn legions of the undead into red pulp. The carefully designed arenas and the relentless enemies add to the combat experience. With no cover to crouch behind, you need to be constantly moving around and  switching weapons. A radial weapon wheel accesses your arsenal but on occasion, I found myself accidentally picking a different weapon because of the finicky sensitivity of the wheel.

Still, DOOM’s plethora of powerful persuaders are all viable in battle thanks to a modular upgrade system. Each gun (with the exception of the Super Shotgun) gains new functions for specific situations. The classic shotgun for instance has a rapid fire mod ideal for unloading on foes at close range and an underbarrel grenade launcher for crowd control. Only one weapon mod can be equipped on a gun so choosing the right firearm with the right upgrade makes the difference between life and death.

THY FLESH CONSUMED

True to its roots, DOOM doesn’t have a rebounding heath meter. You’ll have to frantically search for heath packs, armor pieces, and ammo. The new Glory Kill system is as effective as it is brutal. If a demon is staggered from your shots, they become highlighted in blue or orange. Punching a demon in this state will cause the Doom Guy to go medieval on them which not only kills them, but restores some health. Then there’s the chainsaw which cuts through enemies, grants a ton of ammo, but has limited fuel. Last but certainly not least is the BFG 9000 which kills (almost) everything in one blast but ammo for it is extremely rare. Together, these elements create challenging risk/reward scenarios and elevate demonic encounters from being completely dumb.

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DOOM’s campaign lasts around fourteen hours with loads of secrets and collectibles hidden in every level. In actuality, these “secrets” aren’t very secret as the map will point out how many there are and with a later upgrade, where they are. I would say that hunting down these secrets is entirely optional but discovering them unlocks weapon upgrades so if you want the best mods, you’ll have to do some back tracking. It’s commendable of id to hide many so many Easter Eggs to the original Doom and optional challenges, but these distractions work against the hardcore action this game strives so hard to achieve.

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NO REST FOR THE LIVING 

While the campaign’s brisk Single Player is an invigorating throwback, DOOM’s online components feel trite. Arena matches in the multiplayer mode feel reminiscent of Quake’s in both the crazy assortment of weapons and the frenetic pace of combat. But the customizable loadouts that restrict players to two weapons and cosmetic armor pieces feel woefully out of place. That combined with multiplayer power ups that turn players in super strong demons and hack modules that grant players performance boosts (infinite ammo, faster speed, etc.) makes each match feel too broken for competitive play. As of this writing, the folks at id Software have addressed weapon balance issues and have added new multiplayer modes for all players. But overall, DOOM’s multiplayer feels forgettable in a video game market saturated with better multiplayer experiences.

Snapmap, DOOM’s third mode, is an impressive albeit quirky level creation tool. In theory, Snapmap allows users to make any kind of level/mode/map, upload them to id Software’s servers, and share them to both consoles and PC’s. In practice, making maps is pretty tough and it’s no substitute for proper mod tools. The simplicity of stringing map pieces together belies the complexities of toggling logic switches to your desires. Two months after launch, Snapmap’s content has plenty of experimental game modes like fan remakes of popular video game levels and wave-based survival modes. All of these modes should keep players occupied for years, but the top of the popular charts are filled with cheap SnapPoint farming levels. SnapPoints are to buy cosmetic gear for their avatar for use in Snapmap modes. In the first title update, id added plenty of new features and functions to Snapmap with more on the way. But only time will tell when id will shutdown support for their grand Doom experiment.

BIG [REDACTED] GAME

DOOM is filled to the brim with content but the whole package is greater than the sum of its conflicting parts. The single-player campaign is a revival to id’s early days with some new tricks to keep the series up to speed with the times. The online multiplayer forgets the series’ roots by adding elements from modern games which ironically makes it unremarkable. Snapmap levels are fun to mess around with but I feel like making levels is too much of a novelty. Still, DOOM is an unapologetic love letter to the original gore fest and a refreshing experience. I recommend renting the game for a weekend, playing the Hell out of the single player mode, and having some damn fun time mowing through legions of the damned.

 

 

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