There are some nightmares in gaming that we wish we could all forget: the GTA V online catastrophe, the many lies and broken promises of Destiny, the entirety of Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg and the mere existence of E.T are some examples. But there is one nightmare that gaming will never forget, and it’s back to show us gamers what hell really looks like, I’m talking about Doom.
DOOM: Xbox One [Reviewed], PC, PlayStation 4
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: 13 May 2016
Price: £49.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
The godfather of gore, the pinnacle of punishment, the original sin: Doom has returned. The team at id Software – the studio responsible for the original descent into hell in 1993, have teamed up with Bethesda – who proved they could handle getting their hands dirty with the release of The Evil Within back in 2014. The teaming up of these gaming titans has resulted in a finely-crafted tour de force, with enough modes, missions and madness to make every leap into Lucifer’s backyard feel fun, fresh and utterly frantic!
I’m going to say this right off the bat – if you loved the Metroid Prime series, then buy this game. Seriously. The campaign to Doom is a dense, multifaceted experience: packed with platforming elements, exploration, intense shooting sections, plenty of lore to collect and tons of secrets to uncover. Playing Doom, you cannot help but feel as if someone on the development team had played Metroid Prime – there are map stations and health stations dotted around the map, free weapon upgrades hidden in the environment, there is no reload option on weapons, the way pickups magnetise towards the player and even the brilliantly designed map screen looks reassuringly similar to the MP one. These echoes between the two games aren’t something to be criticised: the Metroid Prime series had its work cut out for it when Retro Studios took the beloved 2D Metroid series into the third dimension, and it paid off. We can see that pay off with Doom too: id clearly haven’t taken any design queues from other 3D Doom titles, instead looking to rebirth the franchise and bring what made the 2D games so great into the current generation, replete with all the advantages the current technology can afford.
So what made the original Doom so great? That campaign. Doom has one, and it’s chock full of mystery, mayhem and murder! Not to be outdone in the cool name stakes, ‘Doom Marine’ (his friends call him ‘Doom Guy’) is awoken on a facility on Mars, wherein the hordes of Hell have decided to spend their much deserved vacation… after being murdered by Doom Marine for nearly twenty years. With nought but his wit, charm and an ancient combat suit that can take on the hardest hitters in Hell, Mr. Marine sets out to stage his own “Dante’s Inferno” – just with more guns, explosions and chainsaws.
Anyone looking for a riveting story or something to fill in the gap for their next summer read might be a little disappointed, but then again, people looking to lose a little bit of weight in time for beach season don’t sign up for the army, do they? This game is tough, mean and it doesn’t have the time or the patience to tell you who person A is and why they care about person B: everything is going to die and you get to decide how. That’s it. Sure, there is a crazy scientist-turned-demonic cult leader, and there is a shady robot giving you orders (not that Doom Marine listens to them anyway), but all that is beside the point: you’re here to kick ass and take more ass to kick, and you’re all out of ass… to kick.
There is certainly enough in the way of plot to get you from objective to objective without expecting you to muse over the ethical implications of your actions, or the morality of your decisions. This isn’t Mass Effect, this isn’t Bioshock – this is Doom, and what does Doom do? Doom shoots first, then shoots later, then rips some jaws out. The gameplay is brilliant, not only because it’s a slap in the face to contemporary, set-piece infested shooting games that demand you do nothing while the action happens around you, but also because Doom is not as shallow as you’d expect, given the emphasis on speed concerning the game’s combat. Doom moves like a chess game on cocaine. Lucifer’s legions consist of various enemy types: the quick and vertical Imp, the shambling Possessed, the relentless Hell Knight – each and every opponent operates in a unique way atop the chessboard that is Doom’s killing fields.
Certain enemies push your position, disabling you from taking comfort in cover, while other enemies climb the walls and outflank you, forcing you into hiding as you evaluate your next few moves. The dynamics of Doom’s gunplay allow you to choose how you deal with each challenge the game presents while also forcing you to change up your tactics to suit the diverse A.I. Complimenting this depth, the weapons available to you allow you to tailor your play, while equipping you with the tools necessary to react to the ever-changing chess game. From shotguns to sniper rifles, there are plenty of weapons for the Doom Marine to get his gauntlets on, and each weapon has certain advantages and disadvantages that mean you cannot simply race through the game with a single weapon. For all it’s speed and simplicity on the surface, Doom is not without strategy. Players are rewarded for taking risks and negotiating battles in diverse ways.
“Glory Kills” – melee executions performed by clicking the right stick next to a glowing enemy – reward players with health (and an often brutal animation!), whereas deploying the immensely satisfying chainsaw against larger enemies will yield ammo, but will cost you chainsaw fuel – a precious commodity that can turn the tide against several Hell Knights. Quickly, a meta-economy emerges, wherein you aren’t just shooting enemies and ‘fighting like hell’, but you are thinking like hell, too. You’re thinking about which enemies to glory kill, which weapon to use against which enemy type, when the time is right to use the chainsaw. Having the power is easy and fun to use – but really knowing when to use the power available to you is the real reward within Doom’s combat.
Just as glory kills incentivise players to take combat seriously and strategically, so too does the reward system for exploration incentivise players to scour the face of Mars and the very depths of the UAC facility in search of power-ups, upgrades and simply delightful easter eggs. The plethora of collectables is staggering, and the brilliant platforming elements will reward the most eager explorers with a system that moves and flows like Mirror’s Edge in terms of accessibility. Climbing cover is instantaneous and done without prompts or buttons. Scaling environments is an intuitive experience that requires perception, with lights and other visual prompts scattered throughout levels, often leading to hidden levers, robots dispensing weapon mods or fallen UAC soldiers in possession of upgrade materials. Players are rewarded for hard work, not just for turning up to work. You will not receive an upgrade as a result of a pointless level progression system – you have to earn it.
How do you go about earning these upgrades, mods and power-ups? Well I’m glad you didn’t ask! With every mission of the campaign, you are given certain challenges that you can complete. Completing these challenges will reward you with points that you can use to upgrade the free weapon mod dispensed by hidden Field Drones throughout the game world. As with weapons, Doom Marine can improve his combat armour, too. Finding fallen Elite Guards in levels will reward you with suit tokens that can be used to upgrade your armour’s environmental resistance, scanning, equipment capacity, powerup effectiveness and dexterity. Furthermore, uncovering ‘argent cells’ will allow you to improve your base traits, consisting of health, armour and ammo capacity. All this customisation allows you to decide exactly how you take on the minions of Hell. You feel empowered behind the visor of Doom Marine in a way that you never could while donning the perspective of other first-person protagonists. While the typical Battlefield and Call of Duty grunt is only as powerful as his weapon attachments allow him to be, Doom Marine brings his limitless speed, invulnerability to [nearly all] fall damage and demon-destroying strength to every fight; with weapon mods and suit upgrades complimenting his power, rather than defining it.
Doom’s campaign is the real deal then: a robust collage, offering up FPS, cover-shooter, RPG and platforming elements, topped off with the series’ trademark difficulty. Although not a particularly compelling single-player experience as far as narrative goes, the heart of Doom – or lack thereof – has always been in its masochistic gameplay, which has been faithfully transplanted from the ‘old school’ very comfortably into the new generation. Yes, the ‘uncanny valley’ effect of Doom is no longer with us: the screams that didn’t quite sound like screams, the sprites that didn’t look quite like anything yet still looked heinous enough to be feared, the unsettling use of bright colours in the levels – the power of the Xbox One has given Doom a facelift that may seem strictly superficial, and might even negatively affect the game for some players, but the graphical update does its job, with the speed and sophistication of the gunplay forming the centre of the experience.
Alongside the graphical update permitted by the use of the Xbox One, all hell can now break loose online, with a dedicated multiplayer element being included. With modes ranging from your standard team deathmatch to new takes on classic modes such as “warpath” – which sees you competing against another team in order to capture an area, King of the Hill-style, albeit that the area you battle for is constantly moving through the map. Perhaps the most interesting and intense mode on offer in the multiplayer, “freeze tag” is an ambitious attempt to attract the up-and-coming MOBA fan base that is emerging on consoles at the moment. Freeze Tag is like team deathmatch, but with a crucial twist: if a player is killed by the enemy, there are frozen in place and can be thawed out by their team.
Once every player on either team is frozen, the round ends. With no respawns and a certain amount of time around an allied player resulting in them being thawed out, Doom’s devil-may-care twitch gunplay becomes a tactical, coordinated team effort, with the slightest straying from the ranks being punished, DOTA-style. Maps become lanes, and simply running-and-gunning becomes a jostle between pushing the enemy and luring them into kill-zones. Once again, the developers flaunt their talent and eye for depth and strategy in an assumedly shallow shooter. Not content with simply letting us eat cake, the developers behind Doom want you to eat cake – with another cake packed inside it! The ‘MOBA-for-the-masses’ approach has been pre-empted by id, and while Overwatch might go on to steal headlines in this regard, know anything Activision can do, Doom can do too – and Doom can deliver a cracking single-player alongside its multiplayer offerings
The rest of Doom’s multiplayer is rather expected, but that is not a bad thing. Adding to the already impressive itinerary of content, Doom multiplayer comes with fully customisable armour for characters: from editing the style, colour, lights, patterns and even the level of dirt that appears on your Doom Marine, the aesthetic considerations are quite detailed considering how little you get to see your avatar. Guns can receive a similar makeover, too, and of course, loadout’s are present in the game, allowing you to tailor your Doom Marine to your exact specifications. Furthermore, for anyone who thinks Mario Maker could use a bit more ultra-violence and demonic mutilation, id have got you covered!
The third portion of Doom – known as ‘Snapmap’ mode – invites players to craft their own maps and share them with the Doom community. Giving players access to a plethora of tools, objects and environmental features, you can create just about any space you want, filled with whatever you want. Want a retro-inspired remake of a classic Doom map? How about a level filled to the brim with Hell Knights? Or how about an arena-based showdown between four players? The choice is yours, and Doom will not only teach you how to utilise this feature, but also reward you for playing other users’ maps. An in-game currency system allows you to purchase cosmetic options for you multiplayer avatar, and this currency is free to acquire – all you have to do is play the user-created maps. Oh, and you did read that correctly – the currency is a reward. It’s free. You don’t have to buy it. Free. How hard is it, Activision!
What are we looking at then? Is Doom a by-the-numbers reboot? An HD remaster? A brave, new reimagining of the franchise? A something, something [insert modern game developer lingo]? No. Doom is a game. It’s a whole game, and it’s nothing but a game. It’s a finished product, like the games we used to buy. It isn’t a digital storefront, and it doesn’t pepper spray you with in-game advertisements every three seconds. Doom is what games should be – nay, what games used to be: bundles of joy that earned your money rather than demanded it every three months.
The wealth of options, modes and experiences on offer in this game is staggering, and not at any one moment is Doom content with sitting on the shoulders of its historic daddy by simply cashing in on your nostalgia. Doom 2016 earns your money, with three distinct gameplay experiences that lesser games would sell off as DLC. If you’re looking for a retro rampage that will utterly terrify you, the original Doom is still the king: but if you’re looking for a great game, that may not be as hard as Doom, or as claustrophobic, or as insane – but still makes you feel like the badass Doom Marine you always wanted to be, then Doom 2016 is the game for you. Hours of content, hordes of enemies, hundreds of easter eggs and hidden secrets – if Doom doesn’t impress you, you can go to hell.
- So much content
- Sophisticated gunplay that forces you to be an active participant in engagements, rather than simply hold the right trigger down al la CoD or Battlefield
- Everything you do in the game is rewarded. Exploring, killing - even killing in certain ways will reward you with ammo or health, making you think about how you engage with the game world
- Awesome Easter eggs
- Not as challenging as the original
- Lack of story or engaging plot will make it hard to justify prolonged sessions on the game... but there is a CHAINSAW!
- Lots of loading screens - booting up the multiplayer and snapmap modes can be irritating
- Earning in-game currency could have been made a little easier, or been applied to the campaign and multiplayer aspects of the game, too