Doom is and has always been a tricky thing to explain. On the surface, you’re looking at a shooter that checks all the typical boxes: Space Marine? Check. Guns designed for the sole purpose of capping ass in bulk? Check. Fast paced shooting that makes you wish you had a swell PC rig if you don’t? Check. Where the rift exists between Doom and so many others is in the theme. Though I don’t fear the concept of Hell in my adult years like I did as a child raised in a strictly religious household, the idea of Hell certainly taps into one’s natural and common introspection about our existence and what judgement may or may not lie in store for all of us. Take some of “The Seven Deadly Sins” for reference. Will you go to Hell for flipping off that guy that cut you off in traffic (see: wrath)? Did you have that extra handful of Funyuns just because they were there (see: gluttony)? Who knows! My money (all of it) says no, but what the hell do I know?
Doom places you in an environment that represents all of the stories of Hell that have been told to each generation in order to instill fear. Doom’s visuals provide all the ominous unnatural weather patterns, gravity-defying rock platforms, statues of hulking sharp-toothed demons, impaled corpses, all the decor one would expect Satan to have selected from his best landscape designer or Home Owners Association catalogue. Doom 3 only briefly touched on this, leaving us with more darkly lit corridors than much else, but where this brand new Doom succeeds is that it captures the empowering, hype-inducing action of the classic Doom in both open and closed environments, providing you with the tools necessary to become just as much of a monster as the very hellspawn of Satan themselves. Doom is back and more brutal than ever before. Following this campaign-focused article will be a separate writeup that covers the multiplayer and SnapMap features.
Intro and Gameplay:
You don’t go for subtlety when introducing this game. Under the chaotic, demonic, supernatural circumstances illustrated early in the game, there isn’t much material to suit a delicate, soft-spoken approach to let you know what you’re in for. The sounds and visuals are gorgeous, terrifying, and are sure to be the ideal production for you to test the power of your surround sound should you have one. As a game that is certainly aware of itself with its use of atmospheric intensity as well as occasional camp, the title sequence had me screaming “YEEEAHH!!” with a fist raised to the air. Rarely am I actually suspending my chance to chill out, to stay slouched comfortably on my couch. If a game is going to get me sitting on the edge, you better believe something special has happened because I take my time to relax very seriously.
The impact of the intro is built upon as the campaign continues, rewarding your style in combat as well as curiosity in exploration. Tons of goodies are hidden throughout each level from bobble head figurines (that wonderfully cue a lo-fi E1M1 theme song) to hidden areas that I’ll let you find on your own or spoil for yourself on YouTube. Upgrades for your weapons and for your armor are rewarded by your variety in combat style and accuracy in shooting. Tucked away are rock formations with neon green runes called Rune Trials, which will grant you new combat advantages should you pass the challenge it presents. I found the balancing of these to be hit and miss, as one would require thirty retries, while I would nail a later one on the first attempt.
In some ways, Hell itself is a character in the story of Doom and a phenomenal job has been done in upgrading the look of things while maintaining what has made Hell so much fun to explore in the first place. It would also not be complete without pentagram shrines throughout, bringing back some of what Doom 2 really nailed when it came to environmental visuals. Maybe John Romero (or whatever's left of him) can be seen hanging around behind these walls, but I haven't had enough time to dig deep enough for an Easter egg like that.
The gameplay in this has me now entertaining the fact that now I may know what Dark Souls fans have been raving so much about lately. Watching people sweating bullets in that game while getting throttled is exactly the experience I had in Doom. Whenever I thought I was on top of the ass-kicking totem pole, the game reminded me that it's never impossible to have my limbs ripped off. There were a couple issues with melee attacks when the opponent would instantaneously disappear and reappear behind me but perhaps that’s a bug issue that can be addressed.
My playthrough was on Ultra Violence, which seemed to provide just the right challenge for my skill level. It felt like just enough to let me know that I was in Satan’s backyard, but not so overwhelming that it began to feel like a waste of time. I certainly suggest setting the difficulty level higher than you're comfortable with, so you can test out the impressive AI and experience the euphoria of the hard-earned victory. Top this off with its glorious hard hitting soundtrack and you’ve got yourself one happening hoedown in Hell.
Graphics and Sound:
Both of these are categories that would nearly steal the show if the game's other characteristics weren't so damn well executed. The art direction stays true to the classic while utilizing today’s advanced tech.
There are a few characters that received more of a creative overhaul than others such as the Pinkies, but I have zero complaints about the overall look. I was also hoping the BFG would be given proper treatment, and that also checked all the right boxes. The size and power of the iconic beast of a gun is back and just as devastating as a lifelong Doom fan could ever hope.
The sound design team created an extremely convincing soundscape and even included the famous hydraulic door sounds you may have heard used over the years, such as in certain Doctor Who episodes. Mick Gordon was the right person to take on the music and, as I do, I went in-depth in conversation with him about the process behind the beautiful madness.
Fun and Value:
DOOM demands you to act quickly, delivering relentless battles in which staying on the move is key to staying alive. I can’t speak about some of the high end PC rigs in the world, but it ran smoothly on my PS4, enabling plenty of speed in battle, making it an absolute blast. When an enemy flashes blue and red as they are at low health, you can swoop in for a “glory kill” where a gory finishing move keeps the level of carnage at maximum.
This is the kind of game that will keep you up way past a reasonable time to call it a day. You just may develop a brand new thirst for the kill while vacationing in Hell. There is also a ton of potential for replay value to go back and look for all of the stashed goodies and hidden areas throughout each map.
DOOM is about the thrill of kicking the shit out of all that is evil. As a child, the idea planted in my brain was that Hell was a dimension of existence where all evil originates and that I would be sent straight there should I choose to be a naughty boy. This may or may have not been your experience, but it plays into what I appreciate so much about the idea of raising my own batch of hell in Doom. It’s a game that’s about reveling in the war that Hell has created, and they should be just as afraid of you as you’ve been lead to be afraid of them. Bethesda and id have joined forces to bring this one-of-a-kind sci-fi shooting experience back in a big way. Explaining Doom’s brand is a challenging thing to do, but once the controls are in your hand, you play for long enough to feel the tightness and fluidity of the mechanics, and you’re in the mood for a very intense new shooter, everything about it makes sense. This new Doom is aware of its origins while surpassing the gameplay standards of modern times. It’s not often that a sequel or reboot can maintain what was great about the original while delivering something completely fresh, reminding you of why you fell in love with its signature style in the first place. For me, it did the impossible by reviving my love for the FPS. It is a technical powerhouse, a visual marvel, a knockout audio experience. They were going for something wicked, fierce, unforgiving, and delivered more than I had ever hoped. For the love of all that is good and holy, sacred, whatever word you choose to use, buy this game. Get ready to have one seriously brutal dance with the devil in the pale moonlight.