To Hell and back.
DOOM is one of those games that I always meant to get to, and just never did. These past few years have been tough, financially. However, with Jennifer and I finally finishing college, we’ve been able to afford a few luxuries. The Black Friday festivities, gave me a great opportunity to pick up DOOM for a steal, along with a copy of MarioKart 8 Deluxe as well (at full price *grumbles*). Rest assured, we went into Best Buy long after the “doorbuster” event on Thanksgiving Day. I’m not about to be part of the crowd that encourages stripping retail employees from their families on holidays.
I’ll save that soapbox rant for another time.
Anyways, I had a chance to play with the demo last year, and I snagged a copy for a bit when I still had GameFly, after I got frustrated with the service and quit in a fit of rage because they wouldn’t ship me a copy of Quantum Break. Hey, they offered me a month’s subscription for a pittance, so I took advantage of it!
Back to the topic at hand though, my recent adventures on Mars and in the demonic dimensions of Hell have been
delightful enthralling. DOOM is fun and engaging. So should you buy it if you haven’t already?
That’s a hint for you to keep reading by the way.
DOOM is a blast. It’s a fast-paced callback to the older shooters like Wolfenstein, Dark Forces, and obviously… DOOM and its sequel DOOM II. This isn’t one of those shooters like Call of Duty that pits you against endless waves of enemies until you hit the trigger to stop the flow. It also isn’t a tactical shooter like Rainbow Six where you stick to cover and work your way around slowly. DOOM is about crushing demon skulls and big, scf-fi guns.
It’s made abundantly clear through the introduction of Glory Kills that this isn’t just about shooting bad guys. This game is about brutality. No time to think. No time to cower. The DOOM Marine wouldn’t have that anyway. The DOOM Marine seeks only to send the forces of Hell back to their realm, one piece at a time.
Gameplay is quick and frantic. Functionally, you only have two speeds: fast and still, and still is basically death. Moving about the world calls for spatial awareness. You must keep track of enemies while ensuring you don’t run off a platform into the pits of Hell itself.
Health and armor form your only means of passive defense, and they don’t recharge on their own. Thankfully, health, armor, and ammunition pickups are scattered about quite liberally and overtly. You’ll need those powerups as well, because Mars is far for hospitable.
Something I found pretty interesting is that DOOM‘s combat is grouped into arenas. It’s always rather obvious that you’re walking into a fight, but the combat is so solid that I never found myself groaning over it like other games with telegraphed battles. I can’t tell for sure if this was intentional, or a just result of the way DOOM was designed. Regardless, it instills in me a sense of nostalgia, calling me back to my first time battling Hell’s minions on Mars back when I was a young(er) lad.
DOOM possesses other classic qualities, like the inclusion of secrets in each level, as well as segregated levels in the first place. Each map is treated like a stage, with specific main goals, but a plethora of optional side goals accompanying the action. There are armor and weapon upgrades, Rune challenges (which function as smaller arena-style battles with specific conditions to meet for substantial rewards), and milestones to achieve. I haven’t even mentioned the DOOM dolls scattered about.
DOOM looks rather impressive on consoles, and I imagine that it looks even better on PC. I’ve heard reports that it runs well enough on the Nintendo Switch. However, the one thing that the PC, PS4, and Xbox One version has on the Switch version is that Nintendo’s platform isn’t quite powerful enough to manage running the game at a solid 60 FPS.
Regardless, DOOM is… beautiful? No, that’s not the right word. It’s… pretty? No. Still not right. It looks good; that’s right. It runs buttery smooth, and has decent visuals on console. It’s obvious that a first-person shooter like this is best played on a gaming PC though. This sort of game lends itself well to a mouse and keyboard setup, and PCs are far more capable of rendering games like DOOM.
While the Xbox One version doesn’t look terrible, it’s evident that the Xbox can’t render textures as well. The way it appears, lower resolution textures were used for many of the game’s assets on consoles; even weapon textures look muddy sometimes. Still, it seems like a decent compromise to achieve a high, stable framerate.
Of course, a game that pits an apathetic killing machine against demons straight from the gates of Hell itself would need a suitable soundtrack for the slaughter, and DOOM has just the right music to pair with the atmosphere. This is perfectly displayed for players upon their first foray out onto Mars’ surface, where an appropriate rock intro finishes with a pump of a shotgun action to the beat of the music. DOOM keeps this theme throughout, with light metal-style music paired up with each battle, heavy on electric guitar.
I’m not sure if it qualifies as being original, but DOOM calls back to ye’ ol’ good days of video games. Back when using cover meant strafing behind a wall to avoid a kill shot from a boss, when health came from packs you found lying around, and ammunition spent less time in your inventory and more time being drilled into your foes.
Maybe that isn’t original, but you know what? This is my site, and I make up the rules. DOOM stands out because it does away with the trends of shooter titles today. You can’t play it safe in DOOM in any traditional way. Playing it safe means going by the old adage, “The best defense is a good offense”. If you try to stick in a spot and take a breather, you might as well just call it quits.
STORY AND MULTIPLAYER
Something I find interesting about DOOM‘s story is one that I’ve seen touched on in other reviews; that is, the protagonist’s ambivalence towards the story itself. It’s true that the one known only as the “DOOM Marine” often shows disregard for narrative of any kind – shoving terminals spouting exposition out of the way and completely ignoring advice of talking heads – but the one thing I’ve not heard is the level of lore depth that id Software implanted in their game.
Every weapon, location, enemy, and subject in DOOM is paired with background information on it. There’s a combination of humor and genuinely important tidbits sprinkled throughout the DOOM Marine’s journal. Information on what happened, and why, are all in the game. They are sometimes even alluded to during the one-way conversations between the DOOM Marine and those trying to use him for their own ends.
What’s novel about this approach is that there’s a complete storyline hidden underneath the surface. Other games, like No Man’s Sky and the original Destiny, have attempted to fixate on gameplay at the cost of narrative. This is something I’ve touched on before, but DOOM doesn’t hide behind its gameplay. The story is still offered to the player, and the option to delve deeper is obvious and present.
However, it isn’t like DOOM‘s story will win any awards for its narrative genius. The story is merely a means to an end; a reason for the DOOM Marine to continue curb stomping demons. The key here is that you needn’t look to DOOM for a meaningful story.
Like the story of DOOM, the multiplayer is serviceable. It isn’t groundbreaking, but it works. The solid gameplay carries over to the multiplayer mode, and the SnapMap feature allows players to create to their heart’s content. Even though it’s a solid addition, it’s nothing to write home about, not to mention that the gaming community at large seems to have moved on.
Oddly enough, the most interesting character in DOOM happens to be the one character that doesn’t give a damn about anything. The main character himself wants nothing to do with anyone else, and is actively disinterested in the events around him. He just wants to bathe in the blood of his enemies; is that too much to ask?
It’s novel to have a character that is simultaneously the catalyst for the main story, and also the one character that doesn’t care about the events surrounding him at all. It’s a humorous addition to the game, and is easily one of the redeeming elements of DOOM. It would’ve been easy for id Software to go the route of a gritty shooter devoid of any character, but they clearly had something more entertaining in mind.
DOOM is probably one of the best shooters that I’ve played in years, which is rather surprising. It does away with many of the staples of the first-person shooter genre, like regenerative health, cover mechanics, iron sights aiming, and even reloading. DOOM is all about the combat, through and through, and justice is done for the genre in that concept.
It’s a bit of a shame that it took me so long to get to DOOM. Even having played it before, I didn’t spend enough time with it to get a good feel.
I missed out… You shouldn’t.
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