I have never been happier to be wrong about a video game in my entire life. DOOM, the fourth entry into id Software’s seminal franchise, was released May 13th 2016. Although an open multiplayer beta had left me very, very cold, I was so wrong.
DOOM is an immaculately paced, beautifully designed, hilariously self-aware modern day realisation of the classic franchise, that updates everything that needed updating from the 1993 DOOM and keeps everything that didn’t need updating exactly the same. The opening 30 second cut scene of the game, which implies some pretty wild things about the lore of DOOM, launches you immediately into combat. A short scene after that threatens to force you into watching a briefing on a computer screen before the DOOM Marine punches the computer screen, discards it, and goes on to kill more demons. It’s a far cry from DOOM 3’s controversial yet atmospheric 30 minutes of base repair before anything goes wrong, but it works in its favour.
“It is simply, unequivocally wonderful”
The game immediately shows you that it’s going to be a high speed, no-nonsense romp, but is self-aware enough to take digs at its predecessors and its contemporaries in the process. From prerecorded messages throughout the base warning you that “Demonic Presence Levels are too high” to the DOOM Marine’s complete inability to interact with any piece of technology without just punching it, DOOM knows that it’s silly and over-the-top and it relishes in it.
Although the tone and set up of DOOM is wonderful to behold, the true majesty of DOOM lies in its combat. id Software have proven once again that they rule the roost in first-person combat by crafting a series of systems, abilities and encounters that force the player into what may be the greatest moment-to-moment, ebb and flow of combat I have ever experienced in a video game. In DOOM, you take a remarkable amount of damage from enemies, and they close on you with deadly speed and efficiency, forcing you to make good use of the high speed movement and the quick mantling systems you have been blessed with as the DOOM Marine to traverse the environment.
“DOOM knows that it’s silly and over-the-top and it relishes in it”
It is wonderful to play a game in 2016 that requires circle strafing, and DOOM adds a further twist to the need to keep moving with the Glory Kill system, the hyper-violent melee execution system that caused so much consternation in the trailers. When a demon is sufficiently damaged you can move in and perform a Glory Kill, which grants invincibility for the few frames of animation that take place (and it is a few, they are very fast) and then causes the demon in question to drop a surplus of health items. On top of that are the Chainsaw kills, limited use melee kills that cause the demon killed to explode into a huge amount of ammo, almost enough to fully replenish your stocks.
All of this combined means that the game forces you to spend every combat encounter deep in the fray, surrounded by enemies on all sides, swapping from weapon to weapon and dumping round after round into demons, popping off Glory Kills to replenish your health and Chainsaw kills to replenish your ammo, as frantic, oppressive metal music wails in the background and demon screams echo around you. The sense of being in the fight that DOOM produces is sublime.
However, it’s not all roses with DOOM. An over-reliance on platforming over instant death pits causes some chunks of the game to outstay their welcome, and the story is your generic science fiction affair about corporations playing god, but it hardly seems to matter when you’re busy tearing the heart out of a Cacodemon, punching it back into his head through his giant, gross eye, and then jumping off of him to blast an Imp into giblets with your Super Shotgun. The levels in DOOM are large and full of secrets and collectables, and every weapon has modifications that can be upgraded, so that your Shotgun has a grenade launcher alternate fire or your Chaingun can be preemptively spun up before combat, allowing you to start the carnage even sooner.
“The sense of being in the fight that DOOM produces is sublime”
The game still includes the weak multiplayer from the beta, that I will admit I haven’t gone back to, but it hardly matters compared to the meaty chunk of gameplay the single player consists of. Additionally, the game features SnapMap, a Halo Forge style level and gameplay editor, that allows players to produce new multiplayer maps and design single player and cooperative challenge levels, which seems like it may extend the life of DOOM past the moment you’ve completed every level and got every collectable. A further rogue-like single player mode where you have to play through the game on the hardest difficulty with only one life adds an intriguing twist to the single player for veteran DOOM Marines looking for a challenge.
DOOM is not a perfect game, yet it is hard to talk about it without gushing like an excited child, which should be more indicative of my feeling about it than any words. It is safe to say that anybody who enjoys first person shooters should play this game. It is simply, unequivocally wonderful.