The new DOOM is faster, more aggressive, more violent and more frantic than it has ever been in the past. Going back to the dynamic that made the franchise popular in the first place, its no-nonsense approach to killing horde after horde of horrible demons has to be applauded in the modern era of gaming that sometimes takes too long to get to the good stuff… the good stuff being, ripping the jaw off of a demons face after blasting its demon friend with a double barrelled shotgun and curb-stomping another into a pile of gooey, bloody demon mush. Yes, this is DOOM as we love it, and it’s a lot of fun – but the entire package doesn’t quite live up to the excitement presented during the campaign, which is a bit of a let-down.
Set on Mars, the game begins simply enough with demons that are only dangerous up close, but quickly escalates, with bigger, faster, stronger and more aggressive enemies coming at you in quick succession. Not to worry though, as the guns you collect also come without much delay one after the other until you have an arsenal of beefy, manly weapons to obliterate your foes with, often turning them into a paste or a spray of blood-splatter and fleshy bits. There isn’t much explanation surrounding why you’re there and what’s going on, but… there’s a portal to Hell that needs to be kept closed, and I guess that’s motivation enough.
The pace never really slows down, taking you from area to area full of demons that spawn over and over again until eventually you’ve killed them all, allowing you to progress. It can feel overwhelming at times given the number disadvantage, and health doesn’t even regenerate. That’s where Glory kills come in, allowing you to do a vicious execution which always guarantees a drop of some health. Moving from demon to demon, making sure to keep your health up when you are constantly surrounded and taking gunfire is exhilarating and ensures that you never want to hide or take your time – you need to keep moving and you need to keep killing over and over and over. It’s almost exhausting at times, but at least it’s consistently fun and in your face like a ballsy action gore-fest like DOOM should be.
Yes, when the heavy metal intense soundtrack kicks in as you rip one demon to shreds with a chainsaw before blowing up a whole room with the BFG is always going to be enjoyable on some silly hyper-violent level, but across the campaign, there isn’t much else to it. You clear an area full of demons, more demons come, you’re outnumbered but never really out-powered thanks to your ridiculously effective weapons, and you keep on a fairly linear path from area to area doing this. There’s not much variety; that big demon that you thought was tough the first time you saw it is a lot less intimidating the 10th, 50th and 100th time you encounter it. They become target practise more than anything else, and apart from a couple of memorable big boss battles, generally speaking the constant flow of common enemies gets a little tiring.
Despite this, the progression of your character and weapons is easy to understand and enjoyable to upgrade. There are plenty of secrets to be found in each level, and they will require you to explore in detail, using a bit of creative platforming and really keeping your eye out. Casual explorers will still stumble across some upgrades and bonuses, but there is a lot to be found for those willing to take their time combing through each area carefully for that next elusive upgrade. I genuinely didn’t find any secrets in my first few missions even though I was keeping an eye out and it has created an eagerness to go back and try to spot them now that I’m more comfortable.
“…the fiery depths of Hell in particular felt threatening and interesting…”
DOOM actually looks pretty awesome throughout. The frame rate consistently keeps up with the crazy amount of explosions, enemies and pure chaos on screen, and because your character moves at a light sprint the entire time, it’s impressive to see the engine keep up. Little details on Mars stand out if you get a moments break from the madness and the fiery depths of Hell in particular felt threatening and interesting, especially compared with that of the man-made environments seen otherwise.
The multiplayer feels a lot more basic than the campaign and is unfortunately fairly forgettable. Featuring the standard game modes and leveling system that has become a staple of modern shooters while still trying to maintain the charm of old-school DOOM, it just feels flat and lacking of any real soul. The ability to transform into a temporary demon grants some thrills and gives you some incredibly easy kills, but it feels so overpowered and random that it wrecks the balance and strips away the competitive spirit. The one mode that makes it feel relevant is Soul Harvest, where the demon is constantly in play and being juggled back and forth between teams throughout.
The mode that surprised me and made me smile was actually SnapMap, a creation tool that allows you to make your own maps and mini-games before sharing them with others. I’m not great with this Minecraft style of creating because I usually find it all a bit daunting and stressful to be honest, but with SnapMap I actually found it a bit easier to understand than I was expecting. While the attempts I made to create things I would still consider poor, I found myself dabbling in the community creations for actual hours; some people have done a stellar job creating unique missions and other fun tasks that I won’t spoil – I wish I had the dedication and understanding that they clearly do, and taking part in a home-made DOOM experience from someone like me was very engaging and cool.
The Bottom Line
DOOM presents me with a dilemma, in a way. It’s story is intentionally super simple so that it can throw wave after wave of demons your way to be turned into a gib soup, and I respect that, even though I longed for some more variety in the mission structure. The multiplayer falls a bit flat even though it’s not by any means bad, and SnapMap is a creation tool that will probably give the game more life in the future than anything else that it’s offering. But I keep going back and there is something very cathartic about this particular brand of unrelenting and unwavering violence and shouty metal soundtrack. DOOM has a clear identity, knows exactly what it is and doesn’t mess around, and succeeds in being a great throwback to a time when storyline meant nothing and it was all about the intense, fast-paced gore that never lets up. While not a revolution, it’s bloody good fun, and to some that will be all that matters.