Much like the 1993 original, 2016 DOOM doesn’t waste any time getting stuck in.
Within seconds of starting a new game, you’re cracking demon skulls against gore-soaked altars and gearing-up to take on Satan’s dark army. Any concerns you might have had about the franchise’s ‘modernisation’, are grabbed by their metaphorical throats and ripped apart by a pair of armoured green hands.
This is classic DOOM for the current gen. And it’s utterly glorious.
For the most part, DOOM’s story is an uncomplicated affair. A Mars-based, planetary conglomerate has discovered a way to siphon energy from the underworld, and funnily enough, something’s gone wrong. Open Hellgates have allowed demons to spill forth into the facility you’re on, and the staff have been turned into either mindless ‘possessed’ or decorative viscera. Let’s be honest though, no one’s playing DOOM for an inspirational narrative. The unashamedly paper-thin story is only there to frame the gory demon-slaughter, which gets delivered by the spade-full.
Combat really is king here, and the system is fast, fluid and uncompromisingly brutal. There’s a blistering pace to your character’s default movement speed, and for good reason. Like the psychopathic shark he is, for Doomguy to stop moving means death. Mastering circle-strafing is an essential step to success, since the sheer volume of flaming projectiles and bloodied-claws to avoid mean you should be moving and shooting more often than not.
As there’s no regenerating heath, you’ll need to bounce around DOOM’s demon-packed environments at a solid pace while keeping an eye out for heath, ammo and armour. Pickups are finite however, so to prolong your life you’ll need to get up-close-and-personal with your satanic assailants.
Weaken an enemy to near-death and it’ll stagger, dazed and wide open for a ‘glory kill.’ Depending on what part of the unfortunate creature you’ve targeted, Doomguy will launch into one of several finisher animations, causing his foe to erupt into a fountain of gore and health pickups.
Since the flashy finishers aren’t just for show, you’ll soon fall into the rhythm of weakening demons on-the-fly before closing in for a health boost and a few valuable I-frames. The elaborate animations that play out are shamefully fun to watch, and just long enough to provide a moment of respite amidst the chaos of combat.
Mastering glory kills and dodging through the terrain will go a long way to keeping you alive, since DOOM’s difficulty remains as unapologetically hard as ever. There are five modes to choose from and most gamers will be tested on anything above the ‘normal’ Hurt Me Plenty. But the truly hardcore will want to take a look at Ultra-Nightmare, where even FPS masochists will be in for a rough time.
To help even the odds against the demonic horde, there’s a rudimentary upgrade system which lets you beef up Doomguy and his gear.
Collectable Argent Cells provide upper-limit increases to health, armour and ammo. Elite soldier’s corpses can be scavenged for points towards new passive abilities, and a set of three optional objectives per mission can be completed for weapon upgrade tokens. ‘Rune Challenges’ appear as glowing chunks of demonic rock, that see you completing tough objectives to strict time limits. And then there’s the adorable Doomguy miniatures (which Bethesda really should be producing replicas of) that unlock 3D models for viewing at the main menu.
The further through DOOM’s campaign you progress, the more frequently you’ll also see disposable pickups, such as quad-damage, invulnerability, and haste. All of which prove invaluable for surviving some of the more ‘hellish’ set pieces (no pun intended).
There’s a surprising amount of depth here and a massive number of secrets, but it’s never quite enough to feel overwhelming. Hunting down all of DOOM’s extras will inevitably distract completionists from the main story, but the rewards are well worth the added exploration time.
While there’s plenty see, do and eviscerate across the campaign, the missions themselves are frustratingly formulaic. A regular rotation between square rooms full of monsters, and ‘go here and press the button’ style objectives, soon gets rather repetitive.
Cross-dimensional jaunts into the underworld provide some initial excitement, but after the third or fourth trip, they’re as exhilarating as nipping down to the shops. By the time you reach DOOM’s midway point you’ll have seen just about all it has to offer, with only a handful of unique boss fights and set pieces to maintain your interest.
At least when the gore-spattered lustre of single-player begins to fade, there’s the online component to provide a distraction. We had a great time on the multiplayer beta back in April, and the full version is packed with a generous amount of content. There’s a decent variety of deathmatch and objective-based game types, and the impressive volume of customisation options has been greatly expanded on.
There are a few balancing issues around certain weapons, but it’s still early days for DOOM and we’re certain there’ll be patches on the way. The longevity of the online scene might be questionable however, with fans of the original shunning the game for not being a ‘classic’ arena shooter, and the likes of Blizzard’s Overwatch sure to tempt away a few players next week.
To help keep the community active for as long as possible, ID included SnapMap – a simple but impressively versatile create-a-map mode, which allows easy content sharing between players. It’s a great tool that’s as straightforward to operate as Halo’s Forge, and we’ve already seen some awesome community content being built on it.
Overall, DOOM well and truly exceeded our expectations. By taking the mechanics and themes of their iconic original and adding some modern polish, ID have created an experience that’s fun, fluid and true to the series’ roots.
The absence of any review code prior to launch had us convinced that ID was hiding a substandard product, but DOOM has turned out to be one of the most effortlessly enjoyable shooters we’ve played this year. The gory combat is hugely cathartic, and the heavy metal soundtrack makes it hard not to feel like a badass while you’re tearing up demonic invaders. The campaign does get repetitive towards its anticlimactic finale, and the environments begin to feel unavoidably samey. But most of the time you’ll be too busy pulling bits off of monsters and hunting down mini-Doomguys to care.
It’s worth mentioning that we did have some technical issues on the PC with random CTDs, but these were taken care of by switching off our v-sync.
This is old-school DOOM with a modern lick of paint, and while it’ll never quite eclipse the original in terms of influence; it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable beast in its own right.