At the beginning of the year, DOOM's gutsy reboot was on the laborious road towards failure; the multiplayer beta had received lukewarm reception, and it had been reported that review copies would not be sent out to game websites. All signs pointed to id Software shaking itself free from a potentially bad release--and so, it was let loose into the wild. The unthinkable happened: through the initial word of mouth, DOOM was being praised as a magnificent and chaotic spree, hearkening back to what made the original games before Doom 3 so mindlessly fun. Fast forward to the present, and even the noted critics have agreed that DOOM is indeed a kind of triumph--not only due to what it had going against it pre-release, but because it had the temerity to grind against typical linear cover-laden FPS games. Having little experience with the original Doom games myself, I decided to see what this was all about. I'm pleased to say that DOOM has offered some of the best fun I've had in a game in quite a while.
The crux of DOOM's excellent gameplay is within its maddening tempo of verticality, constant action, and almost puzzle-like problems in when to use certain weapons or powerups against the burning legions. Favoring a blazing sprint to the jogging pace of other FPS games, DOOM effectively casts you as a superhuman capable of scaling and jumping around the enemy arenas, treating encounters like a hellish carnival as you take down the waves of demons. The scale of areas and the possibilities to move up and down these heights is something the original games did not have, and this was a great way to bring the controls into the next generation, giving you even more options to confront or escape enemies (many of which also crawl and leap all over the map, as well.) I found the blistering speed of DOOM refreshing after cover-based games like UC4 or other FPS games; you're encouraged to get your hands dirty, sometimes literally as your finishing "glory kill" move will reward you with more health or ammo. Standing still is a death sentence in DOOM, especially later on when certain baddies have a particular love of bullrushing you.
What's the point of all this bleeding and shooting, though? Long story made short, you are the Omega Man; the reckoning of Hell that has woken up to care little about a space station's research, only interested in getting off Mars and suspending the invasion of Earth. The Doom Marine's motivations begin and end with "rip and tear your opposition," punching out monitors that would seek to drop exposition on you. The plot is classic in that you are constantly moving forward to the next arena or obstacle. The demons themselves are well-made and have their own quirks, from hulking tackles and wallcrawlers that hurl fire, to rotund chaingun men and titanic Satans.
It wouldn't be any fun unless you had some nice toys to utilize in your holy quest of anger, and DOOM delivers with about a dozen unique weapons, all that have two upgrade paths for specialized abilities. My favorites included a minigun that could split into a ridiculous tri-gun, and a rifle that has a cute little missile box to impale foes with microbombs. You also get to play with grenades and hologram projectors, which will become invaluable when you need a quick fuckoff button as the hordes increase. As you weaken enemies, you can also go for the "glory kill" at the press of the control stick. What follows is one of several gory animations where you punch something's head off or curbstomp their brains out, resulting in more health or ammo pickups than if you merely executed the demon through your guns. It's bloody and visceral and just so satisfying; the kind of juvenile fun you'd expect from the 90's metalhead aesthetic in DOOM.
Speaking of metalhead aesthetics, DOOM does a great job with the locations and arenas you'll be clambering over. The Martian surface is grim and ablaze, while the cold industrial facilities are caked in crimson blood and cool chromatic blues. Your mind won't be blown by the sum of its parts, but it's quite a beautiful graphical achievement when you remember this game is constantly moving at the breakneck 60FPS. In fact, DOOM might be one of the most technically impressive games on the console, especially since it looks so good at the treasured 60 frames. I felt we only just got started with the power of the PS4 with Arkham Knight, Witcher 3, and Uncharted 4--but DOOM should easily slot in there due to the ease at which it handles.
DOOM's campaign, running at about 15 to 18 hours, brings some great reasons to keep playing at higher, hardcore difficulties--but besides the thrill of the great shooting in general, the ridiculously fun secrets and extras to find are quite interesting. Fun enemy documentation, tiny Doom Marine action figures, incredibly secretive throwback portals to classic Doom levels, rune challenges, and hidden weapon upgrades are littered around each chapter, with some more obvious than others. It's a nice breather offered after tough battles, letting you scour the stations and caverns for seemingly out-of-reach areas. It's a truly old-school machination that will keep you guessing what lies beneath the cracks, and I had a blast discovering some of the more unique easter eggs. I was intrigued by even the enemy and NPC profiles written, as they give legitimately interesting takes on the history of the facility before you arrived to tear everything to pieces.
I can't comment about the multiplayer arena as it did not interest me in the slightest, but the quirky SnapMap feature in DOOM has some promise. Everything from recreations of old levels to a strange Harvest Moon sim have been cooked up so far, though I have no idea how far other players will take SnapMap. At the very least, it will be interesting to go further in this mode to create some fun Horde scenarios, but there are certain limitations--like only 2 weapons at a time--that kind of hamper the creativity of the playerbase.
If I could sum up DOOM in a single sentence, it would be thusly: DOOM knows what it wants to do, and does it very well. For people who want a reprieve from the health regen and cover-based yobbery, DOOM goes full-tilt and makes no apologies for its gleefully retro bullet to the dome of its contemporaries. For an IP that has come screaming from the 90s, id has found a very suitable skin for DOOM to wear. It's the kind of skin that still looks good caked in guts and gunpowder, sprinting into another bloodsoaked arena, demanding excellence and aggression from the player. DOOM is a lesson in excellence, as it fulfills a promise kept since 2 decades past--chiefly, one that's hellbent on pure kinetic fun.
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Amazing and topical!