Hurt Me Plenty
I have a confession to make. This revelation may damn me to join the imps and Revenants in Hell, but I feel it needs to be said. I wasn’t crazy about DOOM 3. Despite being a lifelong fan of the pioneering FPS series, id Software’s 2004 bloodbath bored me to tears. Sure, DOOM 3‘s stunning visuals alone served as a great showpiece for the pricey new video card that I had purchased in anticipation of the game’s release, but the plodding pacing and uninspired gameplay really underscored just how far the genre had come in the decade since its release. Games like Valve’s breakaway hit Half-life introduced shooter fans to a whole new world of storytelling, while games like the recently-released Painkiller did a great job of dishing out the white-knuckle thrills. DOOM 3 tried to walk the line between compelling narrative and the FPS splatter-fest that inspired it, and ultimately, at least in this humble reviewer’s opinion, missed its mark.
Now, 12 years since the release of DOOM 3, id Software has returned to the franchise that brought them to industry superstardom. Gone are the clunky, flashlight-juggling exploration and awkward narrative of its predecessor in favor of a more brutal, no-holds-barred experience. For the most part, id’s decision to trim the fat and focus on delivering a more classic DOOM experience is a wise one. The game feels like a true extension of what made the original games so great to begin with. It stays true to the bloodsoaked tenets fans of the series demand. The combat is lightning-fast. The demons are massive and bloodthirsty. And the campaign takes you to hell and back, frequently crushing your spirit as you’re eviscerated by the forces of the damned. In a lot of ways DOOM is the game that longtime fans of the series have been waiting for.
While it may not be the best shooter released this year, it’s certainly one of the most refreshing ones I’ve had the chance to play for quite some time. DOOM probably won’t be the game that puts id Software back on the throne, but it’s certainly enough to at least put DOOM back on the map for fans who may have given up hope for the series.
DOOM’s story is certainly a familiar one. After all, it’s another take on the same frayed yarn id Software has been knitting for over two decades. The Union Aerospace Corporation has been conducting experiments on the surface of Mars. Having developed a portal to Hell, the UAC have been been using demons as test subjects in order to make biological weapons and exploiting the powers of “Hell Energy” to create limitless power for the denizens of earth. Of course, this idea is just as great as it sounds, and before long the armies of the damned have found a way to invade the Mars installation and disembowel almost every living soul on the Red Planet. It’s up to the player to suit up, grab some big freaking guns, and fight your way through the armies of hell-spawn in order to save humanity from the demonic menace.
DOOM’s roughly 15-hour campaign will take players from the industrial corridors of the Martian UAC facility to purgatory as you butcher hordes of familiar enemies. The story that props up the action may not be anything to write home about, but the gunplay itself hits like a Super Shotgun blast to the chest. Movement is fast and furious, and you’ll gain access to a wide array of weapons to turn your foes into twitching gristle. These guns range from fan favorites like plasma rifles, shotguns and rocket launchers to the almighty BFG 9000 itself. Each gun feels great and packs some solid weight (aside from the rather piddly pistol you’ll start out with), and each weapon can be upgraded multiple times with medals you earn during each mission. I really liked the freedom of customization these upgrades provided, such as a missile pod strapped to my machine gun that was ideal for dealing damage to more hearty enemies. However, when I was dealing with fleshier, more vulnerable foes I’d switch to my machine gun’s scope attachment and dice enemies from a distance with pinpoint accuracy. Other fun upgrades include an attachment that allows you to fire 3 shotgun blasts in rapid succession, to remote bombs that turn even the meanest demons into bloody chunks. The variety of upgrades available adds a ton of versatility to the combat and really makes you want to explore each area thoroughly to unlock as many of them as possible.
In addition to pimping out your arsenal of weapons, you’ll also be able to upgrade your Praetor armor by collecting chips from fallen Elite Guards. These will allow you to increase the number of items you can carry, your suit’s ability to withstand explosions and environmental hazards, and other useful bonuses. Lastly, you can find stores of Argent energy scattered in each area which you can spend to upgrade your total health, armor and ammo capacity. It’s honestly a bit surprising how much freedom you’re given to customize your character considering just how old-school the rest of the game’s mechanics are, but the surprise is definitely a welcome one.
One of the major new features that’s been implemented in this reboot is the ‘Glory Kill’ system. Glory Kills are flashy kills you can perform with the click of a thumb-stick once an enemy has taken enough damage. These over-the-top executions result in a small health bonus for the player when performed successfully. It’s a cool concept, but their use becomes so essential to staying alive that they quickly lose their impact. Honestly, their implementation adds a bit of arcade flavor to the game that almost feels like a step too far back for the series at times. This feeling is also underscored by the obnoxiously-named ‘Gore Nests’ you’ll find, which when destroyed essentially trigger an arena-style showdown with waves of enemies. Hell, even the chainsaw now has a limited number of uses, and when it’s used on an enemy they explode in a shower of glowing power-ups and ammo like a bacon-wrapped pinata. I appreciate what it’s trying to do by keeping the series as fast and raw as possible, but I can’t help but feel some of these additions dumb things down a bit much and feel a bit too far removed from the series for their own good.
While several of the new additions to DOOM’s formula are a bit uneven, one that’s simply brilliant is Snapmap. This robust toolset allows players to customize their own single-player, cooperative and multiplayer maps out of a wide selection of pre-made rooms. Putting together your own map is a breeze, and you can customize everything from weapon and enemy placement down to the AI patterns of the demons in the map. At the time of this writing, there are already a ton of faithful recreations of classic DOOM maps created by the community, and the number is growing steadily. Considering just how devoted the DOOM community has been over the years, it’s not hard to imagine entire campaigns from the original DOOM trilogy being recreated faithfully with Snapmap over the next few years. Now isn’t that an exciting thought?
Much like the rest of the package, DOOM’s multiplayer component is a bit of a mix of old and new. You can choose from a variety of modes including the classic Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Soul Harvest. Though it’s a bit baffling that standard Deathmatch is only available via Snapmap. Developed by Certain Affinity, these modes feel a bit more Quake or Unreal Tournament than the DOOM we know and love, and that’s probably a good thing. The arenas are really set up for kinetic play and are littered with bounce pads, platforms to jump, and choke points to take advantage of. Snagging a Demon Rune will allow you to briefly take control of one of the series’ iconic monsters to rain hell on your enemies such as the Hell Knight, Mancubus and Revenant. These creatures are a blast to play as, though they don’t feel especially balanced as even the lowliest player can turn numerous seasoned players inside-out with little trouble thanks to their generous pool of hit points. You can choose from various class-based load-outs as well as create custom ones, but I have to say I that I would have preferred that weapons were scattered across the arena like previous games in the series. Classes largely feel superfluous and are a bit of an odd fit for an arena shooter, at least in my opinion.
DOOM may stumble a bit in a few areas, but id Software has still done a great job of bringing the series back into the limelight. The game delivers a wealth of content that simply needs to be explored by shooter fans. From the sizable main campaign to the incredibly intuitive and addicting Snapmap feature, there’s an awful lot to love about this refined reboot. Sure, Glory Kills and tired arena segments might feel a bit old school even for DOOM, but they’re easy to overlook when you consider just how much id Software has gotten right. That said, I mean it when I say I hope you all go to Hell. Feel free to tell the Cyberdemon I sent you.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PS4 (Reviewed) Xbox One, PC ; Publisher: Bethesda Softworks ; Developer: id Software ; Players: Single Player, Online Multiplayer ; Released: May 13, 2016 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail PlayStation 4 copy purchased by HeyPoorPlayer.