Doom…Doom 4…Doom 2016. It doesn’t matter what you call it. Just don’t pass it off as another modern first person shooter with brown backgrounds and a focus on headshots with an arsenal of 34 different machine guns. That would be a mistake.
Doom is the first person shooter that I’ve been anticipating for a long time. It’s not a slow walk through a straightforward game, loaded with quick time events and grounded in realism. Instead, it’s a high-octane gorefest that requires fast reactions, quick thought, and a decent amount of exploration if you want to discover the vast number of secrets the game has to offer.
Sounds a lot like Doom, doesn’t it? Let’s delve further and I’ll show you how deep this hellhole goes.
There are three components to Doom: the lengthy and challenging single player campaign, which will keep you busy for anywhere between 10 and 15 hours on your first runthrough; the multiplayer, which a lot of reviewers and players seem to be shitting on for some reason; and SnapMap, an incredibly intuitive and deceptively powerful map-maker included in all versions of the game. I’ll tackle all of these aspects, starting with the amazing single player component.
First and foremost, I have to mention that the Doom campaign is one of the best FPS experiences I’ve ever had. Let’s lead off with that.
When you start Doom up, you have a very important choice: difficulty setting. The classic Doom settings are all there, ranging from I’m Too Young to Die all the way to Nightmare! I’ve played the game through on Hurt Me Plenty (base setting) and Ultra Violence so far. You’re never locked in to one mode; you always have the ability to alter the difficulty setting whenever you want. If you feel like the game is too difficult for you, or if you’re aching for more of a challenge, you can switch it in the option menu. Well, that is except for one difficulty setting…a brand new terrifying creature known as Ultra-Nightmare! In this setting, you have to get through the entirety of the campaign in Nightmare difficulty WITHOUT DYING ONCE. Yeah, that’s gonna be a fun one!
Once you’ve started the game, there’s no stopping. After a brief introduction, you immediately see the Doom Guy wake up on some sort of stone slab (which you learn about later), grab a demon by the face, and mash its head into a pulp. The marine snags a pistol, you blast some enemies, get your suit, and you’re away to the races, lighting up zombies and imps left right and centre. You’re subjected to some story aspects every so often, particularly near the beginning of the game where the occasional cutscene occurs. But occasional is the key word here. You don’t have characters gabbing at you 95% of the time telling you what to do, where to go, and what part of an enemy to shoot at. Instead, you have short bursts of story exposition that quickly explain your next objective, and then you’re immediately back to exploding demons.
Blasting the hordes of hell is incredibly hectic and fun, by the way! The best way I can think to describe the game flow of Doom is that it’s akin to a brawler such as Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, except that you shoot things instead of hacking and slashing them. Allow me to explain: there are sections of the game where you are making your way through corridors and pathways, and in these areas you’ll encounter a few stray demons to take down with your vast arsenal. These corridors, however, usually lead to large-scale rooms that resemble extremely close-quarters multiplayer maps, and function like the arena-style locations of 3D brawler titles which lock you in until all enemies are dead. These are set piece areas that have boxes and ledges to climb, open areas for circle strafing, and pathways that rarely have only one entrance or exit, promoting speed and flow as you take down floods of enemies that surge after you. This is where the combat really shines, as you frantically move around the arena and interpret your surroundings, all while concentrating your fire on the multitude of different demon types that are trying to overwhelm you.
Another aspect that makes Doom much like a brawler is that it legitimately gives you the option to rip and tear your hellish adversaries apart. When you manage to bring a demon near death, a faint blue glow will appear around it as it looks staggered and beaten. If you’re fast, you can run in and execute them with your bare hands in a gruesome and brutal fashion: this is called a Glory Kill. Depending on what part of the enemy’s body you’re focused on, the Doom Guy will perform a variety of different executions, such as snapping an Imp’s neck or ripping a man’s leg off and shoving it through his face.
Glory Kills aren’t just for show, though; performing these brutalities will cause the enemies to drop guaranteed items, including health, ammo, and armor. They’ll still occasionally drop these powerups when you shoot them to death, but Glory kills will always result in a small boost. It’s an interesting aspect in the combat, and it causes you to get right up and close to demons in order to get health back, putting yourself at potential risk. There are still health, armor, and ammo pickups scattered throughout the stage itself (that’s right, no regenerating health people!), but the demons themselves become an important source for your own health, while also being a threat to it. It’s pretty brilliant, actually!
Glory Kills are only an option, of course…and if you don’t need to break a demon’s jaw off for some health drops, then you may as well stick to your ranged weaponry! Doom has a vast array of guns to use, including the original lineup that everybody knows and loves. You can blow chunks out of demons up close with the ridiculously powerful Super Shotgun, melt them from afar with the Plasma Rifle, and spray guts all over the place with some high-grade explosives from your trusty Rocket Launcher. All of the classics are there, and they feel, sound, and look great! There are also some additions to the roster, like the Heavy Assault Rifle, which functions as a pre-Chaingun automatic weapon, and the Gauss Cannon which is essentially a railgun, firing high-powered projectiles at long distances. You can carry the entire arsenal at once, and holding R1 (on the PS4) will slow the action around you to a crawl and bring up a weapon wheel so you can pick your tool of destruction. You have to be careful though, because the demons and projectiles flurrying around you are still in motion and can damage you if you’re in a tight spot.
The two most iconic Doom weapons, the Chainsaw and BFG 9000, make appearances as well, and in Doom 2016 they have very important roles in the gameplay. The Chainsaw is always mapped to a specific button and is not found on your weapon wheel. Unlike in previous Doom games, the Chainsaw has ammunition in the form of fuel, which you find lying around the stages. One unit of fuel will allow you to chop up one small demon instantly, spilling not only their guts, but a vast amount of ammunition for every weapon you’re carrying. Thus, the Chainsaw becomes a very special weapon that you use extremely rarely, usually when you’re running out of lead for every other killing machine you’re slinging around. Additionally, the larger the demon is that you victimize, the more units of fuel it will consume when you kill them. For example; a Hell Knight will take 3 units of fuel to mince up, and with fuel extremely limited (you eventually max out at 7 units, I think…but start with three), you have to pick and choose which demons to saw up. Very smart.
The BFG 9000, on the other hand, is also mapped to its own button, allowing you to switch to it on the fly and cast a massive green projectile that vaporizes everything in a 50-block radius. It basically functions as a panic switch, so if you find yourself surrounded by the hordes, you can send them to the void and hopefully get yourself back in shape.
If that isn’t enough sweet carnage for you, then you’ll be pleased to know that every weapon in Doom can be equipped with secondary functions and upgraded using upgrade points. Points are gathered by finding secrets, blasting demons, and completing small challenges that are exclusive to each stage, such as performing 5 different Glory Kills on a specific monster, or finding every secret in the level. You can then spend these points on your weapons to make them more powerful and give them special abilities. Weapon modules are scattered throughout stages as well, which unlock secondary functions when you find them, such as firing an explosive round from your shotgun or being able to detonate your rocket while it’s in mid-flight. The possibilities are vast, and you can fully customize your weapons to suit your play style. Additionally, armor upgrade points can be found by pillaging the armor from dead elite marines scattered throughout each stage. These will unlock special offensive and defensive capabilities for your character, further increasing your ability to survive.
And if THAT wasn’t enough, you can also track down runestones! After a certain point in the game, runestones begin to appear in the vast stages you have to traverse. When you find one of these 12 stones, you’re presented with an exclusive challenge in a small stage. Completing this challenge will unlock a rune which you can equip on your character, providing you with special perks such as being able to magnetically attract powerups dropped by enemies, or increasing your movement capabilities when you’re in mid-jump. You’re eventually able to equip up to three of these at once, and they can even be upgraded too! THE CUSTOMIZATION OPTIONS ARE ENDLESS!
All of these weapons, upgrades, and abilities will help you get your ass through each of Doom’s massive, sprawling stages. Every single environment looks incredibly detailed and graphically amazing. The surface of Mars is hostile but industrialized, the numerous bases controlled by the UAC are rife with platforms, railings, and crates to climb. The hellscape of the demon’s home turf is loaded with skulls, chains, and other hellish architecture. The game handles all of this, plus the chaotic, spectacular battles, without so much as a hitch in the framerate. Doom is as smooth as it was back in 1993. The scale of each level is incredibly impressive, which will only really hit you once you pull up the automap and see the full layout. As I mentioned before, stages in Doom are not simple straight lines like in Call of Duty or any of that crap; instead, you’re presented with numerous paths to explore, secrets to discover, and keycards to acquire in order to progress. That’s right…COLOURED KEYCARDS ARE BACK! Honestly, the scale and intricacy of these levels is astounding. When you’re not blasting the absolute shit out of demons, you’ll be sidetracking and exploring every nook and cranny of Mars and Hell to uncover everything the game has to offer. Some secrets house little Doom Guy collectibles that unlock models to view from the main menu. If you’re lucky, you may even find secret areas that resemble classic Doom maps, which unlock the full classic stages to play through!
Stages are accompanied by amazing music as well. As you explore each level, the music maintains a slow, mellow pace when you’re not in the action. If you listen extremely closely, you’ll hear subtle nods to the classic Doom soundtrack, such as the slow-paced plodding of E1M2 or the mysterious and creepy melody of Phobos Anomaly. Once you start blasting enemies though, the music instantly transforms into a mix of hard rock and industrial thrashing, perfectly accompanying the cacophony of gunshots and fireballs firing every which way. It sounds great, and since the music is almost directly reactive to the action on screen, it FEELS great when you’re killing and murdering your enemies. The soundtrack overall is phenomenal, managing to be both atmospheric and energetic, and I sincerely hope they release an official soundtrack to rock out to.
Finally, the enemies themselves are as much the stars of the show as the Doom Guy is. Nearly every single baddie from Doom I and II return: lowly possessed scientists and soldiers, fireball-hurling Imps, lumbering Hell Knights, terrifying airborne Cacodemons, and gargantuan Mancubi will all obstruct your path through the game. Every single demon is incredibly true to its original design from the classic titles. Even Barons and Pinkies are extremely bright pink in colour, because Doom just doesn’t give a fuck. There are a few new introductions to the cast, but I won’t spoil them here. Rest assured that they fit right in with the rest of the Doom rogues gallery, though. The artificial intelligence powering these monstrosities is quite impressive. Imps and other small adversaries will scale walls and ascend platforms, with some keeping their distance to hurl fireballs and others closing in for melee attacks. Other demon types will rush you or provide cover for their buddies, all while trying to gradually corner you and pin you down so they can deliver the coup de grace. They’re all animated fluidly and feel alive, and you’ll find yourself just as interested in watching them move around as you are in tearing them apart.
The boss fights in Doom are also incredibly well-done, which is a lot to say for a modern first-person shooter, many of which have drifted away from boss enemies. I won’t spoil anything regarding the identities of the bosses, because that’s not how I roll, but a lot of them have clever patterns that require some serious thought in order to minimize the damage you sustain. For example, one particular boss has an attack that fires large horizontal beams at you. You can sidestep these pretty well…at least, until he makes walls that close you in so you can’t escape them as easily. Instead, you need to jump and crouch over and under them with the right timing, all while dodging a bunch of other projectiles coming your way. This is a really fucking neat mechanic. It essentially reduces the 3D aspect of the game to a 2D plane, and presents you with boss patterns that resemble those of classic sidescrollers on the SNES or Genesis. They aren’t cop-out bosses either. There’s no crap where you just have to hit them 3 times with a certain special weapon, like nearly every boss in recent memory. Instead, you have to SHOOT THEM UNTIL THEY DIE…and that takes a long time!
All in all, the campaign is fantastic and serves as a great example of how a modern FPS single player experience should play out. It’s overwhelming, chaotic, and stressful, but also completely enthralling, rewarding, and most of all, entertaining. This is a campaign that you’ll want to come back to over and over again, simply because blasting demons in Doom 2016 is just as fun as it was in the original.
That, my friends, is truly an impressive achievement.