DOOM Review


Your enjoyment of DOOM, the 2016 version, will depend a lot on how you feel about DOOM, the 1993 version, and all of the shooters the original inspired. It plays lightning fast and is a series of demon-filled rooms separated by doors that can require color-coded keycards to open. Demon attacks are accompanied by a driving metal soundtrack, and you'll know that a room has been cleared of its last demon because the music will fade out when you have. Shields and health never regenerate on their own; to restore them you'll need to find pick-ups or grab them as they fall from the demons that you dispatch. Cover? Aiming down sights? DOOM will have nothing to do with such things, preferring that you shoot a demon with a shotgun blast to the face or that you split it in two with a chainsaw. There are certainly some new elements in DOOM 2016 that weren't a part of DOOM 1993, but at its heart the former is very much an homage to the latter.

Story-wise, DOOM places you in the role of a nameless/faceless soldier who finds himself/herself at a corporate-run Martian base that has been overrun with, and virtually wiped out by, demons from hell. In addition to being a conventional mining operation the base is also a research center, and one of its research projects was to tap hell as an unlimited energy source. Needless to say, this was a good idea that went splendidly for all involved. Now it's up to you to mop-up the mess of rampaging demons and the demon-possessed former staff and crew of the base, as well as to travel to hell and back to close all of the portals linking Mars with hell. I wouldn't call the story the game's strong suit, but a B-movie plot is more than enough motivation for hunting down and blasting demons.

DOOM is not a very easy game to play, especially for those who've only played shooters in their modern incarnation. You don't have a lot of health, and what you do have is drained quickly as you take damage from demons. You have to keep moving, and move quickly, all the while keeping aware of where the demons are around you. And to restore your health you're going to have to do the opposite of what your instincts tell you and get up close and personal with a demon. Do enough damage to a demon and you will stun it, a state indicated by the appearance of a glowing outline around the demon. Executing a melee attack on a demon in this state will initiate a "Glory Kill", a spectacular and brutal kill animation that results in health packs sprouting from the demon. Similarly, ammunition is in relatively short supply and the best way to replenish your supplies is to take a chainsaw to a demon. But you'll need to be judicious about when you decide to collect ammunition this way because the chainsaw runs on gasoline and gasoline, you guessed it, is in very short supply itself.

DOOM screenshot 6

This certainly will sound like a blast to some gamers, but to others it's easy enough to view all of this through quite a different lens. A series of arena battles with constant circle strafing around the room to scoop up ammo and armor and to thin the demon horde so that you can move in on isolated enemies for Glory Kills and their precious health boosts. Does this raise your heart rate because it sounds a) exciting or b) frustrating? a's carry on, b's look for a different shooter.

Now you can't really talk about DOOM without mentioning the guns; this is the franchise that invented the BFG, and, yes, the BFG makes its appearance in this game as well. There's a full assortment of weapons in the game, each of which can be upgraded with two alternate fire modes, both of which in turn can be further upgraded, but in reality most of the weapons are simply there to give you something to fire until you can find more shotgun ammo. If you don't get close to the demons and do so frequently, you are going to run out of health and die. And the best weapon when you get up close and personal is one of the shotguns (they use the same ammo, but let you make a trade-off between impact and reload time). The assault rifle and plasma weapons feel underpowered and make the demons feel like bullet sponges, and while the rocket launcher packs more punch it doesn't come across as an impressive weapon. The rockets explode in small, anticlimactic puffs, the only clue to their power being the fact that you can kill the demons with fewer shots than it takes with other weapons. There's an alt-fire mode available on the assault rifle that will let you fire a small rocket barrage as well, which somewhat diminishes the role of the rocket launcher in your arsenal. The chainsaw is an important weapon - important enough to be assigned its own button rather than a slot on the weapon wheel - since it can be used to get ammo out of demons, but your very limited supply of gas needed to make it work will keep you from being able to use it as a workhorse weapon. The BFG 9000 also gets its own button, but ammo for it is pretty limited so it's kind of like the chainsaw in that you won't be able to use it all of the time, but when you do it will be a lifesaver. In the BFG 9000's case it's because the weapon has a large area of effect and is basically a one-hit kill weapon against many of the demons that you'll face.

While it usually isn't too difficult to find your way through the game's levels, it's worth it to poke around a little bit on your journey because the game has plenty of secret areas. Some are relatively easy to find if you keep your eyes open for small ledges, crawl spaces, and the like, but others will take a little more work to find. The game also has a mischievous streak in that it likes to give you glimpses of interesting things through the corner of a window or at the edge of an elevated gangway, practically daring you to find a way to get to the loot. The game includes a 3D map of the current level that you're on as an essential tool for finding your way to your next objective back and forth across the multilevel environments, but it can also be used to provide clues as to where secret locations may lie if you study it carefully. Secret areas are also where you'll find the game's runes - special talismans that provide you with a bonus ability or boost. You'll have to earn each one first by completing a challenge level to earn it, levels that transport you to a different location to do things like kill X number of demons within Y seconds. While the challenge levels are indeed challenging, they feel out of place in the campaign and interrupt the flow of the game. Since the runes can only be obtained by completing a challenge level that is only accessible from a single location, you'll need to make sure that you've found and completed all of the runes before moving on to the next game level or be willing to replay completed levels from the beginning to track down missing runes.

DOOM screenshot 2

I enjoyed the game's story mode, even though it started off slowly. Give the game time to build up a variety of demon types, expand your arsenal, and increase the level complexity and you'll find that you'll be having a good time soon enough. Even then, though, I have to say that there were times when the succession of arena style battles would wear a little thin and I found myself wishing for a little more variety to the combat.

I wish that I could say the same thing about the game's multiplayer modes, though. The multiplayer side of the game provided some entertainment, but it never really managed to pull me in to the point where I'd want to return to it with any regularity. In some ways it tries to replicate the DOOM multiplayer matches of old in that the gameplay is very fast and that your health and armor can only be restored by finding pick-ups scattered around the levels, while in other ways it resembles more recent shooters such as the inclusion of two-weapon loadouts that are determined by the soldier class that you decide to spawn into battle with. The more powerful weapons spawn into the maps during gameplay, as do the special runes that will temporarily transform you into a powerful demon. All of these parts just don't manage to come together to form a cohesive and enjoyable whole. Matches have players circling around the levels trying to collect heath and armor pickups quickly enough to survive the encounters with enemy players doing the same. And while playing as the demon is certainly fun, should you be lucky enough to grab a rune, the demons throw off the balance of the game. The outcome of the game can be determined by the team that was lucky enough to grab the rune more than the other team. Overall the multiplayer side of the game is something that can provide an occasional diversion, but that isn't something that you'd find yourself going back to time and again.

That's a bit of a shame, not just because you'd like to get a lot of mileage out of a game's multiplayer modes, but because the game's SnapMap level editor is pretty impressive. Level editors can be intimidating, forcing you to get up and over steep learning curves just to make the most basic of maps. SnapMap overcomes this problem by providing an intuitive and powerful interface that it couples with an extensive set of tutorials. Level layouts can be constructed just as the title implies, by taking pre-configured parts like halls, rooms, and the like and connecting them together at their snap points. You can add all types of things to the maps as well, from health pickups to demons that will follow designated patrol routes. The maps created in SnapMap can be used for single player and co-op and competitive multiplayer play, and it is easy to upload maps to share with the community. While SnapMap is not a full-featured mod tool in that you won't be able to use it make, say, a DOOM kart racer, it is powerful enough to allow for the creation of game modes that are different from the shooter experience delivered by the game itself.

Final Rating: 84% - 1990s gameplay meets 2010s technology.

 

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