DOOM in Full Bloom
DOOM is a deafening, dizzying roller-coaster ride through Hell; a ride you’ll take with no safety bar and with the sounds of percussive double-kicks and distorted bass riffs shaking your guts. It’s too fast to handle. It’s punishing. It’s empowering, shameless, and often disgusting. In short, it’s what the kids call gnarly.
Everything about DOOM is over the top, and I was surprised by how much fun I had blasting my way through what turned out to be about an 11 hour campaign. For those of you who are coming into this expecting another DOOM 3 – an atmospheric horror game that takes place in the dark, with plenty of jump scares – you’re going to be disappointed. It’d be like going into the theater expecting to see Insidious when you’re really watching Mad Max . DOOM takes the punk / metal, devil-may-die attitude of the original game and gives it a gorgeous face-lift for the 21st century.
The one thing you’ll notice, hardware permitting, is how incredible DOOM looks in motion. My PS4 sounded like a jet engine the entire time the game was running, and you’ll find your console gets very hot trying to keep up with all that’s happening on screen. The maps are huge, open, and absolutely packed with objects and enemies. Everywhere you turn there are balls of fire exploding into showers of sparks, demonic sigils glowing and spinning madly as dozens of demons spawn on platforms, and torrents of blood splattering the walls as you dismember your foes.
The game moves at blistering speed, and you can say goodbye to aim assist. Watching someone take control of the DOOM marine for the first time is like watching a child try to control a fire hose on full blast. It’s mind-bending, and at times disorientating, how fast this game plays. The fact that my PS4 was able to maintain a solid 60 fps for almost the entire game is astounding.
The campaign’s story is great, but not incredible. There is a staggering amount of lore and backstory that you can discover through various items found in-game that add interesting layers to missions that otherwise play out over the usual “clear the room to find a key and progress” objectives. Without spoiling anything, the story puts a fun, heavy-metal twist on what would otherwise be a typical “chosen one” narrative. It’s enough to justify the brutal slaying of hundreds of demons, from Mars to Hell and back again, and that’s really all we could have asked for.
Once you get the hang of the twitchy controls the game does feel good, and it’s expertly paced. You’ll play through the first two missions wondering if you should have started on a higher difficulty, but before the credits roll you’ll face off against multiple mobs and bosses that will force you to cycle through every weapon you own, pulling out all of the stops and exhausting all of your abilities and upgrades in order to survive. Those weapon upgrades come sporadically from drones that you have to find in each stage. Several of them are hidden, as are the keys that upgrade your armor and abilities, so be sure to explore every nook and cranny – you just might find a few Easter eggs along the way, too.
There were a few frustrating segments where I felt stranded looking for a random panel to push, ledge to climb, or item to trigger so that I could find the key I needed to progress. Early on before you learn to recognize the visual cues that lead you to hidden areas, you’ll find the pace is abruptly halted from time to time so that you can search a huge area for a small conduit that will take you where you need to go. It’s in those moments that some of you will quit to the main menu and think, “I should have rented this first.” Thankfully, this only happens a couple of times.
Multiplayer is the old-school, arena affair that you’d expect from id. Like the campaign, how much fun you have playing online will depend on your expectations coming in. I was a little disappointed in the multiplayer betas because of the pacing and simplicity of it all. Thankfully, the full version comes with so much more to unlock and a few extra game types. Whether or not id actually sped things up I don’t know for sure, but it certainly does feel much faster than before. The fact that you never reload your weapon and your health doesn’t regenerate automatically means that you have to stay moving. Additional ammunition, health, armor, and power-ups are all scattered across the maps as pick-ups, and you won’t find a lot of cover to duck behind when things aren’t going your way. If you stay still for long you’re a dead man; multiplayer is similar to the campaign in that regard.
For your multiplayer pleasure, you have your standard deathmatch and domination game types with a couple of variants. Warpath is a game of domination with one big zone that moves on a set path through each map, so even when you’re holding down your control you’re still forced to move. Freeze tag I found to be quite dull. It’s basically team deathmatch, but when your health reaches zero you’re frozen in place. Teammates can come thaw you by standing nearby for about 5 seconds, but they risk vulnerability during that time. The game ends when an entire team is frozen. It sounds neat, but it really sucks when you only have one or two teammates left and you just have to sit there, frozen, watching everyone else play for however long your buddy can outrun the enemy team.
Other than freeze tag, games are relatively quick and tend to stay interesting because of a special demon rune that will spawn in a random location at certain points during a match. As soon as the heads-up is given and an indicator appears, everyone makes a mad dash for the rune which transforms your marine into 1 of 5 hulking, overpowered demons. In demon form you’re guaranteed to get at least a few kills, and the power makes you absolutely reckless – you’ll find yourself running into concentrated groups of enemies and spamming the triggers, racking up kills until someone murders you and claims the power of the rune for themselves.
Apart from the campaign and multiplayer there’s also “SnapMap” mode. SnapMap is a level editing suite that allows you to create custom levels from scratch for versus multiplayer or co-op and upload them for the community to rate and enjoy. It’s incredibly robust, and so full of options that I found it rather intimidating – going through the tutorial I got a little overwhelmed. This is something that PC players will have a much easier time with; lots of editing functionality means a lot of basic tools are mapped to random controller button combinations. It’s not prohibitively difficult to use, but it’s no Super Mario Maker. There’s a big learning curve that I doubt I’ll feel compelled to overcome, but for those who like to tinker and create it can offer practically endless possibilities.
I honestly think we’re looking at a spring blockbuster and a truly worthy reboot of a timeless classic. DOOM isn’t for everyone. The blinding speed of play, demonic symbolism, demanding controls, and hyper-violence may discourage some from jumping in. If you can handle it, though, it really is a thrill ride. It’s a brass-knuckle punch in the mouth. It’s a 2-ounce shot of hard scotch from a skull chalice. It’s a shot of adrenaline straight into your eyeball. It’s DOOM .
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.6 Graphics
In motion the game is a marvel and enemies are oozing with detail, but some environmental textures are bland and dated. 4.0 Control
Everything feels lightning fast and laser precise. Sometimes the speed makes platforming challenges feel overly punishing. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
DOOM makes a marvelous racket. Crunching bones, floor-shaking explosions, the slosh of gore…it all compliments the heavy metal soundtrack perfectly. 3.9 Play Value
The brutal, fast-paced combat never gets old, and there are tons of secrets, upgrades, and collectibles in every level. Multiplayer has room for improvement. 4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best