Reviewed on: PS4. Copy supplied by publisher.
DOOM, the granddaddy of the FPS genre is back once again, and this time under the watchful eye of Bethesda. For the more seasoned gamer, DOOM is not just synonymous with the first person shooter, but also responsible for the genre’s meteoric rise to dominance. Sure, Wolfenstein 3D may have come first (and a couple of more obscure games before that), but DOOM is the game that really kick-started the FPS genre we know today. Equal parts revolutionary and controversial, id Software’s classic is nigh-on untouchable in terms of appreciation. It’s just that legendary. After its release in 1993 on the shareware market, the gaming world simply wasn’t the same. I’ll never forget my first time playing it. It was like looking into the future.
The arrival of DOOM 3, the first game in 10 years since the release of the original and the sequel DOOM 2 was met with a mixed reaction. Many found it was too far removed from the original games. It was slower paced, more story driven, and felt more like a survival horror than the balls to the wall action the series had been known for. Personally, I liked it, but I could see where the critics were coming from. It just wasn’t really DOOM, not in terms of the mechanics. The onus was more on technical achievement and impressive visuals, not the core gameplay. For DOOM, that’s just wrong. Enter this new DOOM, and boy does this put things right.
This iteration follows the same general plot of the original games and the third outing. A Union Aerospace Corporation research facility on Mars has become overrun by the forces of Hell after scientists, severely lacking in any form of common sense, open a portal to their realm. Instead of thinking this is a very bad idea, as most of us would, they instead come up with a plan to create an infinite source of energy utilising the demonic dimension, even though the horde within could wipe out all of mankind. Well, at least we can use the air conditioning, so it’ll be nice and cool when the Devil comes knocking.
Obviously, the plan doesn’t go all that smoothly, and madness sets in, with one scientist freeing the legions of Hell, and the base is overrun. Luckily, you’re on hand, complete with a handy suit of power armour, and so you take your trusty shotgun and chainsaw and stick it to the invading demons.
There’s more to the story here, including your character’s origins, but let’s face it, it doesn’t really matter. This is DOOM. As long as we’ve got a shotgun and a demon’s face to shoot, we’re happy. This is exactly what id and Bethesda get this time, and as a result, we have a proper modernisation of DOOM. A remake done right.
The core of DOOM is just as it was in the original – fast paced and frantic shooting. There’s no cover, no stealth, no usual modern accoutrements like hacking and mini-games. No. What you get here is run-and-gun in its purest form, and if you want one, and play on the harder difficulties, a huge challenge. This is all delivered in true 60fps, and the action is smooth as silk. I’ve rarely seen an FPS of late that can rival the buttery feel of Call of Duty, but DOOM nails it, perhaps more so. The blistering frame rate and masterful control is sublime, and in truth, it’s the main aspect here that makes the game what it is. The game simply wouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is if id hadn’t nailed the speed and smooth control.
To succeed here you need to always be on the move, know your weaponry inside out, and have to be a master of that once common FPS players’ skill of circle strafing. There’s no bunny hopping or camping here, folks. Do that, and you’ll die.
This level of polish is coupled with the goal of bringing back the feel of DOOM, but doing so in a way to keep it relevant in today’s market. All of the enemies we’ve come to love from the series are back, and are much more faithful to their original counterparts than those seen in DOOM 3. Pinky demons look like their pixellated ancestors, cacodemons sport that menacing maw, and Barons of Hell rampage around in all their horned glory. It’s all presented with today’s tech of course, and DOOM looks great, but it also still resembles the classic, which is what makes it so much more impressive. The attention to detail and fan service is top notch. This really is how a modern DOOM should look.
It’s not just the core shooting and aesthetics that have made the successful leap to modern gaming, and id has made sure to cram in everything fans of the classic missed. Everything from locating colour-coded keys and finding all of the famous weapons from the series, to the myriad of hidden secrets return. Yes, DOOM may be all about mindless shooting, but there’s also the return of hidden rooms to find, racking up the secrets we used to love hunting for in the original games.
It’s with these secrets that I should cover some of the games more contemporary features. As retro as the core gameplay may be, it also embraces some modern touches; just enough to keep it relevant, and not enough to damage the retro feel.
For example, you can level up your character to some degree by finding items that can boost your maximum health, armour and ammo. There are also Rune challenges. These are short, often very challenging mini missions that grant access to various runs that grant special abilities, such as an item vacuum to grab nearby health and ammo, increased control while jumping, and more plentiful ammo drops from demons.
Weapons can also be modified, but in a simple way, with a couple of mods per weapon that add specific functions, such as aiming scopes, charge attacks, stun grenades and so on. There are also challenges to complete that grant rewards, such as killing so many enemies in a level, locating a set number of secrets, and utilising specific ‘Glory Kills’.
These kills, despite their silly name, are simply gory, insta-kills you can employ to execute foes up close and personal when they’ve taken enough damage. Demons will glow blue when damaged enough, and gold when in range of a Glory Kill. Hitting R3 (or F on PC) then prompts a gruesome finisher, which changes depending on the body part targeted and the enemy you’re taking down.
This is a feature that could have become tiresome, but thanks to perfect handling by id, it’s another great addition. Not only is each Glory Kill fast enough to avoid becoming annoying and intrusive, but using them also has benefits. Enemies drop more health after a Glory Kill, and with the right runes equipped, you can gain more ammo and armour. It’s a simple, but well implemented feature.
Likewise, two of the series’ most famous weapons, the chainsaw and BFG, are also handled very well. Instead of functioning like normal weapons, as they did before, here they’re special equipment items with limited charges. The chainsaw is used to one-hit kill an enemy, who then drops a cascade of ammo. The more fuel charges you have, the bigger the demon you can kill. It’s a clever way to get ammo back in desperate situation. The BFG, on the other hand, is simply a smart bomb of sorts. Shoot this, and the entire room will die. Period. It’s designed for use in bad situations, or when up against particularly tough foes, but the limited charges means you can’t rely on it, thus keeping the game balanced. You also get actual equipment, such as grenades and holograms. These recharge after use, and can be very useful.
All of these additions to the gameplay help bring DOOM up to date without sacrificing its core, something DOOM 3 failed to do correctly, and for this, I have to applaud id, which has done a superb job. And the content doesn’t stop there.
As the progenitor of the now staple Deathmatch, DOOM was one of the very first multiplayer FPS titles, and this iteration of DOOM carries on the trend. The multiplayer component here is very interesting, as it returns to the ultra-fast, twtich-style shooter it once was. Similar to other classic games like the Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament, this isn’t about realism and military tactics. Instead, it’s a bullet festival of ridiculous speed and reaction-testing skills. It’s fairly basic at its core, with a handful of game modes and new additions such as the ability to utilise demon summons to augment your team. There’s also a very CoD-like rank up and unlock system, with character customisation and taunts, and new skins to unlock.
If you miss the days of DOOM, Quake and UT multiplayer, this will be right up your alley, although I found it to be less satisfying than the classics, with some dubious hit detection and a little imbalance in the weapons. It’s early days, of course, so expect some tweaks in future.
Finally we have the Snapmap level creator. This is a feature that I can’t really do justice in a simple review, as its full capabilities will only reveal themselves in time. Basically, it’s a very powerful, but easy to use level creation tool, complete with various logic switches and AI control. To create levels you simply snap modules together, and you can populate your creations with items, enemies and more. I’m sure far more skilled content creators than I will eventually come up with amazing creations, but even for a relative layman, this is one of the easiest creation tools I’ve seen, especially in a console release. It even has its own in-game portal, with links to popular creations and to share your own levels. Hopefully, this will grow and grow, and Doom will generate a lot of extra, community created content.
All in all, DOOM was not only a pleasant surprise, being a genuinely great reinvention of the original, but it’s a damn good game in its own right, regardless of its linage. There are some minor faults that irked me, such as the lack of iron sights for most weapons, a little FPS staple I always seem to miss. I also dislike FPS titles that have no reload option. It just seems to reduce to immersion a little for me. There are also a few maps in the game that are overly confusing, and it’s very easy to get totally lost at times. There’s a map system that helps, but I feel some level design is a little clunky.
These are very minor issues, however, and I really can’t find much to fault here. What you get is a true re-imaging of a classic that embraces the source martial whilst also enhancing it to fit in with modern expectations. Whether you’re a fan of the original DOOM or not, this is a great FPS, and you should definitely give it a go if you’re after a challenge.