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Doom is simply called… Doom. This name is a statement. This isn’t a sequel. This isn’t a remastering. This isn’t a spin-off or anything like that. No, this is Doom. Calling your game the same exact name as the of one the best and most influential shooters of all time is brave and some might even say potentially stupid. It takes a lot of confidence in your game to actually think you can stand next to one of the all time greats of the genre. Hell, the original Doom helped create the entire first person shooter genre to begin with.
But after an incredible opening I realized that maybe, just maybe, this new Doom was going to be worthy of that name. After I finished each blood soaked level, I fell more and more in love with Doom.
It might be easy to call Doom a “dumb” game. But it isn’t. The only dumb part about this new Doom is the barely existent narrative and even that seems to be dumb on purpose. Everything else in Doom seems to have been designed intelligently towards a goal: Make this new Doom fast, fun and filled with gore. In all three of these categories Doom succeeds.
The very first thing Doom does is stick a gun in your hand and put you in a room with demons. Bam! Right out of the gate Doom is clear about what it is. Doom isn’t interested in telling a sweeping narrative or creating deep, relatable characters. Doom is all about killing demons and within seconds that’s what you are doing. But right away Doom introduces a new way to kill, Glory Kills.
After you stun an enemy by damaging them, you run up and hit a button and watch as the Doomguy violently kills the demon. Sometimes he rips their arm off, sometimes he just punches them so hard their head flies off or even sometimes he just yanks their jaw clean off their demon face. There are a ton of these Glory Kill animations and they are over so fast that they never overstayed their welcome.Most of them last only about a second. These Glory Kills aren’t just an excuse to show tons of gore. These executions also reward the player with health and this is a brilliant mechanic.
Modern shooters like Call of Duty are built around regenerating health. Combat is filled with moments of running away to cover, waiting for your health to regen. Doom ditches regenerating health and instead forces players to run TOWARDS the enemies if they want to live. This design choice means that players are taught to get up close to the demons. But to do so players will have to move fast and dodge projectiles. Another smart decision, all of the ranged enemies in Doom fire dodgeable projectiles.This instead of hitscan enemies, which many modern games use, that instantly shoot you the moment you are in the open. This allows Doom’s arenas to be large playgrounds where the player is free to move around and fight, so long as they never stop moving.
Every part of this new Doom is focused on making sure the player is moving and/or killing. There is a real sense of speed and momentum and what makes this satisfying is how responsive the controls are. Doom has platforming and while the knee jerk reaction to this might be say “What? No!” in practice the platforming in Doom is fantastic because of how responsive the controls are. The levels in Doom are huge and expansive, both horizontally and vertically. Each one takes about 45 minutes to over an hour to complete. And the ability to jump and climb allows the levels to feel even bigger. I always felt like I was in a huge sprawling space. A space filled with lots of secrets, which return from the older games.
Each level has secrets to collect and many of them are hidden in out of the way places that require a keen eye and some skilled jumping. Some of secrets include bits of the original Doom. This was a nice surprise, even if Wolfenstein The New Order already did something similar and RAGE before that.
Secrets along with challenges and goals all give you different upgrade points. At first I was hesitant about the idea of upgrades and weapon mods in Doom. But what’s great is that these upgrades and mods not only give you more options, they also reward you for exploring. Finding an out of the way secret isn’t just satisfying because you found the secret, but because you also just earned more points towards upgrading your shotgun or your rocket launcher.
These weapons are great, even before you upgrade them. Each one feels distinct and each mod lets you choose what kind of secondary fire you want. Do you want a machine gun that fires missiles or a shotgun that shoots grenades? Don’t worry you can have both. Like shooters of the past, Doom lets you carry all the weapons in the game. The weapon wheel is easy to use on console and when you use it the game slows down, allowing you to get a moment to think. Each weapon has different strengths and weaknesses. The shotgun is good at everything but not great at anything. The rocket launcher does a ton of damage but has a low fire rate. The plasma rifle does a lot of damage but is harder to use on faster enemies. Etc etc. Each weapon feels useful and I found myself switching from weapon to weapon during fights.
Also there’s a chainsaw.
Why? Well because the old games had it. Story wise, I’m not sure how chainsaws got on Mars, but it’s here and it too plays a vital role in the game. The chainsaw allows you to one hit kill any enemy, assuming you have enough fuel. Every chainsaw kill rewards the player with a fountain of ammo. This means that as a player ammo, like health, is always available if you are willing to jump into the horde of demons trying to kill you.
These decisions are a brilliant and fun way to force players to play Doom the way it is meant to be played: Up close and fast. It also is a necessary design choice. Many shooters today don’t play like this, which is fine. Some of those shooters are actually really good. But many shooter fans have grown up running away and hiding behind cover. Doom is here to grab you by the collar, pull you out of cover and throw you into the growling mass of demons.
And yeah demons on Mars, let’s talk about that.
There is a story in Doom, like the original games though, the story is more or less unnecessary. Basically you are the Doom Marine, you have no name and you are an ancient warrior who a long time ago almost destroyed Hell. Somehow you get locked into a sarcophagus and put into a long sleep. Fast forward and a company in the future, the UAC, have found you. After a crazed scientist unleashes Hell the robot CEO wakes you up and…stuff. The writing is sort of bad and the voice acting is over the top and filled with cheese. But these aren’t bad things. Doom doesn’t need a story it needs a setup. Doom is like a VHS porno from the 90’s. The story is really just a setup for the action.
Even if the story is bad and sort of not a real part of the game, I actually did enjoy some of the world building that happens in the background of Doom. The idea that the UAC is a religious cult like corporation is interesting and the idea that they are using Hell to power the future is stupid in a fantastic way. I literally heard a holographic man utter the words “Hell energy is the key to the future.” Doom is fun and it knows it. But it never felt like it was making lots of winks to the camera. There are references to the old games sure, but it never felt like pandering or fan service.
If Doom was just a gorgeous game with a fantastic 12-15 hour campaign I would of been happy. But there is more to Doom. There is a multiplayer mode and a mode called Snapmap. Let’s just get this out of the way. The multiplayer portion of Doom feels bare-bones and yet strangely modern, in a bad way. One time use power-ups, limited map selection and bad matchmaking make the multiplayer portion of Doom feel like it was tacked on. It isn’t super fun and feels more like a weird Quake knock off more than anything else. I’d recommend playing Quake 3 instead.
But Snapmap is the really cool “other” part of Doom.
Basically, Snapmap is a tool that allows you to make your own Doom levels and upload them for other people to play. The creator is super flexible and filled with possibilities. Even after only a few days I’ve already played some really cool Snapmap creations. I played a game that was similar to Stardew Valley, a Whammy!-like game, a recreation of the original Doom E1M1 and even a parkour level. People are making things that are more narrative focused, while others are making intense levels that rival the ones found in the campaign.
Snapmap has some limitations though. You can only carry two weapons, you can’t start players with a pistol, can’t use a chainsaw and are limited to how many demons can be active at any one time. And it is a real tragedy that you can’t create outdoor levels or Hell themed levels. But still, these restrictions haven’t gotten in the way of creators making some really cool levels and games. id has also talked about updating Snapmap and hopefully some of these restrictions will be lifted and more content will be added in the future via updates.
I’ve already put more time into Snapmap than the entire campaign. The core gameplay of Doom is so satisfying and feels so good that I’m excited to play more and with Snapmap I have essentially an endless source of new levels and things to play. I’m really looking forward to what people create in the coming weeks and months.
Doom is one of the most confident games I have ever played. From the explosive intro to the gory and satisfying end, Doom never loses focus on what it is: a fast, brutal and fun shooter. This isn’t just a piece of nostalgia, remembering the good old days. It uses those old ideas to create something that feels both fresh and familiar. When the credits rolled I sat there and just smiled. Doom is a damn fine game and Snapmap has the potential to keep it relevant for years to come. It’s 2016 and Doom is great again.
Thank you Satan.