Classic Doom is rightfully considered one of the greatest games of all time. Not only did the legendary duo of John Carmack and John Romeo create a technical masterpiece, but Doom made the FPS genre what it is today. Now nearly a decade after the original, Id Software’s Doom reboot has put Doom back in the spotlight.
Doom and I immediately got off on the right foot. One of my pet peeves in FPSs is all to often long wait before the game hands you a gun. Doom hands you a gun in the first five seconds.
The player takes a very active role in Doom’s gameplay. Whereas in Call of Duty there is lots of waiting, especially on harder difficulties, you wait for your health to regenerate, you wait for enemies to move out of cover and wait for your gun to reload, Doom demands constant mobility. Standing still usually means death. If your health is low you have to frantically run around to find health or get close to an enemy and perform a glory kill. Your guns don’t even need to reload. Doom guy moves very quickly, faster than any other FPS protagonist I’ve played as. Movement is fast and fluid and the combat areas accommodate for Doom guy’s considerable speed. Doom even gives the player powerups, something rarely seen in a modern triple-A FPS. Grabbing an invincibility powerup feels out of place and very retro, but Doom puts gameplay first and doesn’t care about making sense.
Shooting demons in the face is Doom’s bread and butter. Doom gives the player many different guns to do the shooting and many different demons to shoot. Enemy variety is a highlight. Except for one enemy type, all of Doom’s demons aren’t simply cannon fodder. Each enemy requires a different strategy. The demons are very aggressive and display some impressive AI intelligence. Moment-to-moment gameplay is much more ad-lib than other FPSs. The player can’t keep using the same strategy over and over. The combat itself feels very visceral. Doom is quite violent, you’ll find yourself ripping the arms off of demons and beating them to death in no time. But Doom’s violence is more than just show. It works as player feedback. You’re never unsure if a shot killed a demon because they usually explode in a shower of blood and entrails. Few games have made me feel like such a badass.
Exploration is usually an afterthought in otherwise linear games especially in the FPS genre;in Doom it is not. I enjoy collecting for collection’s sake but Doom makes exploration rewarding on a gameplay level. Each of Doom’s levels has tons of upgrade tokens hidden throughout the level. An entire upgrade path is focused on making collectable-hunting easier. These tokens are used to upgrade your passive abilities, weapons, health and ammo. Also hidden in most levels are rune challenges. When completed they award you with a new passive ability which can themselves be upgraded. Almost like an RPG Doom has multiple secondary challenges. There is always a weapon to upgrade, a challenge to complete and a secret to find. After my initial playthrough I immediately started again and searched every level for all the secrets and challenges I missed. Doom’s detailed 3D map for each level keeps the hunt from being frustrating. From the very beginning Doom incentivises exploration, a task few linear games take seriously.
Graphically Doom is pretty in it’s own hellish kind of way. Consisting mostly of reds and browns, Doom’s art design isn’t vibrant but many of the environments, especially the hell levels, are visually interesting to look at. If you are a classic Doom player you will be pleased with the enemy design. Id Software clearly spent a lot of time making sure these modern demons look like their classic sprites. All of the classic Doom enemies are easily recognizable even if you aren’t that familiar with the original Doom.
There is a story in Doom, if you want it. Despite Doom being infamously scarce on story details, Id Software did take the time to build a considerable amount of lore. Most of it consists of data logs picked up through the game. The campaign’s plot is mildly interesting but never gets in the way of the action. Doom guy, the protagonist of the Doom series, is what keeps the story from being a boring cliche. He is a silent protagonist, but far from the Links and the Gordon Freemans of the world, he still communicates emotion. Doom Guy shows his dislike for demons from the very beginning. He doesn’t just shoot demons, he snaps their necks and tears their heads in half. When asked to remove a power core slowly, any other video game protagonist would have complied. Not Doom guy. He punches the power core until it explodes, showing his disdain for the person giving orders and communicating that Doom guy dislikes whatever the power cores were powering. Doom guy understands he is a one dimensional character. You know Doom guy dislikes demons because you feel it during gameplay. Id Software took Doom guy from an insignificant character -, to a legend who could easily take his place in gaming royalty.
There are two online modes in Doom, classic multiplayer and snap-map. The multiplayer is nothing special, I only played for a couple hours. Team deathmatch, kill confirmed and capture point make for a painfully-familiar multiplayer mode that didn’t hook me. Snap-map is a different story. Part of the appeal of classic Doom was how easy it was to mod and make custom maps. Snap Map doesn’t have the power of full modding tools but it is still surprisingly powerful. In addition to creating custom maps, Snap Map allows for custom gamemodes and rudimentary logic-based coding. My favorite Snap Map I found was a fully functional recreation of CoD zombies complete with purchasable upgrades and unlockable doors. I don’t have much time to learn a map editor. But the little time I did spend making my own map impressed me. It is surprisingly easy to get a fully functional map up and running. Playing on PS4 I was also surprised how easy using a gamepad turned out to be. Already there are copious maps of high quality so if you really enjoy Doom there is a nearly infinite amount of Doom content for you to consume.
If you can’t tell already, I really enjoyed my time with Doom. That being said, it does have some flaws. Most glaringly it crashed twice on my PS4. This wouldn’t have been terrible if the second one hadn’t corrupted my save. Hopefully you won’t run into this but make sure you backup your saves. Other minor gripes I have are with pacing. Doom’s upgraded system necessitates lots of exploration, making for long pauses in between combat. There are designated combat areas and once one is cleared Doom becomes eerily quiet. At times I was at a loss of where to go after I cleared a combat area. Doom’s old-school sensibilities ensure the player is not given much information. I applaud Doom for this approach but sometimes I wished for a little more information on where to go next.
Doom doesn’t do anything new. It strives to be an old-school FPS and it eminently succeeds. Doom reminds us that a big-budget game in 2016 doesn’t need a massive, open world or a deep,engaging story to be really fun. Much of gaming’s history was built on shooting things and Doom carries on that tradition. If you are looking for a great, classic, singleplayer FPS look no further than Doom.