January 26, 2019 at 4:40 AM #1468
Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding
DOOM is, quite simply, the most refreshing, exciting and well-designed FPS I’ve played in years.
DOOM has released in something of a negative territory. The review embargo and general lack of released information about the game has left many people with strong reservations about its quality. I’m very happy to say that DOOM was everything I wanted it to be, with even a few nice surprises along the way.
DOOM begins on a UAC facility overrun by minions of Hell. As the game progresses, there are a number of events that require traveling back-and-forth between Hell and the Mars facility as Doomguy rips apart everything in sight. There are really only a handful of characters in the game, and none of them save for one have any real presence or consistent dialogue; however, this isn’t a detriment for a game of this nature. There are several moments in which a character will ask Doomguy to do something requiring delicate precision, and he will, of course, smash it with his boot. The story of DOOM has a decent sense of flow and escalation, but this is not a game that proclaims, nor intends, to be complex in its narrative. One can expect the story to offer high stakes and a reason to continue moving forward. That is all that’s really required.
The sound quality in DOOM is excellent. The music is intense and fitting, although some may not be fond of its more electronic leaning. The soundtrack is not straight metal, but it remains suitable for the environment. Sound effects are on-point, with grunts, growls, explosions, and exploding flesh all carrying a strong presence. With that being said, some of the gun effects sound weaker than they should, although this doesn’t detract from the experience to any significant degree. Voice acting is good, particularly from Samuel, but there is nothing game-changing in this category either.
Simply put, DOOM looks great. Monsters, viscera, weapons, particle effects, and general environments have all been handled carefully and with great attention to detail. I had some reservations that the game would not look as good in motion as it did in promotional material, but that is not an issue. Perhaps more importantly, the framerate is rock-solid. Not once during my 13 hour playthrough did I see a framerate dip, even during the most intense, monster-clogged shootouts.
Unshackled by 2 weapon slots, realistic movement, or even basic common sense, DOOM is fast, fluid, visceral, and offers an experience that no other modern FPS does. First and foremost, DOOM controls wonderfully, looks great, keeps a steady framerate, and offers a great mix of old-school flow with modern customization options. The general movement and shooting mechanics (the vast majority of weapons do not need to be reloaded) are reminiscent of the old Doom and other early FPS games with some slight tweaks. Notably, movement, while fast, is marginally slower than it was in the previous games. This is an important point, given that there has been some promotional material that has clearly sped up the gameplay to be more reminiscent of the old games, and this is not reflective of the final product. While this may disappoint some people, this speed feels very appropriate for the environments.
A notable new feature is glory kills, which effectively are just cinematic melee finishers that can be used on injured demons. They’re visceral, fast, and have numerous animations. While you will be using glory kills consistently, they flow well and are just short enough to not break up the action. For those that dislike the idea, glory kills are only required as finishers for bosses, and can be avoided for every other encounter in the game.
There are 10 weapons in the game, and you can freely switch between them at any time. While some of them feel redundant or unnecessary (why use a shotgun when you can use a super shotgun?), the game facilitates a great deal of variety. The majority of weapons are simply fun to shoot, and the chainsaw and BFG have cleverly been assigned to the X and Y buttons respectively. The movement, shooting, weapon switching, and general flow are all reminiscent of the good ol’ days, but refined by modern standards.
To the surprise of no one, DOOM also returns to the health, armor and ammo pickup system. While I have not been the biggest fan of this in the past, I must say it’s handled perfectly. Health, armor and ammo pickups are very intentionally placed, and are sufficient for the vast majority of encounters. It is clear that a great deal of testing was done to see what amount of pickups should be provided, and it reflected my playthrough very well. In the early levels, I always had just enough ammo. There was generally not quite enough to top off my maximum capacity, but enough to compensate for the occasional missed shot during the encounters. Early on, it always felt like I was low on ammo, but I never actually ran out. In the later levels, I found that I frequently had excess health pickups, but I believe this is more reflective of my improvement than the game spoon-feeding the player. These mechanics may sound archaic, but excellent game design proves this old system can still work wonderfully. For those that still have reservations about this system, glory kills also offer health drops relative to the strength of the demon. If there’s a situation in which no more health pickups are available, glory kills provide the option to heal. In addition, the chainsaw is relegated to a special insta-kill weapon which causes enemies to explode into ammo pickups. If, for whatever reason, the provided health or ammo pickups are insufficient, the player always has the option to make up for it.
DOOM perfectly recreates the old-school feel, and its modern inclusions meld in a way that doesn’t hinder or dilute the gameplay it offers. There are now numerous special abilities and upgrades for every weapon. In addition, Doomguy’s suit can be upgraded for health, armor, ammo capacity, and other improvements such as climbing speed. Finally, there are runes that offer more obscure improvements, such as equipment damage, double jump controllability, and increases to speed after a glory kill. The most interesting thing about these upgrades are how they’re acquired. Weapon abilities and points for suit upgrades are found like collectibles. Upgrades for weapon abilities are acquired through various challenges that can be completed at any time throughout a given level. Runes are acquired through specific challenges tailored to the ability the rune offers, and upgrades through challenges. Most importantly, the system in general feels very organic. Completing an obstacle course challenge will award a rune that increases mobility. Completing a challenge where Doomguy must fight numerous demons while locked at 1 health awards a rune that provides a "second chance" to survive an attack that would otherwise kill him. Exploration provides the player with tangible rewards in the form of upgrades for weapons and the suit. Thorough searching can also provide weapons several levels early. Finally, classic Doom levels can be unlocked as hidden secrets that can be played on their own. Ordinarily, challenges and exploration offer very superficial rewards, such as art, models, music, and lore. While these collectibles exist in DOOM, the game offers so many useful rewards that one can’t help but explore.
Multiplayer in DOOM is simply decent. There are a number of modern customization options for character and gun models, but general flexibility and options are relatively low. The map design is acceptable, there’s a healthy amount of game modes and all of the necessary mechanics one would expect are present. The only really notable design element is the ability to transform into 1 of several demons through the use of a power-up. The demon is extremely powerful and is a blast to play as, although it can present a strong imbalance to team play. There’s not much to say about DOOM’s multiplayer. There’s nothing wrong with it, but nothing game-changing either.
There is also a map editor known as Snapmaps, although it is difficult to comment on as there is little user-generated content at present. It’s promising, but isn’t a factor in my review.
DOOM is, quite simply, the most refreshing, exciting and well-designed FPS I’ve played in years. It offers elements from both old-school and modern gameplay, yet never feels as though the two are mutually exclusive. The experience is complementary, taking lessons learned from the many years since Doom 1 and 2, while not ever betraying what those games accomplished. It’s everything I could have wanted, and the incentivization of exploration even made the downtime thoroughly enjoyable. My playthrough took approximately 13 hours, and I still missed many of the collectibles, challenges and upgrades. The game is paced well, offers a mission select to play previous levels with new toys, and is a blast to play from start to finish. The multiplayer, map editor, and classic levels are simply fun additions to the core single-player product. While that may not be worth full price for everyone, I encourage anyone who finds themselves disillusioned with video games to give this a try. This was a spur-of-the-moment purchase due to boredom, but DOOM has rekindled my love of video games.
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