Less than 30 seconds into DOOM’s campaign, and already three grotesque corpses lay on the floor by my hand, or rather, the pistol in my hand.
Another 30 seconds, and I’m all suited up, nonchalantly throwing a computer screen warning of a demonic invasion aside as an unknown voice asks that we “work together and resolve this problem in a way that benefits us both”. A minute after that, there’s yet more disgusting cadavers laid waste; this time truly brutalised by my actual hands, and after obtaining a combat shotgun a voice plays out throughout the facility I’ve found myself in, announcing that there’s “demonic presence at unsafe levels”. “As if there’s ever a safe level of demonic presence,” I thought, chuckling to myself, my laugh turning into a contented grin as I prepared to eradicate any hell-spawn that stood before me. It was this immediacy, this bloody ultraviolence, and this knowing stupidity that made me just know I was going to love DOOM within two minutes of playing it.
Pretty much a reimagining of the 1993 original, what first hits you about DOOM apart from how disgustingly beautiful it looks is its speed. Your DOOM Marine (yeah, that’s really what he’s called) runs at such a breakneck pace that he’d even give Sonic the Hedgehog a run for his money, and he’s an agile little blighter too, able to mantle onto platforms and ledges with ease. Upon wandering into the first arena-like lockdown zone you realise it’s your biggest asset as well, as in order to defeat the demonic forces that are thrown at you you’ll need to run like hell and utilise the environment effectively if you are to even stand a chance. Of course, whilst avoiding your enemies and their attacks is all well and good, they’re not going to kill themselves, and so you also find yourself at the mercy of DOOM’s fantastic arsenal of guns.
Throughout DOOM’s ten hour plus campaign you gather an assortment of weaponry that is just sublime. From the super shotgun to the plasma rifle to the rocket launcher, every weapon is equally useful meaning that you’ll be switching between them all as you blast away at hell’s minions. A large part of what makes them so great is that each of them comes with a secondary fire mode, with most even having two, but to unlock them you’ll need to find the floating Field Drones that litter DOOM’s gargantuan levels. That’s not all either, as you can also improve each gun’s secondary fire modes by expending weapon upgrade points that are earned in multiple ways, such as completing any of the three challenges or finding a number of the plentiful but well-hidden secrets on each level. A Rock Band-style scoring system is also employed, allowing those that kill with style to accumulate five upgrade points on any given level should they perform adequately. It all adds up to a drip feed of enhanced combat options that keeps the slaughtering feeling fresh, no matter how far into the game you are. Oh, and worry not classic DOOM fans: the series favourite BFG also returns, more awesomely destructive than ever to boot.
Many players will probably also be happy to know that upgrades aren’t just restricted to guns either, with those that explore levels rewarded with Praetor Suit upgrade points and Argent Cells which enable you to take more damage, carry more ammo and switch between weapons faster amongst a raft of other benefits. Additionally, finding and completing Rune Trials – DOOM’s take on Devil May Cry’s secret missions – unlocks runes which can be equipped and upgraded over time to provide bonuses such as greater item pickup range and a second chance at life when suffering a killing blow. Suffice to say, aside from being fun to find, DOOM’s upgrade and rune options provide a great deal of replayability, as only those with a keen eye and unbridled tenacity will find them all on their first playthrough.
Despite all the secondary fire, rune and upgrade options however, DOOM’s moment to moment gameplay feels very old-school; exhilaratingly so in fact. There’s no cover system or regenerating health, no complex mission objectives or character development, it’s just you and your guns versus the army of hell, and it is glorious. Even the few epic boss fights that stand in your way of victory feel old fashioned, with each one requiring you to study their attack patterns, learning when and how to avoid their attacks whilst dealing out your own punishment. There is one bold new addition to the gameplay however that is unashamedly modern, the Glory Kill, and its inclusion is likely to be the sticking point for many stalwart DOOM fans.
Whittle down any demon until they’re close to death and they’ll pulsate with light, staggered from your attacks (you can turn the effect off if you wish). At this point, whilst you could just shoot them some more to finish them off, getting up close and personal allows you to end their existence in style with a melee button initiated Glory Kill. Whether it’s snapping their necks, ripping off an arm before beating them with it or stomping on their heads, every Glory Kill offers a pleasingly brutal way to finish your enemies and is also beneficial to your cause, offering health and ammo pickups for getting your hands bloody. As a gameplay mechanic it’s actually pretty neat, promoting an aggressive approach to combat in order to stay in the fight when the odds are stacked against you rather than shying away from taking risks, and thankfully, unlike most finishing animations in games they don’t feel disjointed from the gameplay, making them actually quite enjoyable. Factor in that there’s around five Glory Kills per enemy and there’s plenty of gory fun to be had, although nothing compares to the bloody mess created by your limited-use chainsaw that awards kills with an abundance of ammunition.
The amazing thing about DOOM’s campaign is that it just doesn’t let up; from the beginning right to the very end. Combat arenas throw ever more challenging waves of demons at you as you run, jump and gun your way through them, collecting power-ups where possible to momentarily boost your abilities. You rarely go seconds, never mind minutes without something to shoot, fighting your way through corridors and complexes to get from one expansive battle zone to the next. You could in fact say that the game structure is very generic in that regard. That it’s just a sequence of challenge rooms connected by traversal areas to control the pace, but it doesn’t matter; the verticality of DOOM’s level design and the sheer audaciousness of the constant balls-to-the-wall action quash any notion of repetitiveness or mundanity that could usually be associated with such a simple game structure. It’s just pure adrenaline-fuelled fun backed by a rocking metal soundtrack that just pushes you on and on, and it’ll keep you gripped until its thrilling finale.
When you’re done with DOOM‘s riotous campaign or just need a breather from its never-ending barrage of demons, two options are available to you: SnapMap and Multiplayer, and whilst neither offer the same exhilarating experience that the campaign offers, they are both well realised nonetheless. SnapMap is essentially a basic level editor, allowing you to create your own DOOM maps before playing and sharing them with your friends. Simply a case of snapping pre-made rooms together before placing objects and demons into the mix and assigning parameters, your creation options are fairly limited, especially in terms of scenery, but the flexibility of SnapMap at least means that maps don’t just have to be all about killing demons or each other; already there are maps that test your memory, and one even tests your ability to count to ten. Generally though I imagine that SnapMap will be used by players to recreate classic DOOM maps to the best of their abilities which they will then be able to play in online co-op with their friends, and for that purpose it works admirably. SnapMap is great fun despite its limitations, and it’ll be intriguing to see the creations that players come up with in the future, especially if the asset pool is expanded via patches or DLC.
Finishing off the package, DOOM’s team-based multiplayer offerings are unfortunately very generic and highly unnecessary, but that’s not to say that they aren’t enjoyable to some degree. Among the typical match types such as Team Deathmatch and a couple of King of the Hill variations, there’s some more interesting propositions such a “Freeze Tag” in which your aim is to freeze all members of the opposing team whilst preventing them from thawing each other out, and “Clan Arena”, which is a tense battle where players have just one life and there are no pickups. The only facet of DOOM’s multiplayer modes that really stands out however is the Demon Rune system, occasionally allowing players to collect a pickup that transforms them into a fearsome demon which gives their team an advantage for a short period of time. All in all, there’s nothing particularly wrong with what DOOM has in store for those who like to dabble in a spot of team-based multiplayer competitiveness, but you have to wonder if id Software would have been better dropping the loadout system that holds it back, instead opting for the more old-school approach of weapon pickups being randomly placed on the maps.
In the end, it’d be wrong to let DOOM’s simply adequate multiplayer portion sully what is otherwise an exceptional package. Between its action-packed campaign and the interesting SnapMap level editor, there’s more here to keep first-person shooter fans occupied than any other game in recent memory, and to put it bluntly, DOOM’s campaign is the most outlandish fun I’ve had with a game up to now during this console generation. Whilst its spectacular looks, smooth framerate and killer soundtrack play a large part in that, it’s the actual gameplay that is as exciting as it is tense and rewarding that really seals the deal. With DOOM, id Software has well and truly proven Shigeru Miyamoto’s “a delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad” way of thinking. Fast, bold, violent, and enjoyably daft, I’m glad id Software left DOOM baking in hell’s flames for so long before unleashing this masterpiece upon the world.