DOOM shouldn’t need an introduction. Back in 1993, the first game had a simple setup: The UAC facility on mars had been taken over in a demonic ambush, the hallways were crowded with bullet sponges from all nine circles of the inferno and that trigger finger of yours got really itchy when it was busy cradling a shotgun. And in the beginning, it was all bloody good fun. Gamers had a blast, parents were furious at seeing demonic inhabitants reduced to a mess of red pixels and id Software grew into a huge studio from that big hit.
Over two decades later, and first-person shooters have changed. They’re bigger, prettier and allow players to move in ways that would rip a spine apart if applied in real life. But at the same time, they’ve kind of lost something along the way. So few games these days are actually interested in being fun. Some games are bleak experiences which make you feel all too vulnerable while you huddle in a corner and wait for your healing factor to kick in.
DOOM isn’t that kind of game. It’s massively backwards, stuck in the past and completely dumb. But in the very best way possible.
Because right from the start, DOOM hits all the right notes. What little story there is on the bones of this shooter is saved for a few sparse in-game cutscenes and a codex of information that you can dip into. DOOM is all about that bullet bukkake that results in demon blood gushing all over your screen. It’s about grabbing a shotgun and running headfirst into action, not sitting back and taking cover. Something that DOOM does oh so well.
Here’s the thing: Risk is rewarded. Taking your faceless marine and running into battle isn’t just recommended, it’s encouraged through the use of a glory kill system. Knock a demon’s health down enough, and you’ll be given the chance to finish them off in a manner that would make Mortal Kombat high-five the screen. Glory kills aren’t just visceral methods of pouring salt in the wound however. On a technical level, they’re also perfect micro-breathers, moments when you can catch your breath and continue the onslaught.
Onslaughts which don’t exactly expect you to do more than go from point A to point B and kill anything and everything that moves. It’s brutally simple stuff, and I’m more than okay with that because id Software knows exactly when to turn the action up to 11 and when to ease off on all the carnage. Pacing is a key ingredient here, something that DOOM nails with ease and confidence.
Savage glory-kills and exploration help balance the insanity of curb-stomping a demon until there’s only squishy bits of brain matter decorating your boots, echoing the speed and chaos of the original two DOOM games from the 1990s. Brutally simplistic stuff, and I’m more than okay with that as I close in for the kill and introduce a Cacodemon to the business end of my boomstick.
Every gun manages to feel punchy and satisfying, thanks to a rolling selection of optional upgrades. The jackhammer spread of a combat shotgun can be augmented with explosive rounds. Plasma Rifles can deliver a stinging stun blast. Rocket launchers can serve as your favourite pay and spray buddy when you fight a Cyberdemon that’s almost as big as my failings in life.
So incredibly satisfying, with DOOM egging you on to really push the limits of a kill by throwing optional challenges at you in each level. Hell, these stages themselves are wonderful throwbacks to an older age of game design. Largely linear environments with a sprawling architecture that hides secrets and lore, whether you’re on the Mars UAC facility or deep within Hell itself.
And yes, the story is complete pants. There’s obviously more to it as everyone pulls your strings, but DOOM has a grand total of two characters, one AI system and the voice of Dr Klaw from Inspector Gadget guiding the forces of Hell to try and stop you. And I’m okay with that. Like I said, the core gameplay of DOOM is just so satisfying that I don’t mind the fact that the game ends on a cliffhanger so obvious, you can cut it with a blood-soaked chainsaw.
And technically, it runs like a dream. Barring a scene here or there where the action gets a little too intense, DOOM easily maintained a constant frame rate of 60 while dynamically adjusting the resolution of the screen. Demons wore rusty armour and snarled. Skulls were ripped apart in a fatally realistic manner. Guns had the look of tarnish on them as entrails covered the screen and embers floated everywhere. Technically, DOOM is nothing like id Software’s massive launch day disaster of 2011, RAGE. DOOM is smooth with the booms.
There’s a satisfaction that extends through to the multiplayer. I grew up hitting LAN events and spending Friday nights playing Quake 3 Arena. DOOM feels like the bastard child of this older id Software property, a smooth and fast-paced throwback to the yesteryear with tighter gunplay and giblets aplenty. Strafe hard and counter harder with a super shotgun to the face. Here’s where DOOM gets more modern in certain respects, restricting you to two weapons per spawn and allowing players to mod their character with an array of power-ups.
It felt admittedly odd to see old and new school ideas clash like this, but the system quickly gelled together and became a white knuckleride of marines having their guts explode out of them when facing the wrong end of a demon spawn. There’s a lot of meat here, some daring map designs and plenty of customisation that will be explored in the weeks to come.
Demon runes are particularly sought after. Eldritch scribblings on the kind of fancy rock you normally find peddled in a homeopathic shop, these allow players to assume the form of one of several denizens of the inferno, ultimate power-ups which provide a massive edge in combat. DOOM doesn’t stray too far from traditional multiplayer modes either. Free for alls, Team Deathmatch and Capture Point maps all feature. And then there’s a few other ideas to play around with.
Soul Harvest is a particular favourite of mine, a Team deathmatch event where players rack up kills and seize the souls of the fallen. Grab a soul, grab a point. But the catch here is that the opposition can also nab the soul and prevent you from scoring in a twisted game of kill and collect. What makes it truly fun, is that the demon rune on the map will transform a player who’ll have no clock counting down on his ascension to demonic glory, and all kills from this player result in two souls spilling forth from an enemy.
Freeze tag was the weirdest new addition. You’re frozen in place, an immobile target as you wait for an ally to thaw you out. Or an opponent to fill your face with a Gauss gun discharge. It’s chaotic stuff, that makes no sense at all. And I’m stuck playing it every night. But let’s wrap this up with the final big component of DOOM: SnapMaps.
You ever think you can do better than id at making a DOOM game? Well here’s your chance. SnapMaps are a comprehensive suite of map tools, allowing you to create your own multiplayer experiences or keep things simple with some co-operative play. It’s like LEGO for demons, easy to put together and simple enough to easily get the hang of. It isn’t a full selection of modding tools for wannabe game designers, but it comes damn close.
Despite the simplicity of all this, there’s a lot of experimentation happening already on the SnapMap hubs, as players create all manner of maps and levels. This is where the real longevity of DOOM will be seen, after an initial playthrough of the single-player which can last you anywhere from 8-10 hours on your first attempt. But it’s a hub where the community is massively active right now.
Last Updated: May 17, 2016