First person shooters have changed a lot since they first came along in the 90s. From Call of Duty to Overwatch, they’ve never been more popular. But the series that all but invented the genre, and arguable hasn’t been surpassed since, has just had a reboot. Can this newest iteration stand with its predecessors as a titan of the genre? Unquestionably, since it’s not just one of the best first person shooters, but one of the best games to come out this year.
• Developer: id Software
• Publisher: Bethesda
• Reviewed on: PC
• Also Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
• Release Date: Available Now
Although the timeline of the DOOM series is convoluted at best, it’s pretty clear that this title is supposed to take us back to square one as far as continuity goes. You play as an unnamed warrior, nicknamed the Doom Marine, or just Doom Guy to his friends, awoken after an unknown amount of time in suspended animation to find yourself in a research base on mars that is overrun with demons thanks to the actions of a nefarious rogue scientist. That’s really it as far as exposition goes. You’re on your feet, heavily armed and killing possessed corpses within seconds and the action never really lets up from there. What’s interesting about the way the story is told is that it’s made very clear from the outset that your character doesn’t care about any of it. He ignores exposition, treats all technology with the same disinterested scorn as a grandparent in an Apple store. There’s a background narrative of political and scientific intrigue and mythology surrounding both the events and characters in the story, but Doom-guy pays literally no attention to any of it. Barring a few scripted interactions you’re left to find out as much information as you want from text and audio logs. The game gives you the barest amount of context for the carnage unfolding around you and leaves the rest up to you.
That’s not to say that the protagonist is a silent shell in the same way many game characters are. Doom-guy clearly has a personality and feelings about everything that he sees and experiences, it’s just that the machinations and philosophical debates of those around him are of absolutely no interest. His internal thought process goes as far as: See demon, kill demon, repeat as necessary. He clearly believes actions speak louder than words and sticks to it. For relentless violence he’s capable of, he seems like a very nice guy.
Don’t be fooled by the silent charm though, he’s very capable when it comes to the violence. When the original Doom came out in 1993, the pixelated spurts of blood that issued from slain enemies were enough to get the media and politicians at the time up in arms. Compared to the 2016 edition, those might as well be an episode of Peppa Pig. The techno-wizards at id software have taken full advantage of current generation tech to produce the most unflinchingly brutal game I’ve seen in years. Enemies take dozens of bullets to put down, in addition to rockets, laser beams and grenades. And once they do finally succumb to your onslaught they tend to explode into giblets and chunks of viscera. In addition to your significant arsenal of inventive weapons, you can also instantly kill a staggered enemy with a so called Glory Kill, which treats you to an extremely quick animation of Doom-Guy executing his foe in a selection of creatively gruesome way. My personal favourite is the one which involves ripping an arm off of a weakened Imp and then bludgeoning them with the wet end.
Before playing is was worried that these might get repetitive or boring after a while but the sheer variety of them keeps them fresh and exciting. And the fact that pulling them off results in a massive drop of healing items means that there’s always a great sense of satisfaction to be gained from every button tap. And you’ll need to keep topping your health up if you hope to survive.
DOOM is an FPS in the strictly old-school model, there’s no cover, no reloading, no regenerating health and if you want to stand any chance against the tide of monstrosities trying to disembowel you with their teeth then you’ll need to be quick on your feet. The character in Doom moves at a lighting pace in every direction, enabling you to strafe, kite and circle your enemies while flinging bolts of fiery death at them from one of your 10 weapons. There are eight standard weapons, ranging from a pistol to a double-barrelled shotgun to a Gauss cannon. These use one of four types of ammunition meaning you’ll have to switch between them on the fly in order to conserve ammo and also to tailor your arsenal to the particular demons you’re fighting. For example: the wall climbing Imps move too fast to worth wasting rockets on as the slow moving projectiles will usually miss. But a couple of blasts from your combat shotgun will turn them into a puddle of goo. By contrast, the Mancubi are too big and tough to be worth trying to attack with shotguns or assault rifles, but the rocket launcher can make quick work of them. This not only serves to keep the combat feeling fresh and varies but also rewards tactical quick thinking, as you try and juggle your rapidly depleting ammo reserves and the horsed of demons rushing you from all corners.
If you find yourself struggling for ammo or just faced with one exceptionally frustrating enemy, you can always pull out your chainsaw for an instant and very messy kill. Doing this will also drop a massive amount of ammunition, helping you out of a tight corner. The only limiting factor is how rare chainsaw fuel is, so you need to be sure you really need the ammo. And the final weapon in DOOM’s arsenal? The returning series icon, the Big F[redacted] Gun. When you absolutely have to kill everything on the screen all at once, accept no substitutes.
It’s not just the weaponry that requires more thought than the average FPS, the levels themselves are also far less linear than we’ve come to expect in recent years. Rather than a single corridor to endlessly work down the levels in DOOM are sprawling maze like affairs with multiple paths across them, requiring backtracking to reach all of the objectives. Of course around every corridor could be another area filled with damned souls and inhuman monstrosities so there’s quite a lot of suspense, even when exploring areas that you might think you’ve already cleared. On top of all of the obvious markers there are also numerous secrets hidden in each level, from weapon upgrades to runes which grant a permanent passive bonus to adorable little action figures of our hero. DOOM has many unique selling points, but I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard to unlock concept art.
I find it difficult to note any real objective issues with DOOM as a game. The style of combat certainly might not be to everyone’s taste, requiring as it does a combination of situational awareness, tactical thinking and strong stomach. And if you find the idea of brutalising demons to a pounding metal soundtrack off putting then there’s absolutely nothing in DOOM that will change your mind. But it accomplishes what it sets out to do with such aplomb and style and better than any game before it. If that sounds like it might even be just a little bit of fun, then you should try DOOM. It’s RIP AND TEAR-ific!