Guns and guts and gore, OH MY! Demons on Mars wanting me to die?
Oh, I don’t think so; I rip and tear, I’m… The Doomguy! 2016’s Doom breathes new life into a classic FPS that helped shape modern-day shooters. And with Doom: Eternal right around the corner, I wanted to dive feet first into hell.
Doom has been influential in gaming since its debut in December of 1993; fast-paced, cooperative gameplay, demons from hell, and controversial for its time, Doom (alongside it’s slightly older brother, Wolfenstein) helped shape the first-person shooter genre, and its ripples can be felt in even modern-day shooters.
In 2007, John Carmack announced that Doom has a future, and in 2008, development had begun. iD Software released Doom as a reboot in May of 2016 after an 8 year long drama-riddled gestation period. And boy, is it gorier and as violent as ever! Once again, I found myself late to the party. Hot damn was this a hell of a game to dive into feet first!
93’s Doom had a pretty straight forward story; the Union Aerospace Corporation is experimenting with teleportation between Mars’ moons, Phobos and Deimos. When the UAC’s portal experiments started to go awry, the moon Deimos was engulfed by hell itself and overrun by demons. Totally sensible, right? Well, unique, to say the least. Though campy, and like many campy things, it had a cult following. A lone, unnamed soldier (colloquially and endearingly named “Doomguy”) answers the call of duty to rip and tear demons.
Doom is a reboot of this story. This time, however, it takes place on Mars; Olivia Pierce was supervising the experiments of the portals to hell, which lead to the unleashing of the forces of Hell. The UAC Chairman, Samuel Hayden, guides you through Hellscape Mars to defeat the evil within and stop the forces from spreading.
Olivia Pierce is obsessed with using the Argent Energy Tower (a tower run on “Hell-energy,” an energy that is pure and an alternative to fossil fuels) to rip open a permanent hole to hell. It is up to you, The Doom Slayer (R.I.P. Doomguy) to stop her and to stop hell.
Again, the story is simple and straight forward. And as I’ve said about other games, simple stories aren’t inherently bad stories. Yes, you don’t have to think about the story much, no it isn’t hard to follow, but it is told well through audio/holo-tapes. The awesome performance of Samuel Hayden by Darin De Paul also gave passive exposition as you played. Simple storytelling of a simple story led to a very, very satisfying end. And by what I can tell, the ending will transition smoothly into Doom: Eternal.
Doom 2016, offers a bunch when it comes to content. The game includes a story-driven campaign, as well as a plethora of collectibles, hidden levels, upgrades, weapons, and even classic Doom bonus levels. Doom touts solid controls, visceral shooting, and many reasons to replay the game, including an arcade mode, that should make other AAA games blush.
I’m going to start with this game’s control polish; it’s tight, snappy, and feels damned good to play. It has been quite some time since I’ve played a fast-paced, high-octane shooter.
Doom 2016 scratched the itch that only Halo could scratch for me. But it’s faster, more violent, and harkens back to old-school arena shooters, like Quake.
The controls are polished, responsive, with just enough aim-assist on consoles to let you make those snapshots, but not too much to take away from the satisfying challenge of jumping around at Mach-10, blasting demons in the face with a railgun or your super shotgun.
Weapons and Perks
In-game, there are “perks” you can use to give you a variety of different edges; my favorites were anything that increased my speed like after getting a melee kill, your speed increased by X%
Challenges can found in the form of hidden runic portals you have uncovered throughout the game will unlock these perks.
These perks are earned through challenges you find throughout the game in the form of hidden runic portals you have uncovered. Once found, you must beat a mini-game challenge to unlock this rune/perk. Usually, the challenge at hand relates to what the perk will be.
In typical Doom fashion, you have a plethora of over-the-top weapons to choose. You have the chainsaw to use for quick and bloody dispatching of difficult demons, a variety of grenades and other equipment, as well as rocket launchers, chainguns, etc.
Did I forget to mention your signature double-barreled super shotgun?.
Level Design and Exploration
Doom takes you through Mars with a quasi-open world fashion. You blast through a variety of stages but can explore the entirety of each level. And with the intuitive flowing-level design, easy back-tracking and shortcuts, exploration and 100%-ing levels is not a chore, but simply fun. Combine the level design with the snappy movement of Doomguy, and you have a game where it doesn’t always feel like a chore to find the hidden treasures.
However, as much as I loved the level design, aesthetics and the way each stage flowed, I didn’t particularly like the seemingly-arbitrarily unreachable ledges and areas where I was convinced treasure lay. On top of that, there is a goal on each level to kill 100% of demons. Where this idea enticed me on paper, I did find it rather dull to search for that one, last, minor demon on every level.
The pause menu map seemed to mitigate some of the issues I was having, though. Although useful, I did find that there were times when the map would say a platform was right there, or directly above me and easy to get to, when in reality it wasn’t the case. I probably wasn’t able to translate what the map was telling me. Or I probably couldn’t get used to how the stage was scaled. I found that it wasn’t as intuitive as other aspects of the game.
Bugs, Glitches, Stability
Once again, where this game shines is in its polish; one can definitely see the care that the developers put into Doom. I haven’t had any crashes, in glitches that caused me to restart, or any bugs that hindered my enjoyment whatsoever.
That is until I spent the week, 100%ing levels and lost everything in a common bug.
Fellow Doom Slayers and Doomguys, heed this warning: no amount of saving will protect you from losing all of your backtracking 100% efforts with this particular and fatal bug. If you find yourself backtracking before continuing your current stage, do not, I repeat, do not “Restart Level” or restart anything. I do not care if you missed just one collectible; it can wait until after you beat that stage. If you do “Restart Level,” you will lose everything up until your last level completed.
Yes, it is a horrid and despicable bug. Yes, it is an insect that needs to be wiped off of the face of this earth. But, unfortunately, this bug has not been eradicated from the code, even ’til this day. I’m not sure if iD has taken a can of Raid to their game, and I’m sure there have been efforts, but for whatever reason, this bug still trudges under the game’s surface.
Visuals and Audio
Doom’s color pallet and soundscape are what any fan of the franchise could want. With a fantastic soundtrack, this game is a sight to behold.
Graphics & Visuals
The graphics in this game are great. Though they probably wouldn’t meet any graphics-junky’s standards, it is still a game worthy to look the part of AAA caliber.
Doom can skirt by with its non-realistic graphics, due to the nature of the game; hell on Mars, fighting demons, and an unnecessary (but necessary) amount of gore. Despite that fact, it still has some skyboxes and scaled environments to immerse the player.
Now, I love the color red as much as the next guy, as it’s my favorite color, but the color pallet is very, very red. I wouldn’t deduct points from the game for being as monochromatic as this, but we have seen games wield a broad color pallet but still maintain its style. That said, the monochromatic nature of Doom certainly does drive the point home; blood, gore, and hell on Mars are all that The Doom Slayers knows. With dabs of blue and green accents, the red color scale is not overbearing. When the enemy is flashing bright blue and orange against the pallet, Doom gives a nice visual cue as to when you can make a gratuitously gory glory kill.
In speaking of gratuitous gore, did I mention that Doom proudly grips gratuitous gore with a bloody fist? The carnage in this game is great, but not Mortal Kombat great. The player can perform a cornucopia of “glory kills” (melee kills that result in an instant-kill) or even saw through demons with the chainsaw. Both options result in gooey, gory goodness.
Audio & Music
This game excels in its design, gameplay, controls, and mechanics. However, I feel that the soundscape does lack. Enemy sounds seem like generic “grahh…grooaann”s without many signatures dependent on enemy type. And weapons don’t seem to have an outstanding “oomph” to them when discharged, which I found disappointing.
The only exceptions I can think of for the weapon sounds include the plasma rifle, gauss cannon, BFG and super shotgun. That said, even the super shotgun has a generic sound on the weaker side of things. The plasma rifle and gauss cannons do have unique sounds, however. And I love firing them off with my headset on.
Though the soundscape is on the weaker side of things, the music is to die for! Composed by Mick Gordon, the soundtrack is a good mix of being unique and visceral. The soundtrack has a good focus on melodic heavy metal with peppered electronic accents, giving a sci-fi subgenre feel to the crunchy metal surface.
This soundtrack superbly punctuates not only story moments but intense action sequences that require your undivided attention to survive. You know hell is upon you when the guitar rifts boil up, and the bass starts kicking; so focus up, load your shotgun, and ready yourself for another high-octane gorefest.
I cannot stress enough how much I love this soundtrack. Just like the Witcher 3, Planet Coaster, Halo, and Star Wars soundtracks, I often find myself punching in Doom on Spotify, and turning my dial all the way to the right. It is seriously that head-bangingly good.
Doom doesn’t have Battlefield level of graphical realism or the ear-rupturing gun-sound quality as Battlefield or Call of Duty, nor does it have the unique enemy sounds that label unseen enemies. But it does have its own identity when it comes to its visual design, color pallet, and soundscape. It isn’t top notch, no, but it is indeed up there.
Where the game stands out amongst others is in its incredible soundtrack, tight controls, and satisfying fast-paced movement and gameplay; there is polish in almost every aspect that matters in a game that focuses more on arena-style shooting. The story, though campy, is fun. And I love that The Doom Slayers is known and feared by the forces of hell.
Doom was definitely a sleeper, for me. In 2016 I was more focused other big releases, such as Rocket League, Quantum Break, Dark Souls III, Uncharted 4, No Man’s Sky and others. Even when I acknowledged its release, I feared that it wasn’t going t be as good as I hoped, due to its development history.
That said, I am still very impressed with it, even three years later. Amongst all of these huge games that have come out, games with details that set industry standards, and games that focus quality over quantity, 2016’s Doom stands on its own two feet and deserves a spot in any fan’s library. And after playing this, I am anxiously counting the days until the release of Doom: Eternal.