1993’s Doom was a benchmark game. It set the standard for first-person shooters that would be emulated for years to come. Some had more success than others, but no game ever captured that unique Doom magic. It saw sequels in the form of Doom II that was more of an expansion pack than a full-fledged release, and Doom 3 which attempted to weave an intricate and compelling narrative, but only succeeded in slowing things to a plodding, monotonous pace. Shortly after the release of Doom 3, work began on Doom 4, and the game went through a long and arduous development cycle, culminating in its cancellation and eventual restarting to finally arrive in the form that we see it today. Has the game’s troubled development cycle hurt the final product? Well that depends on whether or not you’re open to the idea of Doom changing. What we have in Doom 2016 resembles the original in a lot of key ways, but differs from in in many others.
What Is It?
Doom is a science-fiction/horror themed first-person shooter initially set on Mars. You play the role of The Doom Marine, who wakes up to wind himself in the middle of a demon invasion. The Union Aerospace Corporation has been at it again, and they thought that opening a portal to hell and mining its resources was a good idea. Naturally, things did not go well, and that’s where you wake up, in a sarcophagus in a wrecked martian base. As you make your way through the game, you’ll find out just how badly things have really gone.
Narrative has never been very strong in the Doom games. The last time one tried to weave a story into the gameplay we ended up with Doom 3. A game that had some of the elements of Doom, but felt so slow and plodding that it took you out of the experience at every turn. It was not a bad game in its own right, but it was such a departure from Doom II that it hardly retained any of the signature elements of the series to that date. This Doom, on the other hand, does a good job of weaving a story while also not overwhelming you with it. You are given the basics to keep you going, and then if you want to dig deeper there are dossier entries you can look into, as well as environmental clues that help give the goings on some more context. It keeps the game moving along at a good pace, but also gives those who want more detail the option to get it. It’s a good approach that works well here.
Why Should I Care?
Doom is a game that does a lot of things right, but there are a handful of rough edges that stick out precisely because it does so much right. First is the structure of the game. It involves you basically making your way from one locked room encounter to another, with very little in your way between locations. Occasionally you’ll run into demons on the way to these encounters, but they hardly pose a problem. By making the majority of the game’s combat focused in these arena-like environments, the game very quickly loses any of the tension that it was trying to build. Before too long, you can look at an upcoming area and know exactly that the door will lock behind you and you’ll have to fend off waves of demons. It can get pretty tedious to walk into a room and know you’ve got an arbitrary number of demons to kill before you can leave again, but the thing of it is, Doom’s combat is so fluid, so dynamic, so visceral that you’ll forget about this encounter mechanic and soon will be enjoying dispensing swift death onto the demon hordes. The original Doom had sections of the game that followed this same theme as well, but they were typically larger scale skirmishes. You’d encounter more enemies wandering through the levels, which gave them that sense of tension that this Doom forgoes in favor of its action rooms.
You’ll do this with a variety of weapons. Mainstays from the series the pistol, shotgun, super shotgun, chain-gun, etc are all present and accounted for. As is the chainsaw, which has been turned into more of a precision weapon for this game. You have fuel to deal with for the chainsaw, so you won’t be able to simply hold the trigger down and run around. This means that your strikes with it will have to be deliberate, and as a result, are much closer quarters.
One of the new combat mechanics in Doom is the Glory Kill system. This is a close-range, melee attack that is absolutely vicious. Dealing damage to demons will weaken them to the point where you can take advantage of this attack. When they turn blue, they’re vulnerable. When they turn orange, you are close enough to them to perform the attack very messily assassinate whatever enemy was in front of you. At first I avoided this, because I felt that it broke up the gun play too much. In the early parts of the game this is an option, but as you get further in you’ll need to make very liberal use of the Glory Kill. Since Health Packs are few and far between, the Glory Kill is the most viable way of replenishing your health. The kills themselves are brutal, quick, and deadly. They are no longer than they need to be. Doom Marine doesn’t have time to dwell on one demon for long, he’s got dozens of them to slay, and they’re not going to wait around for him to be done with their comrade before attacking.
The other rough edge is the first-person platforming sections of the game. Doom does this enough to be slightly annoying, but the game is checkpointed heavily enough that it doesn’t become much of a burden. Scaling structures is neat in its own way, but it takes away from the demon-slaying, which is what I really want to be doing.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
One of the coolest things about Doom is the SnapMap editor. It allows you to easily create your own maps and gameplay mechanics to go inside of those maps. At the moment it is a little limited to what you can do, but hopefully in the future id will expand on it. What you get now is a handful of themes to set your map in, and a big box of pieces to snap together and play with. It works very well, though I am a bit disappointed that there will likely not be any other form of modding for Doom, thanks to its choice of DRM software. It puts the PC version on par with the consoles, meaning there is no advantage to buying the PC version, other than the far better visual fidelity potential. For a studio that’s been traditionally open to its modding community, this is a departure, and it is a little disappointing.
On the whole though, Doom’s faults do not outshine the one major thing it does well. It plays beautifully. It’s fun, and feels like a Doom game that was sensibly modernized, without compromising on what made it great to start with. Not everything is how I would have liked or done it, but if you are someone who grew up playing Doom, this should not disappoint.