Older id Software franchises are so hot right now. The recently rebooted Wolfenstein was a pleasant surprise and after seeing the flood of praise for Doom, I decided to grab it. It’s a good thing I did, too, because I couldn’t stop playing it once I started. Doom is an excellent take on a classic with modern tweaks and plays at a speed almost unheard of in modern FPS games. It’s bloody, challenging, and just plain fun.
- TL;DR: Blood and limbs fly as you fight back the hordes of Hell through the best FPS campaign in years
- Platform: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
- Time Played: 13:30
- What I Played: Campaign to ~75% completion, an hour or so of multiplayer
The opening scene of Doom sets the hellish (get it?) pace right from the get go. You wake up chained to a table in a laboratory, needles on robotic arms above you and demonic scientists shambling towards you. Once you rip the chains off and smash one demon’s head into the table, you grab a pistol and make quick work of the others. The next room is where you’ll find your suit and learn that demons have overrun the Mars installation you are on. You, naturally, are the only one who can stop them.
Doom is all about fast combat. You have a typical wheel of weapons to select from, like the shotgun, gauss cannon, and rocket launcher. Each weapon packs some serious punch that can really be felt. You also have access to a chainsaw which automatically kills anything that happens to meet it, although it’s ammo is sparse. Chainsaw kills also drop tons of ammo for your other guns, so I tended to save it for when I was in a bad spot.
One of Doom’s biggest mechanics is glory kills. After a demon takes enough damage, it’ll stagger around and start to blink. This is your cue to strike. A melee attack on a staggered enemy triggers a finishing blow animation of which there are a surprisingly high number. You can rip a demon’s horn off and stab him with it, bash it’s head in, pop it’s eyes with your thumbs, feed it the explosive core of it’s own power armor, etc. Which glory kill you trigger depends on where you melee the enemy, which is why I wish there was any sort of targeting system for glory kills. Enemies tend to crowd and hit you off course, so a slight outline or glow of which body part was targeted would have been nice. Glory kills are especially important because they always drop health. They also give you a brief bit of invincibility, letting you catch your breath in the whirlwind of combat.
Doom takes away the crutches of regenerating health and a minimap, too, forcing you to get up close and play with fire at all times. There isn’t time to scope in from afar and wait behind cover. I was concerned that glory kills would get boring quickly, but the well-paced addition of new enemies through the ~12 hour campaign helps mitigate that. Even in the final level I was seeing some new environment-based kills that I hadn’t seen before. The combat is frantic and heart pounding and I loved every minute of it.
Most weapons come with two modifications to choose from. Some of my favorites are the mortar shell for the shotgun and the focused charge shot for the gauss cannon. Each mod can be upgraded with weapon points you earn through normal play and completing challenges. Each level has three challenges to complete, like getting X glory kills on Y enemy or finding secret locations. Weapons mods can be swapped on the fly, but I stuck to the same mod on each weapon most of the game. Each mod also has a mastery challenge to complete. Killing five summoners with the rocket launcher’s lock-on mod gives it the ability to target multiple enemies at once. Masteries are a nice incentive to kill things a slightly different way than you may be used to.
Your suit can also be upgraded with tokens found on dead soldiers. Most levels have two or three of them. These upgrades can make you immune to explosive barrels, swap weapons faster, that sort of thing. Temporary powerups can be found in certain larger fight arenas. While haste and quad damage are fun, berserk is the real star of the powerup show. It turns your fists into automatic glory kill death machines. I smiled every time I saw a berserk orb ahead of me.
Rune challenges give you a break from blasting your way through everything that moves and force you to play smarter. They are very similar to the in-mission challenges of DmC: Devil May Cry. The scenarios are pretty well varied across the dozen runes: reach the goal in time, kill enemies with barrels only, kill 30 imps in 60 seconds. Most of the challenges give you a few seconds back on the timer for each kill, as well. You can equip three runes at a time which act as passive abilities to increase your ammo drops, increase your glory kill range, or even give you a chance to survive fatal damage.
There is a ton to do in the 13 levels of Doom’s campaign between challenges, runes, and finding armor tokens, but wait, there’s more. Each level has an old school 2D Doom level hidden within it and most, if not all, have collectible action figures of the Doom Guy himself. The well-designed map screen lays out exactly what is left in each level and, with a few suit upgrades or by finding a map station, you’ll see where those secrets are. The map screen also showcases the 3D level design of Doom. This isn’t a linear blast from corridor to corridor with cut scenes and “defend this area while I open the door” set pieces spliced in. Each level has multiple stages of verticality, hidden passages, vantage points, ramps, and stairs.
My sister-in-law warned me before buying Doom that it’s fun as long as you don’t care about a story. That’s pretty much spot on. While there is a nice codex to gather all of the weapon, enemy, and environmental info you gather while playing and finding journals, Doom is about gruesomely destroying the demons of Hell. You have about a dozen high-powered weapons to help you do just that. When you combine those guns, the frenetic pace, the pounding metal music and red mists of blood, Doom is a hell (heh) of a good time.
Doom also has a multiplayer element, which has been getting mostly panned. The first thing I noticed is the sheer amount of customization options available. There are a half dozen armor slots, each with colors and patterns to play around with. Guns also have color and pattern options. You can make custom loadouts and use short-term buffs called hack modules to give yourself boosts like infinite ammo or spawning with armor. There are also a bunch of stats and challenges that are tracked for you.
There are six types of multiplayer matches including standards like deathmatch and domination, but I’m going to focus on the two coolest ones, freeze tag and warpath. Freeze tag is what you think a Doom-style take on the schoolyard game would be. Players who die instead freeze in place and can be thawed by allies standing near them. The first team to fully freeze the other team wins the round and games are best of five. I played a few rounds of freeze tag and really enjoyed it. Warpath is your basic king of the hill game where your team earns points over time for controlling a zone, but the zone is mobile. A dotted line shows where the zone is going next, so it’s not uncommon to see an ambush waiting around a corner. You also don’t want to extend out too far in front of a zone and let the other team scoot in behind you. Most multiplayer modes in Doom have a timed spawn on a demon rune which allows one player to transform into a demon like the rocket-wielding Revenant or Diablo-esque Baron of Hell. I only played about an hour of multiplayer but I’m not sure why it’s catching the heat that it is. I really enjoyed it. It retains the fast pace of the campaign and the lack of regenerating health and minimap is a welcome shake up to the FPS scene.
id even packed a map creator tool into Doom called SnapMap. I haven’t tried it out, but I’ve seen some maps online and it’s impressive what people have already come up with — new campaign missions, survival maps, even a MOBA. I’m interested to see what comes out of SnapMap and how much it is supported as time goes on.
I had a blast playing through Doom. The roughly dozen hour campaign was packed to the brim with bloody corpses, huge guns, explosions, and death. The glory kill system manages to stay fresh the whole time, too, forcing you to get your hands dirty. The multiplayer is far from tacked on with tons of customization options and a few unique modes of play. When it comes down to it, Doom has the best FPS campaign I’ve played in years, hands down. This isn’t a game you want to miss out on.