Everyone knows Doom. Your aunt and uncle. Your religious friend. Your parents. Today's first-person phenomenons all owe Doom their gratitude, simply put: it's a gaming icon. Since then modern shooters have added layer upon layer of evolved mechanics, fleshing out the basics, but these basics still hold a great deal of charm and it's always nice to return to the frenetic pace and high-octane action that came with the original.
It's been twelve years since Doom 3. A game that was more slow-paced survival horror than it was adrenaline-fuelled action full of overkill. Time has come for a new game, this time it's simply called Doom, and it does not carry on from where Doom 3 left off, instead frenetic pacing is once again at the core of the experience.
In Doom you're thrown straight into the action, the game does not really bother about building up a narrative or even explain who you are or what motives you have. You get guns, you're served up demons, and the rest is up to you. Humans have found ways to extract resources from hell, which is lucrative and something that will help mankind. Things rarely go as planned though, and the portal to hell opens up and demons invade Mars. This is where you come in.
It will be up to you to restore order and push back the demons to where they belong with the help of Dr. Hayden and the facility's artificial intelligence, VEGA. The protagonist doesn't utter a single word, but remains an enigma throughout the entire campaign. Dr. Hayden hints a few times at who and what you are, but most of it is up to you to interpret and speculate on, and to read the game's codex. Wolfenstein: The New Order quickly comes to mind, as it offers old school-inspired game mechanics, but that came comes with fully developed characters and a thrilling narrative. But Doom is, as you know, about to killing as many demons as possible and in the most spectacular way possible.
It takes exactly two seconds before you're holding your first weapon. Four seconds later you get hold of your first shotgun and you've already laid waste to a bunch of demons. The pace of Doom is ferocious.
If you've played the classic Doom you will recognise much of the art-style and the enemies. Classic enemies such as Imps and Cacodemons. You must take the enemy you encounter into account and adjust your tactics to suit the combination of different demons you face on the battlefield. You'll meet two Mancubus (large demons that can be equipped with flamethrowers) along with a small army of imps. It is smart to focus on the smaller and more agile enemies first, and then focus on the major monsters from a more comfortable range.
Doom is unrelenting and you learn early on that constant movement is everything in combat. The level design also encourages vertical warfare and there are plenty of edges and ledges to use to your advantage. Where new games are based on taking advantage of verticality, taking out enemies from a distance, and constantly hiding behind cover and recovering health, here we have something that stays true to the basic mechanics of Doom of old, where you have to constantly keep track of how much life and shield you have left at the same time as keeping on the front foot.
One of the things that contributes to the energetic pace is that when you damage an enemy enough you can finish them off with an execution move. This gives you with a small amount of life and makes for an important cornerstone in terms of pacing. Using the Glory Kill mechanic is smart, you can use it to easily turn a battle in your favour and emerge victorious from a seemingly desperate situation. The controls are responsive and intuitive, which ensures that combat is extremely satisfying. Switching from a gun to the chainsaw is a simple button/key press, and moving through the levels is very smooth thanks to the ability to double jump and mantle the environment.
There are plenty of weapons to master in Doom. All of them can be upgraded and have two different types of modifications. For example, the game's assault rifle is equipped with either a sight or the option of firing missiles. You unlock weapon upgrades by killing demons and finding secrets. Besides weapons, there is more to unlock. The ability to expand your health bar, or carry more ammunition are self explanatory, but there are ways to take less friendly damage, say when when firing of a rocket at a demon close to you, or becoming completely immune to explosive objects in the surroundings.
The graphics, especially when it comes to the fluidity of the frame-rate, are for the most part, absolutely brilliant. The resolution is dynamic but mostly stays at 1080p, Doom uses the same technique as Halo 5: Guardians, where the resolution can be changed depending on various the locations in the game. However, this is something that is hardly noticeable to the naked eye. It usually flows at a steady 60 frames per second, and the times it doesn't quite get there are hardly worth mentioning. The demons are very well designed, they feel unique, and they're as fast as their pixelated predecessors. The environments are, however, very brown, certainly fitting (it is, after all, Mars), but the variation is almost non-existent at first. This aspect gets better in the latter half of the game, but it wouldn't have hurt to cut down on the brown.
The music is one of our favourite parts of the game. Every time there are demons there for the slaughter, the music is dialled up with heavy, crisp guitars playing something reminiscent of nu metal mixed with dubstep. When the battle ends the music quietens down and we long for the next time we get the tear demons apart to the beat of the classic theme.
The sound in general works well, the voice actors deliver their lines in the cheesiest way possible. Doom does not take itself too seriously and it just makes the experience more enjoyable and relaxed. We would have liked a little heavier, meatier sound from the weapon fire and explosions, as they feel a little weak, but on the whole the audio work is acceptable.
Multiplayer in Doom has been much debated since the open beta, where id revealed two modes and two maps that ultimately split opinion amongst the community (strangely enough it proved more popular on console than it did on PC). We've now seen more of this new-look Doom multiplayer, and there's a selection of modes and features to tell you about. You can certainly feel the Halo influence brought to the table by Certain Affinity, a studio that has a history of making map packs for Microsoft's flagship franchise, and that co-developed this part of the game.
All the game modes you would expect to see have been included. Team Deathmatch and Domination play out much as you'd expect, except with the caveat that at certain points in the match a player will be transformed into a demon and, unless they squander the opportunity, they'll have the opportunity to mercilessly destroy the opposition. The demon (there's four to choose from once they've all been unlocked) can take a lot more damage than your average soldier, and a team has to work together in order to take it down. If they can do so before a timer runs out someone else can even become the demon themselves for a time. It certainly adds an extra dynamic to a match when there's an overpowered demon in play.
There's a bunch of other modes that keep things interesting beyond the usual suspects. We liked Freeze Tag, whereby instead of killing an opponent they're frozen to the spot. A team-mate can stand nearby and thaw them out, but they risk being attacked while they remain relatively stationary. It's a bullet-fuelled take on stuck-in-the-mud and it represents in an interesting change of pace (similarly, Clan Arena offers round-based PvP too). Soul Harvest has you not only killing enemies but stealing their dropped souls in order to score. Warpath, which we played plenty in the beta, is king of the hill where the hill keeps moving on a predetermined route around the map.
Perhaps the most divisive element in multiplayer is the inclusion of loadouts. You choose in advance which weapons you want to use instead of having them scattered all over the place. It's a matter of taste whether you prefer the new system or not, but even if you're not a fan at least there are options, and you can easily experiment with different combinations and find something that you like. There is still a focus on pick-ups, but here it's only health, armour and shields that you're grabbing, although if you're not focused on this part of the game just as much as the shooting, you'll quickly find yourself staring at a loading screen.
On the positive side, the map design is as good as you'd expect from a studio that has been making Halo maps for a decade, and similarly, it feels great on console with a controller in hand. Certain Affinity and id have had a good stab at modernising Doom's PvP, something that's exemplified by the use of disposable Hack Modules that grant temporary buffs. However, after a few hours spent fragging it up in the multiplayer portion of the game, trying out different maps and modes, and taking advantage of the wealth of customisation options, we still can't help but consider it the lesser part of the equation, despite the attempts to innovate. Doom's true strength is drawn from the single-player campaign.
Snap Map offers up a level editor packed with features. Do you want to build classic maps reminiscent of old Doom? Go for it. Do you want to build an arena where you and three other players to take on demons in waves? Feel free. It may sound like a cliché, but your imagination is the greatest limitation.
There are already a large number of players who have uploaded their creations for the world to enjoy. We played a SnapMap level where we were equipped with a gun and a target, the task was to shoot the target, but points were only rewarded if the shot hit when exactly ten seconds had passed. No more, no less. Another map offered a small mission: a Mancubus has taken over a building and had to be stopped by going through the level, restoring the power, and eventually fighting the demon. Thus there is space to create content for single-player, co-op for up to four players, or team based multiplayer. The tools are highly advanced and they should prolong the life of the game considerably.
Doom feels like Doom. Had someone asked us beforehand how the first Doom would have looked and felt if it had been made today - this is probably pretty close to that what we'd have guessed. It's fast, intense, stylish, and bloody. It feels old without feeling outdated, and the pace of combat means that you'll want to play on for just a little longer. The new Doom offers a rich campaign, multiplayer distractions, and the rather amazing SnapMap - an old fashioned experience that still manages to breathe fresh life into the genre.