Doom Review: Knee Deep in Nostalgia
Let this sink in: Doom 4, now released as just Doom, was originally announced in 2008. That's eight whole long years ago. That year games like Call of Duty: World at War and Fallout 3 released into the FPS genre. Honestly, I never expected to be playing another Doom with every year that passed after about 2012. It had become a running joke among my friends that it was never going to happen in the same vein as Starcraft: Ghost or if it did it would be a massive disappointment like Duke Nukem Forever. It looked especially dire when in 2011 we were treated to what I can only describe as the horrifying lovechild of Reign of Fire and Doom:
Things would get better in 2014 when, after scrapping the previous "Doom 4" game, id Software released a new teaser for Doom no numeral necessary.
Imagine my shock when I downloaded the newest Doom was greeted with combat around thirty seconds into the game. It shirks some of the biggest conventions of the genre that it helped pave the way for along with adopting some mechanics that have become new staples. Some reviewers might be too quick to dismiss it as simply the original 1993 game with a fresh coat of paint and shine, but that's doing the game a massive injustice. It seamlessly merges two eras of FPS gaming along with offering enough fan service to keep fans of the franchise happy.
Keeping with the original 1993 game, the story in Doom is paper-thin at best. You awaken as the nameless Doomguy, chained to a stone altar surrounded by imps as a red light shines on you. As soon as you free yourself from the table in one of the games few nonplayable sections, you are given a pistol and proceed on your quest to clear Mars of all varietal of demon and beasts from Hell. Along the way, your arsenal expands to include fan favorites like the pump shotgun, chaingun, and the infamous BFG all of which you use to cause massive amounts of damage to the growing hordes.
No one, myself included, plays Doom for the story even though the 2004 entry into the franchise attempted to make a more nuanced version of the game. It's all about the frenetic gameplay and slick visuals. The controls feel tight and responsive with the ability to jump coming back from Doom 3 to play a bigger part in the large level design. Glory kills, the newest addition to the gameplay, is lifted right out the massively successful fan-created mod Brutal Doom. Demons will flash orange when enough damage is done to them which then allows the player to execute them in glorious fashion. Horns used to slash throats; skulls split in two, all of the executions grants health boosts which come in handy in some of the more crowded firefights in the game. It adds a satisfying rhythm to the game and doesn't rely on spamming buttons over and over to achieve the execution which is a refreshing change from other games that feature similar mechanics.
After stripping away all of the new executions, Doom is still a run and gun extravaganza that keeps you on your toes at all times. Enemies scale surfaces to get better angles of attack while some charge you head on without a care for their well-being. The varied nature of the firefights is refreshing in a gaming era where cover systems have become the norm for many shooters. Just like in the original, if you stand still too long you're as good as dead, so constant movement is essential. The map design is top notch also with each level feeling expertly crafted to funnel in enemies but also allowing for vertical combat opportunities that result in epic firefights remniscent of earlier games.
Along with the gameplay, the game's graphics are a benchmark for shooters and gaming in general. I was able to run the game on Ultra on my NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 with no hitches or tearing noticeable. The dynamic lighting and use of shadows in the game are also fantastic with id building upon their previous successes with Doom 3's, at the time, revolutionary lighting graphics. The character models for the various demons are also some of the best I've seen in a game to date. From the hanging ragged musculature of the Revenant to the towering Cyberdemon, the amount of time that went into creating these monsters is truly a sight to behold. While the color palette may be too muted for some fans of the original game, it works in the color scheme more than a total throwback would have.
In keeping with the times, the game also features both a player, Praetor suit, and arsenal upgrade system that can be unlocked through finding secrets throughout the maze-like maps and completing level-based combat challenges. The sense of accomplishment that come from fully exploring every dark corner of the maps has never been lost on the Doom franchise, and it's nice to see the newest entry keeps with tradition. Hidden Doomguy mini-figures, playable retro-Doom levels, and weapon caches are but a few of the secrets hidden in every single stage of the game. It's a clever way to give a nod to hardcore fans of the franchise while giving newer players reason to hunt down the many secrets. The rune challenges are also great as they offer a chance to unlock passive abilities by completing tough challenges like killing thirty enemies with one hit point or destroying enemies using only explosive barrels.
Doom is a welcome return to form for a franchise and a developer that created an entire genre of gaming. It features enough winks and nods to the classic entries of the storied franchise to satisfy the hardcore fans but also smooth and engaging gameplay that will draw in a whole new breed of fans. It's everything an ardent fan, such as myself, of the franchise could want from an entry in 2016 but with enough updating that it doesn't feel dated. It's one hell of a ride and one worth taking for anyone who calls themselves a fan of the shooter genre.
Final Say: Play It
(Author's Note: I have not played the multiplayer yet but have heard varying opinions on it since it was developed by Certain Affinity and not id software)