Doom’s 2016 release is something of a milestone for the series: after skipping a generation with no brand new games since the 3rd entry, the franchise is back. What’s more, this iteration takes the original release as a much stronger source of inspiration, avoiding the more horror-orientated design of Doom 3.
The result is a first-person shooter that, ironically, feels nothing like the average shooter on the market today. It is ironic because this new Doom harkens to a style of shooter that was once a staple of PC gaming, and had been eclipsed in the last 10 years by games like Call of Duty. Instead of weighty movement and aiming, with set-piece level designs meant to recreate movie-like action sequences, Doom and its genre ancestors provide super-fast movement, hyper accurate weapons, and complexly layered level design. This means that each level will contain more exploration and each battle will be dependent on movement rather than cover, as compared to most modern shooters.
As mentioned earlier, this Doom avoids the emphasis on horror found in Doom 3, and highlights instead the thrill and shock value of the original game. The world is no less grotesque and violent, but it is also filled with dense levels and huge, fast battles – to the point where you do not have the time to think about whether you are frightened or not. The shooting mechanics do not include aiming down sight – with the exception of a few weapon mods – and moving while shooting does not hamper your aim as that is the intended gameplay design. Basically, Doom is about movement in every aspect of the game.
Combat follows a rhythmic pattern of ranged and melee attacks, with power-ups sprinkled throughout to keep things interesting. The small (relative to other shooters today) set of weapons is a highlight due to the uniqueness of each gun. Melee combat, however, is just as useful and at times even more advantageous than ranged combat; weakened enemies glow allowing you to hit them with rather powerful – and gruesomely detailed – melee executions that reward you with health recovery items.
Those enemies come in a variety of types with differing abilities and levels of strength, with more powerful enemies becoming common as you progress. The combination of the unique weapons, powerful melee attacks, and varied enemies gives combat that aforementioned pattern, which boils down to identifying the enemy type, engaging it with the right weapon, and finishing it with a melee execution. A limited flow of ammo, the high speed movement of you and your enemies, and constantly being outnumbered forces you to keep moving and thinking throughout combat.
That constant theme of moving to survive is reiterated in the level design. Doom does not design its world simply to lead you from battle to battle, but gives its levels layers, nooks, and crannies which contain power-ups, collectibles, and mission items necessary to your progress. In between the massive battles you will be exploring the maze-like setting of the game to uncover said items, while engaging in some very nice platforming mechanics. As a result Doom provides you a breather between battles, and is able to construct a setting that is more fleshed out and interesting in terms of gameplay.
The presentation is one place the game may fall flat, a bit. The visual design and color palette can become a monotonous mix of red, black, and gray futuristic facilities on the surface of Mars for much of the game. While it is understandable that a game like Doom has a distinct visual style, the experience can at times suffer because of its repetitive nature. That being said, what is here is very well designed, with enemies that are memorable and easy to identify, very cool looking weapons, and an overall nice technical visual presentation. The graphics look nice, but they are not the best available today – although they certainly do perform well. Sound design is exceptionally well done, with enemy sounds designed to keep you feeling surrounded as they come from multiple directions, and the music is… well it is exactly what Doom music should be.
Doom is, overall, one of the most enjoyable single-player shooters of this generation. The combat is refreshing compared to the market today, and is a unique twist on older shooters. The levels are even more important as they put other shooters to shame with a smart and complex design that rewards exploration and makes combat much more vertical and intense. While some of the visuals can become uninteresting aesthetically, the presentation overall is definitely highly polished and provides excellent performance. If you are a fan of shooters at all, interested in Doom, or if you miss the original, this game is a must-play. It succeeds in providing something that is fast and thrilling, while still retaining depth and complexity in and out of combat.
Rating: 4 out of 5