It’s safe to say, id Software’s 2016 incarnation of it’s long-tenured DOOM franchise was a pleasant surprise for gamers. DOOM (2016) somehow exceeded expectations – but it certainly didn’t look that way for the longest time.
Because there was a long time where DOOM (2016 looked) like it was going to be a monumental disaster. Given all the reports of production troubles, reboots and departures – it was easy to get despondent. The franchise’s last outing (DOOM 3) split opinion heavily. Some appreciated the move towards a more terror inducing experience, while others lamented the removal of speed and adrenaline. I personally hated it, it wasn’t the DOOM I’d grown up with and felt more like a tech demo for ID Tech 4 than a proper attempt to continue the franchise. So when the leaked version of what DOOM 4 was originally going to be landed – you can imagine gamers weren’t very impressed.
With all these setbacks and issues hanging over the project – it would have been easy for the game to turn up in a Duke Nukem Forever haze. A mishmash of different ideas – fused together in a hasty attempt to craft something resembling a coherent gaming experience. Even when the multiplayer BETA landed two months before release – gamers weren’t impressed with what they saw. The hype was diminishing and with Bethesda slapping a review embargo on the game – all signs pointed to one hell of a mess.
But then you play the single player campaign and all those worries melt away.
Suddenly DOOM (2016) becomes a juggernaut of adrenaline, a tremendously addictive experience that demands your attention. Wandering into a demon battle leads the game’s music to swell up, the raw noise pulses as the enemies pile into view. Suddenly you don’t care that enemies spill health and ammo like confetti. Suddenly those Glory Kills fit the tone perfectly, as you glide between shooting enemies and hitting them with melee attacks. In the raw moment, DOOM (2016) delivers one of the most solid adrenaline experiences I’ve ever seen in a game.
This is complimented by levels that encourage strategy. Yes, you can dive straight in and take on demons with no regard for forethought, but the game encourages exploration. Maybe not on the level of the originals, but there’s enough hidden treats and tricks to reward those who dare venture off the beaten path. In some cases, this results in more powerful weapons being attained earlier. In other cases, it leads to weapon upgrades and Runes. Suddenly your curiosity is worth indulging, as the game hides treats and trinkets around every corner. The best levels in this game harp back to the more open approach the original DOOM games took – and I’m hoping that the sequel to DOOM (2016) will only double down on these efforts.
It’s hard to describe just what makes DOOM (2016) such a fun game to play. It’s not like the game does anything truly different or unique from other games that have come before. It’s a mixture of other games successful ideas – done in a way that feels fresh. The Glory Kills, for example, are just quick time events that are triggered when enemies are weakened enough. It sounds game-breaking – but doing this rewards you with health and ammo you’ll need to keep fighting. The effectiveness of using them wisely in combat makes learning the mechanics of the game a true pleasure. In no time you’ll be stringing together combos and Glory Kills like you were born to do it.
That’s just one example of how DOOM (2016) effectively manages its resources. Rather than labour gamers with tedious story and padding – the game spends as much time as possible pushing you towards combat. Mick Gorden’s soundtrack is beautifully brilliant – mixing retro nods with out right heavy metal. There’s no other game I can think of in the mainstream that marries its music so beautifully to the core gameplay experience. It’s a unique experience, something DOOM has that other FPS’s do not. The game plays to its strengths while masking its weaknesses just enough that it doesn’t disrupt the enjoyment. But there are weaknesses.
Because there are weaknesses. The story itself is laughably paper thin – the game actively goes out of its way to make note of this. To be fair, booting up a DOOM game should be the first clue that story isn’t a priority – but it needs to be said that what little there is here only really serves to get you into the action quicker. None of the characters or lore are properly explored within gameplay, and that might serve to leave some gamers feeling empty.
Likewise, the game does become slightly repetitive as it closes in on the finale. The sheer focus on adrenaline means there’s little room for variety – which means that fighting demon hordes does become something of a repetitive slog as the game presses on. It never kills the mood – but once you’ve collected a few Runes and weapon upgrades, the game does slip slightly into the realms of easy. The games answer to this is to throw more enemies at you – but even at its most challenging, the game never really shocks all that much once you’re in the home stretch.
But these don’t detract from the overall experience. Some excellent level design (The Hell levels are almost universally better than the Mars levels) and great gameplay carry the single player well over the finish line.
The multiplayer mode to me isn’t anywhere near as bad as some people insist it is. Maybe they’ve been spoiled by modern shooters, but I find the multiplayer mode to be a good blast – in particular now that id Software has made all the content free for everyone. It’s certainly a fun way to extend the gameplay and does enough different (here you can play as demons, which is a nice novelty)
SnapMap is also a fine addition, although it’s insanely in-depth. The ability to create new game modes, co-op maps and other fun things is there for those who want to take the time to learn the mechanics. Personally, I found it all slightly overwhelming – but thanks tot he ability to share content with other users, there’s an almost endless well of potential fun waiting for you and your friends.
Overall DOOM (2016) is a joy to experience. It by no means re-invents the wheel, more makes it spin at an insanely furious pace. There’s plenty of scope for improvement when we hit the sequel, but it’s certainly a strong game that’s well aware of what it wants to be. In an industry littered with copycats and Call of Duty clones, sometimes it’s nice to have something that’s a bit different.