It’s very rare that a gameplay video shown off at E3 ends up actually resembling the final product once it releases. Titles such as Watchdogs and Aliens: Colonial Marines have made us all very wary of the vertical slice. Amazingly though, the DOOM that I finally managed to get my hands on both looks and plays exactly like that savage demo we saw at Bethesda’s E3 conference a year ago. It is a fast and brutal beast that pays homage to the DOOM games of yore and reinvigorates the experience for a whole new generation. While its multiplayer section only ends up being good but forgettable fun, its campaign sets the benchmark for both quality gameplay and visual fidelity in a first-person shooter.
DOOM’s campaign starts off innocently enough, with you waking up on an altar carved with satanic symbols surrounded by demons. With no time to take in the scenery you pick up a gun, suit up and start laying waste to everything around you. You quickly find out that you have awoken in a Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) facility on Mars that is experiencing a bit of trouble after a series of unfortunate mishaps involving portals to Hell. Turns out the scientific boffins at the UAC have figured out a way of harnessing the boundless energy of Hell in a totally safe manner, but unfortunately during the process things have gone slightly awry and it’s up to you to undo the catastrophe that absolutely no one could possibly have seen coming. DOOM’s stories have never been known for their depth and generally tend to take a back seat to the action, but I found myself really enjoying DOOM’s tale. It has an excellent sense of pace and the narrative moves confidently from one crazy situation to the next, and there’s actually no small amount of intrigue regarding who you actually are and how you came to wake up in the midst of all this madness. While it’s not Shakespeare, I found the story oddly compelling and was keen to unravel the mystery and see the fight through to its end.
Suit up Spartan
This is how you play Twister in Hell
DOOM is not just violent, it celebrates violence. The insane amount of brutality on display is an all-out assault on the senses, and it is glorious
Church: Just like I remember it
You’ll probably need a hand with this puzzle…
Even if you don’t fall in love with DOOM’s narrative, it’s the face-melting gameplay that is the game’s defining feature; the business is demon killing, and business is very, very good. Gameplay is deceptively simple but quickly reveals itself as having a little more under the hood than your average run-of-the-mill FPS. There’s an RPG-style upgrade system for both your suit and weapons, but probably the coolest and most innovative feature is the Glory Kill system. Basically you have to whittle down an enemy’s health until they flash blue, indicating that you can approach them and brutally execute them for fun and profit. A successfully executed Glory Kill will make vital health pickups spew from the enemy, and it is a central mechanic that you’ll need to be constantly looking to take advantage of. There are a huge amount of Glory Kill animations that will see you do crazy things like yanking out a Pinky Demon’s tooth and stabbing them in the face with it or tearing an Imp’s head clean in half by reaching into its mouth and ripping its jaws apart. Much like the original games, which had many a 90s parent frowning behind their tortoise shell glasses, DOOM is not just violent, it celebrates violence. The insane amount of brutality on display is an all-out assault on the senses, and it is glorious. At one point I was hopelessly surrounded by demons and managed to find myself a Berserk pickup which more or less allows you to kill any demon with a touch of a button. What ensued was a veritable orgy of slaughter where I mercilessly pummelled every enemy with my bare fists until they were little more than hunks of wet flesh adorning the floors and walls. Perhaps it’s sick to take pleasure in such spectacle, but it is undeniably satisfying. DOOM speaks to that raw, unfiltered, primal part of us (funnily enough this is referred to as the id in Freudian psychology) and gives us a playground in which to unleash it.
But beneath DOOM’s unflinchingly violent exterior lies a very challenging and satisfying gameplay experience that will test your reflexes, wit and dexterity to the limits. The pace is fast and the demons come in droves and hit hard. Your main advantage over them is your speed, and it is imperative that you stay on the move, as standing still is a sure recipe for having a Revenant (a hulking skeleton creature with a jetpack and shoulder-mounted rocket launchers) rip off your arm and beat you to death with it. Your other advantage over the demon hordes is your arsenal, which expands as you
discover new weapons throughout the campaign and improves as you upgrade it with Weapon Upgrade tokens. From the humble Combat Shotgun to the mighty Gauss Cannon, I found myself constantly switching between all my weapons on-the-fly to tackle different situations and enemy types and combinations. You can fast-swap between two selected weapons or open up a radial wheel and slow down time while you choose the right tool of death for the job. This latter feature is a god send in the more hectic firefights where you’ll be using just about every weapon to fend off your enemies.
Welcome to Hell
The campaign cleverly mixes the combat with quieter moments of exploration. Exploring the environment will yield useful things like upgrades for your suit and Weapon Upgrade tokens, as well as more obscure things like being able to walk around in sections of the original DOOM levels from 1993 (in a cool move you can then play through the full level from the Mission Select screen). These secrets are usually quite well hidden, but you can upgrade your suit to more easily reveal their locations and also find Automaps which give the layout of the level. The game actually features a significant amount of platforming, and it is surprisingly responsive and reliable for an FPS (a genre which is not always known for these qualities). Leaping and clambering are for the most part all executed with ease, and it makes exploring the space intuitive and enjoyable, and always yields tangible benefits.
The graphics have been downgraded for consoles
On Mars this counts as death by natural causes
Graphically this game is a masterpiece, which should come as no surprise considering id Software’s pedigree and the fact that it is running on their proprietary id Tech 6 engine. There is an epic amount of detail packed into every square inch, with varied lighting and textures bringing the hellish landscape to life. Every object in DOOM’s world feels like it belongs and there’s a consistent visual tone throughout. This is a world that has almost literally gone to Hell in a handbasket, and everything from the generous splashes of blood across the walls to the ghastly evidence of ritualistic vivisection are as convincing of that fact as any other.
As mentioned previously DOOM packs a significant challenge across its 13 missions. For anyone familiar with FPS games, I recommend you play on Ultra-Violence difficulty (which is the equivalent of Hard) if you actually want to test those skills. For those masochists out there, completion of the campaign unlocks Nightmare mode, or for the ultimate bragging rights you can take on Ultra-Nightmare which has all the difficulty of the former and none of the respawn. Whatever difficulty you choose there is zero doubt that you’ll walk away from the campaign with adrenaline coursing through your veins and the pumping djent-filled soundtrack stuck in your ears.
It’s clear that id Software wanted DOOM to be a double-pronged attack, and while the campaign is an absolute triumph, the multiplayer ends up paling a little in comparison. This isn’t to say it is bad by any means and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the multiplayer component. But while it does have some interesting gameplay elements, it does come off feeling fairly limited and might struggle to hold gamers’ attention for an extended period. However, if you’re a fan of twitch arena shooters there’s definitely a lot to love here.
The same fast-paced gameplay from the campaign plays out in a variety of 5 vs 5 modes that will likely be familiar to any fan of the FPS genre. There’s of course Team Deathmatch and Domination (and a variant of Domination called Warpath where a capture point moves constantly around the map on a predetermined track), and there’s also a twist on Call of Duty’s popular Kill Confirmed mode called Soul Harvest. These modes are more than enough to carry the experience and each are fun in their own right, but what will likely endear gamers to DOOM’s multiplayer is the oddball weapon selection. While some of the weapons are fairly standard (like the Heavy Assault Rifle or Combat Shotgun), there are a slew of interesting weapons with which to eviscerate your opponents. My favourite ended up being the Lightning Gun, which is great for frying enemies up close, but there are many others like the Chaingun and Vortex Rifle that are out there to suit your playstyle. It’s a good sign in multiplayer when you see all the different weapons on the battlefield being used rather than everyone flocking to a single weapon, as it speaks to a certain balance. But while the standard weaponry is balanced, there are power weapons that litter the battlefield that are decidedly unbalanced by design. Weapons like the Gauss Cannon and BFG absolutely annihilate anything within their expansive range, and using these weapons is a lot more fun than having to fight against them. I’m still on the fence about whether these are a good idea or not, as any fight with someone wielding a power weapon is very one-sided. Every time I get killed by the green lightning of death generated by the BFG I curse the heavens, but you come to realise that an important part of the game is memorising the power weapon spawns and their timers so you don’t have to ride that green lightning as often.
Another form of power weapon that injects a substantial bit of flavour into the proceedings is the Demon Rune. The Demon Rune spawns periodically and allows the player who gets to it first to assume the role of one of four demons (you choose which one at the same time as you choose your loadout). Each demon has a unique set of fairly devastating abilities, but they also have a finite amount of health and can be brought down by a dedicated team if they focus fire. Once a demon is killed it leaves
Taste the lightning
The extent of my creative abilities in Snapmap
a Demon Rune for the opposing team to pick up and they then become the demon. It’s an interesting mechanic that shifts the power back and forth between the teams without breaking the balance too much. My favourite demon by far is the Prowler, who despite its relatively small health pool can wreak havoc by lurking up high and leaping from afar and smashing people’s heads against walls and floors (check out the video below for an example).
Unfortunately there are currently some technical issues with the matchmaking and it can take a while to find a match. The matches found can also vary wildly in quality, and it’s not uncommon to have a lobby full of people with poor connection qualities and on rare occasions matches can suffer from some fairly game-breaking lag. In a game this quick, you need to know exactly where the enemy is which is much harder to do if both you and they are teleporting around like Merlin on crack. As mentioned, this situation was fairly rare though, and could generally be solved by leaving a lobby and reinitiating matchmaking. Something else that needs to be rectified is the time between matches, which is currently way too long. In a fast-paced game like DOOM you sort of become dialled into the experience, and to have up to endure up to five minutes of idleness between matches kind of ruins the flow.
Fight for your right to humiliate the haters with ridiculous taunts (this one’s the chicken dance)
DOOM also features a mode called Snapmap, which allows you to utilise an impressive suite of tools to build and share custom maps. Using the fairly straightforward interface you can build all sorts of experiences, from missions to multiplayer maps and even tower defence and puzzle games. There’s a daunting amount of depth to the things you can create, and there are some cool featured Snapmap community creations available for you to play if you’re not the creating type. I wish they had put the multiplayer Snapmaps as a playlist in multiplayer though, as it was impossible to play some of the co-op and four-player Snapmaps due to a lack of players on the server. My advice is to get a few friends together in a party and then invite them in, as currently it’s the only sure-fire way of finding a match. There are plenty of solo experiences on there as well though for the lonely people like me out there.
DOOM’s campaign stands as one of the finest FPS I have played in a very long time. With eye-popping visuals and generous lashings of mechanically-tight, ultra-violent, visceral combat, this is a campaign that unceremoniously throws you into its beautiful, hellish maelstrom and doesn’t let you go until the credits roll. With the campaign setting the standard so high, the multiplayer doesn’t quite reach the same lofty heights but is nonetheless a refreshing twitch arena shooter that channels the greats such as Quake and Unreal Tournament. With DOOM, id Software have written the book on how to take old ideas and use new technology to breathe new life into them while still retaining a strong and unmistakable identity.
Reviewed on PS4