DOOM [Review]: Vulgar Display of Power.

It’s been a long time coming, waiting for id Software to finally bring us back to Mars and the UAC facility. On May 13th we were finally able to return and #FightLikeHell to eliminate the demons coming through the Hell gate. Before we get into analyzing it, let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane to see how far we’ve come…

BACKGROUND

The series was developed in 1992 after the creation of a new engine labeled, of course, the Doom engine. In 1993 Doom was released and was very well received; in fact, every FPS to follow was generally compared against Doom–and its sequel Doom 2–as a sort of standard to be measured against. The story was simple: A marine is sent to Mars to fight off an invasion of demons from Hell. There is more to the story, but you get the idea. It was amazing for its time and a blast to play, eventually spawning books, a large community of modders and map makers (I was big into making maps for them), and even a movie in 2005. That “Rocky” motion picture loosely followed the game and received terrible reviews, but the Doom series lives on.

In 2000 Doom 3 was announced but was to be a reboot and not another sequel. The graphics had taken a major jump in quality, but the gameplay had changed from a fast-paced shoot-em-up of demonic war to a slower jump-scare horror game with dimly lit hallways and small battles against the hell-spawn. While it didn’t receive high praise, it did keep interest in the series alive and even received an expansion pack called “Resurrection of Evil” in 2005. This brings us to the game at the center of our topic, Doom 4 (which of course was later renamed DOOM).

Yeah, you're going to need more than a flashlight for us, pal.
Yeah, you’re going to need more than a flashlight for us, pal.

In 2007 it was hinted at being in development during a QuakeCon presentation, and in 2008 it was confirmed. Years went by with some mention here and there as the game was still deep in development. Multiplayer was to be developed separately. When asked if its a sequel, prequel, or reboot they stated it wasn’t a sequel to Doom 3, but also not a reboot. More years go by and eventually in 2013 John Carmack left id Software to focus his time on Oculus Rift. We eventually learned that the game’s development was restarted in 2011, as it was not hitting the right marks. Sources said it was heavily scripted and cinematic, comparing it to Call of Duty. Tim Willits had said “Every game has a soul. Every game has a spirit. When you played Rage, you got the spirit. And [Doom 4] did not have the spirit; it did not have the soul; it didn’t have a personality” and so the game had gone back to the drawing board. In 2014 it was renamed from Doom 4 to simply DOOM, with a promise of beta access closer to the game’s release.

In the fall of 2015, this gamer was given access to the multiplayer Alpha (developed by Certain Affinity) which felt a bit off, but I was hopeful as we had months left before release. In early 2016 I was able to play the closed and open betas (again multiplayer only) and found that it had definitely improved. Sadly negative reviews quickly came out, mostly comparing it to Halo in terms of style and gameplay. I can’t say they are wrong, but we’ll look into that more later in this review.


GRAPHICS & SOUND

Since it has been many years since the last Doom (Doom 3, 2004) and even longer since the original (1993 and 1994), I figure this is a good place to start. Both the campaign and the multiplayer can be judged here, although the campaign does have a higher level of detail and quality as with any other game. FYI geeks, this review was made playing the PC version (the best version, its roots are in PC) at the absolute maximum graphical settings. The graphical complexity is amazing and it looks superb from the get, with zero disappointment on my end. The game features properly rendered shadows and lighting, high detail textures, and excellent animation and level design. The character and enemy models were also really well done. And with the new engine, the console versions look great as well…

"Oh, you pretty things..."
“Oh, you pretty things…”

In terms of matching the originals, this Saint’s only complaint would be that some of the enemies aren’t a perfect match to their classic counterparts–but they are damn close. Cacodemons are pretty “dead on” as is the Revenant. Imps don’t quite look the same, but their movement is improved and their method of fighting is accurate, lobbing those fireballs quite well. I heard some complaints about the Cyberdemon, but it looks great. The one I didn’t care for was the Hell Knight. It looks close, but probably looks the least like its counterpart from the original game. All in all, they did great — way better than what was done with Doom 3.

And whether you are running around the maps in multiplayer or traveling the levels of the campaign, the feel of the original Doom is very much there. The vast demonic details and hellish scenery will make you feel like Hell truly has crossed over. I died many times in multiplayer simply from getting lost in the visuals of the world around me (worth it!). And the audio is also spot on, with a great use spatial sound and placement, excellent effects and even some throwbacks made it into the mix. It’s likely the only thing missing was the sound of the doors–which is sad–but the sound does make an appearance in other ways (more on that later). Of course nothing beat hearing the original theme get a remix placed into the game. I won’t say where this is in the game, but if any true fan of the series will have a stupid grin on their face when it happens.

Rating: 5/5


CAMPAIGN

It’s debatable whether this new DOOM is a sequel or a reboot, and once you start playing through you’ll probably be wondering the same as well. I won’t spoil anything, but it does seem like the possibility for reboot is there. Again though, you are a Marine off to battle the demons that have come through the Hell gate, fighting to eliminate and send them back where they came from. The initial scenes are a bit slower to help you get used to the controls and set up the story, but its a very tiny part of the game and is over before you know it.

So does DOOM live up to its namesake? Remember how the original game was? Fast paced, tons of enemies at every turn, health and armor packs strewn about the level, and hardcore music when the battle heats up. Yup, it’s all there. Even the way a level ends has made a return, with the push of a button and a summary page to show your stats for that portion of the game. Even the choice of difficulties, names and all, returned with the exception that there is no “Hey, Not Too Rough” option. I chose to play on Ultra-Violence, as Nightmare is locked out until the game is completed. They also added an even higher setting called Ultra-Nightmare where you can only die once and the game is over, leaving a marker where you died so you can see how far you made it on the next attempt.

Never saw me coming.
Never saw me coming.

Right as the aforementioned tutorial ends is when things get real and nostalgia slaps you in the face as you recognize Doom after nearly 22-years since Doom 2‘s release. To say id Software hit the marks is an understatement; they shotgun blasted them right in the face with the most faithful revival of any video game series to date. The levels feel great, and when you suddenly run upon a group of enemies, a heavy metal song kicks in as you lay waste to the hell spawn coming at you from every angle. They really do come at your from all over, spawning in from various locations and climbing all over the world to take you down and once they are gone, it relaxes but keeps a solid background tone to keep you in the groove.

New is the ability to climb ledges and platforms, a most welcome addition. Sure it wasn’t in the original game, but let’s face it: that wasn’t exactly feasible to program in at the time. This new feature lets you attack from different positions and gives the enemy new ways to flank you as well, and since you can get to new parts of the levels, take that in mind when looking for secrets. id Software placed many secrets, half of which are throwbacks to the original game, throughout every level. So keep your four eyes open.

Rating: 5/5


MULTIPLAYER

Arguably the most polarizing aspect of the game, the multiplayer, is quite a mixed bag among critics, with the majority of negative reviews comparing it to Halo. To be fair, Doom’s multiplayer was co-developed by Certain Affinity who also helped work on Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Halo 4. My opinion is somewhere in the middle. While I do agree it has a Halo feel in many ways, it is also still quite fun to play.

As mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity to play the alpha. The controls felt odd, not like most FPS nor like original Doom either, and the game play wasn’t quite as balanced. It was an early test though, so I don’t count any of it against the game. The beta proved that id was listening, as the controls and gameplay felt a lot better. We saw better balance and less chance to become the demon spawn (although I still think the rocketlauncher is nerfed a bit too much). The final release lives up to the beta’s gameplay with some minor tweaks here and there that most players won’t even notice.

Breakfast of champions.
Breakfast of champions.

The movement matches the campaign, along with all the same weapons and mods. I was pleased to notice that there are 6 different gameplay types and even a few playlists that combine similar gameplay types. The sad part of this is that I was unable to find a game choosing a single gameplay type, but was instantly put into a team when choosing a playlist. Those have become the popular choice these days purely for the variety. New maps have been added to the roster which are rather fun to learn; finding all the paths and areas to climb. At this point you are likely asking why it’s compared to Halo (Reach, 4 and 5). Really, it boils down to the feel of a fast-paced arena style with teams, and the method of leveling and prizes received when you gain a level. Also:

  • There are no credits to buy things like in 5, but the reward of new armor (arms, legs, chest, helmet, etc) and ablility to customize the look are just a part of the comparison.
  • There is also the ability to customize a loadout, but these days most FPS games offer that option. Personally, I think DOOM does it better with multiple layers to customize, patterns, actual ability to choose individual colors and types (matte, gloss, etc). That’s where the comparison ends for me.
#BeastModeZero

The rest still has a sort of Quake 2/3 feel, which is all good considering both are properties of id Software. Maps fit the theme of demon spawns and a hell gate being open, with great use of platforms for climbing and ambushing, but not easy for camping as there are multiple ways to get to any spot. Layouts are nice without being repetitive and yet still able to find routes that work best for you or your teams objective. And as I said before the balance is pretty good with the rockletlauncher my own exception; it deserves a slight bump in damage, as the original rockets did a bit more harm than the current ones.

I do wish there were more maps, but I think id Software is relying on SnapMap to fill that area until DLC comes around. And sadly, the DLC does include some perks that cross the line a bit for an FPS. It has been said the DLC will include new maps, which is ok although not ideal, but the worst is new unlockable weapons. How are they going to regular the new weapons when played with people who don’t have the DLC? Will they only allow DLC players to play with other DLC players? Or maybe the guns will be locked to the DLC maps or you will have to choose whether you are playing using the DLC or not (something Battlefront sort of does right now)…

Rating: 4/5


SNAPMAP

Simply put, SnapMap is the reincarnation of DoomEd. DoomEd was the tool used to create maps for the originals, one with a bit of a learning curve as everything was in an overhead view and felt like you were creating CAD drawings. With the tools provided many great maps were created, as you could literally draw every wall, raise and lower the ceiling and floor heights, change wall textures, add secret rooms, and just overall go crazy with ideas. SnapMap brings a lot of that back, but lacks the ability to just draw the entire map. While I do miss this level of creativity, its new level of difficulty makes a big difference.

Eater of Time.
Eater of Time.

If you have worked with Unreal Engine editing, Unity engine editing, Microsoft’s Spark editor, or any number of graphical programming tools, you will appreciate what id has put into this. SnapMap allows you to link objects, such as a console with a button, to do any number of actions with reactions and changes. For example you could create a console button that, when pressed, spawns a weapon as well as a horde of demons. You could set doorways to require certain keys or objectives to be finished, have buttons set off a series of smoke and fire streams, or make things play a musical tone.

There are a lot of options beyond just making a map for multiplayer gaming, which of course is also possible. In the SnapMap browser to view other player creations I’ve seen everything from regular multiplayer maps, shooting galleries, remakes of classic Doom maps, and even a musical room complete with keyboard and drum machine. Think of SnapMap as a Doom version of Mario Maker, as you really can do the same things and create challenge maps as well.

Rating: 5/5


CONCLUSION

I’m loving this game, both campaign and multiplayer, and of course the SnapMap. With the collector’s edition statue sitting next to me — which, by the way, is one of the best game statues I have ever bought, I’m very pleased with my purchase. I don’t think anyone will walk away feeling ripped off or let down from the new DOOM. id Software has definitely listened to the fans and done an excellent job with bringing it, so (hopefully) they follow it up with a Doom 2 soon so we can continue the battle. And while it’s a bit early to claim a Game of the Year, I definitely put DOOM in the running.

4.5 (out of 5) Hell's Gates.
4.5 (out of 5) Hell’s Gates.
"Saint" Patrick Obloy @OffTheGeekEnd
“Saint” Patrick Obloy
@OffTheGeekEnd

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