I’ve always loved DOOM. I distinctly remember visiting a friend’s house when I was much younger and blasting my way through a variety of increasingly horrific monsters with increasingly ludicrous weapons, using the mouse and keyboard of a PC that could quite easily have crushed me to death. The game was an absolute thrill and, to me as a lowly console peasant (an accolade I still hold with pride), a technical and visual feat. The arguably simplistic aesthetic boasted incredibly in-depth and labyrinthine level design that never became less of a joy to explore even once I knew my way through. Furthermore, earlier this year I played through the original DOOM again with a friend on Xbox Arcade (I believe) and enjoyed it just as much. One thing I missed last year, and kind of regret now, was the revival of DOOM on console, which simply took the moniker of “DOOM”. I’ve recently finished the game on stream, but what did I think of it?
The story of DOOM is actually quite a fantastic element to the game overall. The player wakes up as Doom Guy, smashes a demon’s skull on the side of the bed he is laying on, then the game starts. From pretty much this point on, the level to which the player wishes to explore the story is the amount of the plot they will actually experience. You can actually choose to ignore pretty much all plot points of the narrative and get to the end, as I did, with very little idea as to what is actually going on. I think that a scientific organisation couldn’t leave Hell alone after the previous couple of times that things entirely messed up and experimented with the wrong thing owing to one of the researchers, but I’m not entirely sure. The thing about the plot in DOOM is that even the player character doesn’t seem to care about what’s actually happening either; almost every occasion when other characters are explaining circumstances or detailing future plans, Doom Guy will invariably interrupt them or cut them off, which is remarkable for a mute character. This all being said, however, the narrative is not what most people would play a DOOM game for.
The gameplay is where the true meat of the game is with DOOM. In essence, this is a first-person shooter with a little light platforming; point the reticule at the thing you want dead and press the fire button until said death happens, rinse, repeat. The main way in which the game deviates from this template is in the Glory Kill system. This allows the player to execute an incredibly graphic and violent attack on a stunned enemy, during which they are flashing, almost always resulting in an instant kill. This gives a more frenetic edge to the combat with constant movement needed to capitalise on a Glory Kill then retreat to an adequate distance to avoid other enemies that will invariably be trying to tear you apart at the same time. If you couple this with the littering of the levels with explosive barrels, environmental hazards, and the various other elements, you have an incredibly immersive and enjoyable combat system which doesn’t get boring right up until the end of the game.
Although the combat is thoroughly enjoyable, if this was the only thing in the game, it would become repetitive and mentally exhausting after a while. To balance this out, every level has a huge amount of other things besides dismemberment to find. Most levels have Runes to find, which lead to an enclosed combat challenge and give the player additional abilities upon their successful completion. Also, there’s fallen soldiers that have little chips that can be used to upgrade the player’s suit, cute little Doom Guy dolls, hidden rooms, and weapon upgrades that are laughably guarded by little drones that you essentially punch out of the way. As well as all this, there’s countless little data packs hidden throughout the whole game explaining the lore of the locations, the enemies, and the history leading up to the game’s beginning. Needless to say, there is a lot to find in this game, and even once you see the icon of a collectible on the map, finding it often proves to be more difficult than simply walking up to it.
I must admit, as stunning as some of the locations might look with all their viscera-covered high-resolution glory, the locations do become somewhat repetitive and bland by the end of the game. This is further cemented by the fact that the time spent in Hell is the only time that the “abandoned space station” aesthetic is given a little time out, and that location is incredibly refreshing because of it. The monster and weapon design, much like the original back in the day, is incredibly detailed and varied, of which the weapons especially all look as incredibly powerful and gloriously over-designed as they are supposed to be. The sound design and music in this game, on the other hand, is absolutely incredible. This is easily one of the best modern video game soundtracks I have heard, with every track dripping with atmosphere and feeling both retro and contemporary simultaneously.
So, should you get DOOM? I would argue that everyone should at least try the game, it won’t be for everyone, but the level of polish and attention to detail is undeniable. The latter part of the game suffers when the encounters with the enemies become arguably predictable, with the same enemies in the same order in similar locations becoming used instead of the clever enemy placement and traps of the original. However, this is a small problem with a game that is pretty much unmatched in it’s field and in it’s scope. If you don’t have fun in the first few levels, you won’t in the whole thing, but if you do, you’re in for a ride.