Doom II: Hell on Earth was one of the first video games I’ve ever played. I’ve gone back to the original Doom on several occasions but never completed it. It’s also important to note that I played both games without music which turned the game from a bad ass demon shooter into a sci-fi horror game of sorts. I may have taken it more seriously than intended at the time but I loved it all the same.
I enjoyed playing Doom III more than the other long awaited first person shooter sequel, Half-Life 2 (it was nauseating in spots). In many ways it lined up with what I experienced with Doom II; it was a serious and more unsettling take on Doom. I have no idea how it holds up but something tells me following that formula would have produced lukewarm results.
After the utterly boring R.A.G.E which I started but never finished, the departure of John Carmack and years of silence from id Software, a reboot of Doom sounded like a Hail Mary play for the once industry leading studio. What could they possibly do to bring what made Doom enjoyable into 2016? It has to be fast paced. It has to be infused with satanic nonsense. It has to be gory. Mars and key cards need to have some influence as well.
Doom (2016) had all those trademark characteristics and stitched it altogether with modern gameplay advancements that other games and genres have been doing for years. A little Bayonetta? A little Geometry Wars? A bit of both can be seen hidden in there if you squint.
The original Doom was a fast paced shooter where the player was zipping around at nearly 80 KM/H at default speeds. I don’t know how fast the 2016 version has the player running but it’s undoubtedly the fastest moving shooter in the modern era. Fast paced shooters feel right at home on the PC with its keyboard and mouse – many will undoubtedly say it’s a return to form on that platform. But a fast paced shooter on consoles and the controller is a relatively foreign thing. Amazingly the clever folks at id Software managed give us precision and speed without relying on an overly aggressive aim assist.
Doom doesn’t believe in regenerating health but it also doesn’t rely on hunting for health packs either. The novel solution was to hide health orbs behind “glory kill” finishes which required me to mash the melee button near a staggered demon so I can brutally murder it. A headshot or gib didn’t yield anything worth while, only their patented glory kills.
The combat was fed with a number of upgrade and challenge systems. There were per mission challenges, per weapon challenges and optional rune (perk) related challenges as well. They all encouraged me to play in different ways and improve my skillset. I played on “Ultra Violence” difficulty and as I discovered in my second playthrough: I can skip or blast my way through most of the game with ease. It was only when I paid attention to these challenges that Doom’s magic shone through.
The Rune challenges reminded me of character action games like Bayonetta and its Alfheim portals. One challenge asked me to defeat a slew of demons without getting hit. Another had me running through a platforming course within a set time. The objectives were straightforward and while the load times were just a tad too long, I found it an enjoyable break of pace.
So combat was solved but what about the map design? The original Doom featured sprawling maps with players seeking key cards to unlock areas to find more key cards that would eventually lead to an exit. That’s back for 2016’s Doom but thankfully I wasn’t asked to juggle the trio of key cards like 1993. I was asked to backtrack for keys but I was also incentivized to explore to unlock suit upgrades. The location of the secrets were often revealed to me but how to get to that power-up was a mystery. I enjoyed that process of deduction and was glad they didn’t ask me to hump walls in hopes of triggering a hidden door.
Doom established id Software as a technical powerhouse that would eventually lead them into the middleware licensing business. Their might waned since the glory days of Quake III’s engine but I think they could have made a roaring comeback with 2016’s Doom. It’s by far the best looking and performing 60 FPS title on consoles. It has its issues with the occasional texture pop-in and sends the PlayStation 4’s fan into a frenzy but what is on display is unmatched in the console space. I’m trying to imagine what Call of Duty would look like if they were able to license this engine.
I spoke of the fact that I have very little reverence for the Doom franchise’s soundtrack and it remains the same here. Mick Gordon’s industrial metal fits the game’s motif like a glove but I don’t want to listen to it outside of the game’s context. I feel the exact same way with Devil May Cry 3’s and Metal Gear: Revengeance’s soundtrack.
I felt the sound mixing was obnoxious. They leveraged bass disgusting degree by blasting it as deep and as low as it possibly could. I turned down the music just to get it under control. I also felt many of the weapons lacked pop like the early games. As gory and brutal the chainsaw was, the pistol was a laughable pea shooter. The double barrel shotgun lacked a strong punch and the rocket launcher sounded like it was fired through a pillow. I did find the sound of the movement and other interactions was full of weight and purpose though. I just wished the firepower followed appropriately.
With Wolfenstein: The New Order breathed new life into the Wolfenstein franchise. MachineGames brought the core values of Wolfenstein to a modern audience. With this installment of Doom, id Software rose from seemingly out of nowhere to pull off the exact same feat and then some. I was blown away with what they did, it’s Doom for a modern audience and it’s absolutely wonderful. Even more amazing? They proved to everyone that fast paced arcadey first person shooters have a place in the console space in 2016. Bravo, id Software.
I love it