by Matthew Thompson
While I was looking forward to Doom (it came in at number 19 on my most anticipated games list earlier this year), I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. Doom delivers an extremely well-crafted FPS campaign that harkens back to shooters of yesteryear with its run-and-gun style and labyrinthine map layouts. If you like to shoot things in video games, this is a must-play.
Doom is first and foremost a shooter and id Software has nailed this aspect in this new take on the classic series. This extends to all elements of combat. The arenas are intelligently designed with multiple layers and routes to race through as you blast away at all manner of hell’s demons. It controls like a dream whether that be the simple act of shooting or your movement capabilities, the latter of which is buoyed up even further once you get the double jump. And there is a ton of depth here. You’ll eventually have access to eight weapons on your selection wheel, all with really cool alternate fires (and in many cases two alt. fires). To go along with these, you have your chainsaw, grenades and the return of the BFG. Finally, there are the glory kills. These gruesome, gory melee maneuvers are a quick way to finish off foes in style, adding an extra layer on top of the excellent shooting gameplay. Throw in a huge variety of enemy types including some memorable bosses and it all comes together to create bloody, brutal battles that are fast-paced and fun.
I think what elevates this from just a great shooter to something slightly more are two other aspects of the game’s design. The first are all the little side objectives they have given you to tackle while you fight from Mars to Hell and back again. Each level has three challenges to complete (like perform “x” amount of different glory kills on a certain enemy type). There is a task for getting the final upgrade for each weapon mod (like killing two enemies at once with the Super Shotgun 20 times) and upgrading your Runes (pick up armor “x” amount of times). And then there are the little abstract arena challenges you have to complete to get the Runes. It gives you a little more to do while you shoot stuff and I enjoyed the challenge of juggling these various activities.
The other thing that lifted up my experience with Doom was the aforementioned level design. This isn’t like the linear FPS campaigns that have become so in vogue in recent years. The maze-like structure of levels here leaves lots of room to explore and Doom makes sure exploring is worth your time. There are upgrades to your suit and abilities, weapon mods and Runes, and even classic Doom maps to be found for those who seek them out. I started the game just planning to run through it quickly. In action games like this, I tend to skip out on exploration, but soon enough I found myself scouring levels to uncover every secret they had to offer and it made for a much richer play experience.
My only big knock against the game is that that level design I loved so much goes out the window in the last few chapters. The nuanced layouts that were such a boon to Doom are nowhere to be found as the game approaches its conclusion in favor of loosely strung together arenas. I get the desire to want to ramp up the combat intensity, but I wish it didn’t come at the expense of one of the game’s more impressive features.
Comparisons to Wolfenstein: The New Order seem inevitable given the two games’ publishers and histories. Despite being modern takes on classic FPS franchises, I’m happy that they deliver largely different takes on the genre. Doom excels with the mix of exploration and classic, fast-paced run-and-gun action that I have described above. Wolfenstein uses its non-linear level design to allow for stealth approaches and brings with it a surprisingly strong narrative and cast of characters. Its base of operations and laser tool help to further differentiate the way both games feel. Ultimately, I could see gamers of different types preferring one or the other for valid reasons. I can’t quite decide myself, but think both are must-plays for fans of the genre.
Those prepared to get their hands bloody will find a fantastic new action game in Doom with surprisingly rewarding exploration to go alongside its frantic firefights. This new take on the classic id series is not to be missed by shooter fans and is sure to rank among my favorite games of 2016 come year’s end.