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Doom has always been an incredibly popular game franchise. Here, our own Alan Stock takes us inside the latest edition with his ComiConverse game review.
Doom is out now on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Ah, sweet memories!
Back in 1993, with the lights off, I ran around the Mars base of Phobos, blasting away demons on my old 486 PC, in awe of the great 3D graphics and the brutal gameplay. The original Doom, one of the earliest first person shooters, was a true gaming revolution. It redefined what was technically possible in 3D games, and was great fun to boot – the gameplay still holds up to this very day. After the sci-fi survival horror departure of Doom 3, developer id Software have gone back to their roots with this 2016 reboot – and THIS is a true Doom game.
Brought kicking and screaming into 2016, Doom (or DOOM, as you prefer) has been completely re-imagined. This is no reskin, the levels and game mechanics are brand new. Phobos is now a huge, sprawling base with outdoor sections, epic views and complex interiors, and it looks great – even if it is a very generic sci-fi setting.
But the new Doom isn’t supposed to be original. Enemies are extremely detailed and animations are fluid and brutal. And yes, you do return to Hell, where the visual style beats previous Doom games hands down. But no one really cares about that. This is Doom. They just want to blast some demons. The original was legendary for its fast paced, gory combat and overwhelming numbers of enemies.
The reboot delivers.
Combat is fast and furious. Your arsenal includes all the Doom classics from the shotgun to the rocket launcher, and your finger won’t be off the trigger as you run around the environments blasting hundreds of enemies. Staying still is death in this game, especially on higher difficulty levels.
Although environments can be large, hanging back and picking off enemies isn’t usually an option. They will chase you. They’re fast and deadly accurate! Although you take damage quickly in this game, instead of tedious backtracking to find medkits, Doom introduces a great idea to keep the pace going – ‘Glory Kills”.
These super-gory close combat moves are available once you’ve staggered an enemy by shooting them enough. When they flash orange, hit the button and you leap onto them, punching, ripping and tearing your way through them in a pre-canned animation. They’re immensely satisfying and you are invincible during the animation – giving you a moment’s respite in the frantic combat. Killing an enemy with a glory kill makes them drop much more health pickups than usual – encouraging you to pressing forward and get in close; one glory kill can bring you back from death’s door. When you die (and you will die), checkpoints are well placed, putting you back into the action – unfortunately, at least on consoles, load times are quite long which can be frustrating if you die a lot. However, in a nice bit of design, the game difficulty can be changed at any time. For experienced FPS players, I recommend playing on “Ultra Violence”, it’s much more rewarding and requires intelligent tactics and skill.
Doom’s arsenal is meaty and satisfying across the board. A mixture of long and short range offense, and a quick weapon switch allow you to constantly react to your situation, pulling out a shotgun for the Pinky charging at you, then switching to the machine gun to pick off an Imp high on a ledge. A well-considered upgrade system lets you customise each weapon, giving many an alternate fire button. These add more tactical variety to combat – for example the close-range shotgun can be upgraded to add a grenade launcher, or a triple burst shot for super close-range encounters. The chainsaw soon returns from the original game, and is always available. It kills enemies instantly in a brutal shower of gore, but has limited fuel so is best saved for tough enemies. In a nice twist, enemies eviscerated with the chainsaw drop loads of gun ammo, allowing you to switch back to ranged combat if you’re running low. Fan favourite, the BFG 9000 (Big F***ing Gun) returns, great for when you are overwhelmed – it unleashes a massive ball of energy, reducing baddies in the room to meaty chunks.
This game is rated Mature for good reason.
Enemies are varied and numerous, and employ different tactics which makes the combat more interesting. From the acrobatic, fireball throwing Imps, to deadly close combat brutes like the Hell Knights, not forgetting the hateful Summoners – who need to be dealt with quickly before they conjure up reinforcements. Huge demons which you first fight as mini-bosses start appearing regularly as your skills and upgrades improve. The demons require a mixture of tactics to deal with – prioritisation, just like in the original Doom, is vital – depending on the situation you may want to do some crowd control, take out the weaker, ranged enemies, or focus fire on one really bad-ass demon. Fun powerups in arenas can give you an welcome edge, my favourite being the insane Beserker orb which lets you run around bare-fisted, exploding demons with a mere punch! Unfortunately, as the game progresses, arena fights tend to deteriorate into frantic run and gun madness, as every enemy type is thrown into battle at once. It’s exhilarating but tactics start to take a back seat to survival – it would have been better to see more considered use of different combinations of baddies.
Also, enemies also don’t stand out well in the dark environments, unlike the original Doom – where at a glance you could make out the different enemy types with their distinctive colours and silhouettes.
Aside from shooting and tearing apart demons, you’ll spend the rest of the time exploring Mars base Phobos and a few trips to the demon’s realm, Hell. The levels are large and fairly complex but well laid out – a menu map does help and on each level an automap can be found, revealing areas you’ve missed. Verticality is used well; you can jump this time around, which allows for some basic platforming. Rather than being a disaster like many FPS platform attempts, here it’s surprisingly well done, and satisfying to use the ledge grabs – although there are some sections where it’s hard to judge distances and you might end up plummeting to your… doom.
Secrets hidden in the levels make a welcome return – encouraging you to explore further. They are well hidden but are usually hinted at, and they’re fun to find, containing valuable rewards such as suit upgrades, unlocks or combat challenges. In a brilliant bit of nostalgia, every level also contains a secret door leading to part of a classic Doom level which then unlocks it for later play.
Oh the memories!
Secret hunting does have an annoying oversight though: some levels have points of no return – preventing you from backtracking to hunt down the secrets you missed.
This forces you to replay the level later if you want to find all the secrets.
Indeed, not everything is perfect in Doom. The barebones, silly story and clichéd setting won’t bother too many fans, but the game’s length, at over 12 hours on average, might. Length is not usually a problem in games, but Doom does drag a little towards the end, with areas and combat becoming samey and new ideas becoming thin on the ground. At least there’s good replay value in completing optional challenges, finding secrets and boosting difficulty. A recent patch even introduced a hardcore permadeath Nightmare mode – you only get one life for the entire game, on the hardest difficulty!
Despite a wide range of tactical options available, the weapon upgrades and wide availability of ammo for each gun discourages trying new tactics – it’s too easy to stick with just a few weapons. The lacklustre and quickly forgettable multiplayer is also a bit of a disappointment considering id’s previous pedigree in this field – but most people will be playing for the excellent single-player campaign.
Finally, I just didn’t find this Doom scary or creepy, unlike the original – maybe it’s just because I’m older now, but I feel something in the atmosphere has been lost. I won’t have nightmares about flickering lights and roars in the dark any more…
It’s no mean feat to develop a reboot which captures the soul of the original game and adds the modern features we’ve come to expect, especially considering how old Doom is. With a great blend of fast paced, satisfying combat, fun exploration, and some really smart game design choices, id Software have done a great job.
Everything you expect from classic Doom, from enemies and environments to weapons are all there, with lots of little nods to fans – but if you didn’t play the original, it doesn’t matter one bit. This reboot stands triumphantly as an FPS on its own which is just pure fun, but with a lot more depth than may it may first seem.
A free demo of the first level is available for all systems, you can download it from the Doom Website.
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The classic hellish game you love, with a few enhancements. First person shooter fans will love it.