Throughout the last two recent decades, video games have made a huge leap forward in terms of graphic technologies, gameplay mechanics, realism, and immersiveness, turning from a niche branch of business into one of the leading giants of the entertainment industry. Although many of the old games were great even without detailed graphics and sophisticated mechanics (Fallout, Legend of Zelda, Ultima, and more), it is hard to deny that modern gaming projects often exceed their predecessors. Let me give you some examples.
We all know the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Back in my time, I was a huge fan of GTA 1 and 2, and I still love them. But if you ask me, the best game of the series is the latest, the fifth one. Not because it looks better or has bigger cities, but because the atmosphere and gameplay opportunities it creates are way more diverse and unique than any of the GTA games before. This principle works for many other games as well. Deus Ex, one of my most favorite games ever, was first released in the year 2000. It was a great cyberpunk noire game with unseen mechanics, storyline, concept, style, and God knows what else. But again, if you ask me, the best Deus Ex game for me now is Human Revolution released in 2011. Civilization V is better than Civilization II. TES: Skyrim beats TES: Daggerfall easily. Mortal Kombat X is far more diverse and engaging than Mortal Kombat 1 or 2. And so on, and so on, I can continue this list forever.
Don’t get me wrong, I love old games as well. What I’m saying is that new titles are sometimes as good, or even better than their predecessors. And in this particular review, I am going to analyze the sacred cow of modern gaming, the king of all first-person shooters: Doom. Once again, being a fan of the original games (and definitely not denying their importance for the gaming industry, that would be just stupid) I decided to take a look at the newly released Doom (2016).
Doom 3 was a disappointment for me, and I did not expect much from the fourth part (okay, re-launch) either. I never watched trailers or gaming conferences, I did not follow the news about the game. I just bought it in Steam on the day it was released, and started playing.
Okay, before I go any further, this is how I am going to evaluate the game. I have chosen five basic criteria: gameplay, visuals, sound, performance, and multiplayer capabilities. The latter is probably not the most important aspect of the game, but since it is there, I’m going to go over it too.
Doom’s advertising slogan is “Fight. Like. Hell,” and man, you do fight like hell in this game. You fight like double hell, ‘cause there’s no other way to play the game, at least on the “Ultra-Violence” difficulty level. Right in the beginning, you find yourself chained to a sarcophagus, with a zombie-like guy dragging itself towards your location. What you do in the first five seconds is break the chains, smash the creeps head over the sarcophagus, grab a gun and your body armor (fans will be like, “Hell yeah!” when the Doom Guy puts his helmet on), and stare at the big red sign: “Demonic Invasion In Progress.” That’s all you—and your protagonist—need to know about the events in the game.
Actually, you can ignore the story from now on. It is there, and it is detailed enough to explain what is going on, why, and who the hell you are—but missing out on it will not spoil the fun.
Doom is an arena-type shooter: you wander around a location, enter a room, all the exits seal up, and hordes of demons teleport right under your nose. You finish them off, the doors open, and you proceed to the next arena. During the “calmer” sections, you mostly do exploration; there is a lot to discover on Doom’s multistorey levels: guns, upgrades, collectibles, data logs, easter-eggs, secret levels, etc. There are some enemies too, but mostly weaker ones, and their only purpose, I guess, is to serve you as moving health and ammo critters. Yep, you don’t regenerate health in Doom, you pick up medikits, even in mid-combat: old-school, baby! The detailed 3D map will help you navigate, and the special upgrade for your body armor will inform you about secret areas nearby. No guiding arrows, no compass—just like in the olden days, you roam around the level looking for a key to open a door, all by yourself. And probably the best part about the “calm” sections is that they end right when you start feeling like shooting some damn demons.
When you walk into one of the arenas, things get much hotter. As I said before, all exits get shut, and your only way out is killing all the demons in the area. Arenas are carefully designed to provide enough space for horizontal and vertical movement (double-jumps!), but also to allow your enemies to move around, attack you from different heights and angles, or just rush at you with the entire horde. What you do is squeezing through enemy projectiles, jumping all over the place like crazy, and trying to shoot those nasty Hell Knights behind you while dodging fireballs and claws. You don’t stop for a split second, because to stop means to die, and this is what I really like about Doom’s combat: its fluidity. Sometimes it looks like a deadly gracious dance, sometimes like a convulsive flouncing around the arena in a desperate search for a health pick up, but you move, you fire your weapons, and you crush demonic skulls with your bare hands in a single fluid motion. It gives you the tension, the heat, and you’re always on the brink of death—and it feels awesome.
Oh, yes, bare hands combat. Doom has introduced so-called “Glory Kills”—some kind of Mortal Kombat fatalities, when you can finish off a low-health opponent with just pressing a melee attack button. “Glory Kills” give you some extra health and ammo, so you want to use them fairly often. They are brutal, quick (and get even quicker after an upgrade), and do not interrupt the flow of the fight. On the contrary, they complement it, making the action on your screen look even more brutal than it is.
Weapons are the same you got used to see in Doom games, good old classics, and feel just like real weapons. Almost all of them have alternate fire modes, which add diversity and tactical opportunities, and all the weapons are extremely well made (except for the pew-pew pistol, but who uses pistols in Doom?). The chainsaw, for example—I know it’s your favorite. Or the double-barrel shotgun, which in 2016 is still the same terror for the demons as it used to be back in the 1990s. Or the minigun, which is really hard to stop shooting from, just because of that satisfying feeling when you pull the trigger and unleash all your ammo in a crowd of demons. Shortly put, the weapons in Doom feel and sound superb.
Speaking of the sound, by the way, the soundtrack is a separate pleasure in this game: it’s aggressive, dense, and rhythmic. It’s a soundtrack that will make you want to fight your way to hell and back. And again, and again. When exploring, you will mostly hear industrial ambient music, but when the combat starts… oh man, you just need to listen to it. Here is a short sample (not mine) of what a combat in Doom sounds like. If you haven’t played the game yet, just close your eyes and imagine fighting, crushing, breaking your way through endless hordes of monsters with this music in your headphones.
Your character is numb, and the story NPC’s seldom speak, so mostly you will be hearing grunts, gunfire, and roars, but the soundtrack and weapon sounds compensate for this.
Speaking of the visuals, the first impression you get from the game is: flesh and metal. Huge Martian industrial complexes, underground laboratories, and storage areas full of demons and dead human bodies (and blood… lots of blood, it’s Doom after all) will definitely give you the proper mood for playing the game. The graphics looks a bit cartoonish to me; I cannot really explain it, but there is something in the game’s visual style that does not allow me to see it as realistic. Well, perhaps it’s for better, considering the amount of gore DOOM throws at you every single second of playthrough. If the game looked just a bit more realistic, I would probably be writing something about disgust, nausea, and intense, incredible violence. Well, all of it is actually present in the game, but because of this slight “cartoonishness” it does not make you want to turn away from the screen. Almost.
The game not only looks and sounds good, but also runs smoothly even on some older computers. I am running this game on ultra-settings with 50-60 frames per second, on a rather old PC (GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4G, AMD FX-6300 3.5GHz, 16Gb RAM), and I have not yet experienced a single crash, loss of save games, bugs, or glitches. I guess Doom is the standard of how modern games should be optimized (and here I am reproachfully looking in the direction of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided).
The multiplayer is, in my opinion, nothing outstanding compared to the single-player campaign. I’ve played it around 10 hours in total, and I cannot say I liked it much. Incredibly detailed customization, various modifiers and boosters, a bunch of game modes, and the ability to turn into a demon after picking up a special rune did not look attract me, considering the fact that miniguns in Doom multiplayer do not kill—they scratch. Well, that’s how it felt for me, and I haven’t been playing Doom multiplayer for that long, so this impression of mine might be outdated already.
Anyways, summing up: Doom is definitely a game worth buying. Even its single-player campaign is fully worth the money you pay for the game, and considering its replayability, multiplayer, and a tool for creating your own maps and game modes (did I mention that? No?) you get a game you can play for dozens of hours. Doom is the manliest, the most aggressive, and brutal first-person shooting game I have played since I can’t even remember when. The game experience is extremely rewarding, and I cannot think of a better way to let the steam off (well, in terms of video games) than playing Doom for an hour or two after a difficult day.
You should have this game. This is the Doom as you knew it: fast-paced, relentless, and bloody. Recommended for both new players and franchise veterans.
10 killed Cyberdemons out of 10.
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