By Ofisil 19.05.2016
Joy of joys! After a whole decade from the generally quite disappointing Doom 3, over 20 years from the classic original that started it all, and also after the developer went back to the drawing board in order to avoid becoming one more disappointing Call of Duty or Halo wannabe or clone, id Software's legendary series has returned, with a reboot that takes its cue from the past, and yet isn't afraid of infusing some modern "ingredients" to the old-school recipe. In other words, get ready to get knee-deep in the dead, because Doom is back with a vengeance…
Feeling like a "We're sorry for Doom 3," id Software tries a wholly different approach when it comes to the intro of Doom. The very first minutes have the silent protagonist crushing the skull of a possessed human with his bare hands, wearing his hi-tech Praetor suit, grabbing a shotgun with an obvious disregard for its dead "owner," and smashing a nearby voice communications panel when a certain somebody tries to communicate with him through it to explain the situation. This nameless space marine is a true, uncooperative badass who, like Vasquez from Aliens, only needs to know one thing: Where. They. Are.
Despite this being all about demons and shotguns, there's a satisfyingly well-crafted backstory included, which borrows elements from the past, to create a whole new mythos revolving around the multi-planetary conglomerate UAC and its questionable experiments, and the only thing standing in its way, the force of nature known as the Doom Marine, in his best version yet. The storytelling is handled through data logs, or holographic 'Echo Point' videos, which give a Dark Souls air to it all by being more mysterious and experiential than expositive and intrusive, and while giving enough information for the fans to ponder over.
Forgive the rumblings of a Doom junkie, however. Fast-paced action is the name of the game, and it blows the first-person shooter scene out of the water by bringing the series back to its arcade-y roots, with no reloading or need for a sprint button, the ability to double jump and grab onto ledges, a great variety of boomsticks and power-ups, and a freaking adrenaline-pumping pace on top of it all, something that is greatly aided by the fact that replenishing health and getting more ammunition relies more on pulling the trigger to kill some demonic nasties than grabbing items.
Possibly influenced by Sergeant_Mark_IV's Brutal Doom mod, the main method for better drops are Glory Kills; melee execution moves that can be performed after injuring and stunning a foe. Many saw in this a marketing tool for the trailers; a gimmicky mechanic that would feel repetitive and slow, but it turns out that Glory Kills are actually insanely quick, and - visuals-wise - quite varied, keeping them from ever getting redundant. Likewise, the new and improved chainsaw gives a crazy amount of ammo, and can even chop the bigger baddies in half, if it has enough fuel to do so.
Speaking of which, while far from perfect or innovative (or complete), the classic demonic enemies are back and are a joy to fight against, with every single one, from the cannon-fodder Imps and nightmarish Revenants, to the gargantuan Barons of Hell and imposing Cyberdemons being very, very aggressive. Additionally, and while this reboot won't be hailed as a technical marvel, everything looks great, and although locked at 60fps, it runs surprisingly well even on older rigs - as long as they were good systems to begin with, that is. Doom simply oozes style from every pore, and raises the cool factor sky-high.
Generally, the team behind it all approached this with great respect, expanding upon the looks, sounds, and atmosphere of the classics. Fans (this lowly reviewer included) will surely nit-pick on every small detail, but, for every one thing that "isn't 100% as it's supposed to be," there are at least three more that are. As for the absence of the good ol' heavy metal soundtrack, two words: Mick. Gordon. This marvel of a composer (Killer Instinct) has created a great ambient OST that sounds like a hybrid between the Quake series and progressive metal-meets-dubstep, with some tunes actually being influenced from the original.
Back to the gameplay, what else is in store here? There are a bunch of new toys to play with, like the mini-challenges called Rune Trials that provide minor perks, Praetor tokens that improve the suit in various ways (secrets scanner, agility/power-up boosts, etc.), and rare Argent cells that can be used to increase max health/armour/ammo. The best feature, though, is mods that enable alternative firing methods (two available for each weapon), like homing missiles, explosive shots, or heat waves, amongst many. Why the best? These provide alternative ways to fight and never slow down the gunfights one bit.
While certainly rewarding for those who like snooping around for secrets, the emphasis on doing so to get upgrades might annoy those who just wanted a pure, old-school FPS, because, while optional, trying to gather upgrades is almost a must in later difficulties, especially in the new, and awesomely brutal, Ultra-Nightmare. Furthermore, and for some strange reason, instead of being able to save anywhere, this uses a checkpoint system. Unfortunately, the otherwise fantastic 8-12-hour single-player campaign has a slightly bigger problem than these, which is none other than the level design - the biggest strength of the 1993 game.
Instead of being labyrinthine and chock-full of surprises, stages are a bit too linear, mainly providing a place to kill demons - a process that feels a bit too much like playing Quake III. The hero enters an "arena," the doors lock behind him, enemies appear, he kills them, and then moves on to the next fight. In many ways, this is what ruined Doom 3, but, fortunately, battles never really get boring here, probably because they are much faster, challenging… and brutal. Again, this is more like a "this Doom isn't Doom enough" kind of problem than a serious flaw.
Moving on to the multiplayer, while for many it's still this title's most disappointing aspect, it's actually pretty good. It's just that 'pretty good' isn't what people expected from the franchise that gave birth to Deathmatch. Without going into detail, the pros are: the speed, the assortment of different modes (with some being variations of the standard ones of the genre), the multiplayer-only weaponry, the lack of connectivity/matchmaking issues, and, as a blood-red cherry on top, the ability to transform into various demons, like a Revenant, a slow-but-durable Mancubus, a Baron of Hell, or even the multiplayer-exclusive, agile Prowler.
The cons? For starters, no Capture the Flag or free-for-all Deathmatch; especially weird for the latter, since it's the standard mode in all competitive shooters. Secondly, the XP system that unlocks minor perks (as well as aesthetic items), feels out of place, although it needs less "farming" than most games usually require. Finally, 99% of the time multiplayer matches are all about selecting a weapon loadout of two guns beforehand; weapon mods sadly not included. Of course, it could be argued that Doom is all about the single-player experience (which, in many ways, is correct), but this doesn't excuse these few problems.
Snapmap, this title's last asset, raises the replay value quite a lot, since it's basically a beginner-friendly editor that enables the creation of custom maps or even gameplay modes with relative ease, and allow sharing of them via a cross-platform system. Nothing is without its issues, however, with the main one here being the fact that this is a very console-oriented feature, which, despite its high potential, feels pretty barebones, especially when compared with what "true" modding could achieve - but that's just nagging from a Doom fanatic who expected perfection, and instead got a slightly dirty bar of 24 karat gold.
It's hard going back to the real world after a few hours with Doom. It will feel slow and mundane when compared to the experience of being an over the top, badass action hero, who destroys Hell one demon at a time; half the time with his cool arsenal of weapons, the other half with his hands! Sure, it won't create a revolution like the 1993 original, and some of its aspects (like the multiplayer) are flawed, but id Software's newest creation deserves carrying its heavy name, and is one of the few triple-A titles worthy of a full price-tag.