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DOOM Review

by William Schwartz

It’s been a while since we’ve had a new id Software shooter.  Their last effort, Rage, released all the way back in 2011 to a mixed critical reception.  There were certainly the core underpinnings of a great shooter there, and it was a great looking game, especially on consoles.  Though when you look at their pedigree id Software isn’t judged by only their most recent offerings.  This is the company responsible for the shooter genre:  Wolfenstein, Quake, and of course, Doom.  The announcement that there would be a new DOOM title coming to next-gen consoles was welcomed with open arms.  Why not?  Bethesda’s recent backing of a new Wolfenstein game yielded a fantastic return of a different type of shooter.  Wolfenstein, although it had been passed on to a new developer, was a hit with old school shooter fans.   Unfortunately, DOOM was a game that Bethesda and id were mostly radio silent on.  Aside from a couple of trailers and a poorly received multiplayer beta, we didn’t know much about the game at all. In fact, all we really had to go on was a multiplayer beta that felt really uninspired.

If you played the recent  multiplayer “beta” for DOOM and were left unimpressed, there was no hail mary development miracle that polished the obvious rough edges that the game seemed to have.  The reality of the situation is that DOOM multiplayer isn’t that good, in fact it’s pretty bad when compared to other recent arena shooter multiplayer games.  Making matters worse the game’s own campaign is leagues ahead of it in terms of both visuals and gameplay leaving it feel like a disjointed sideshow.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is, DOOM’s single player is awesome.  It’s the game we were promised with the impressive trailers at E3.  It’s dripping with style and substance.  It’s raw, unbridled, first person shooting with a touch of tactical melee gameplay added in for good measure.  It’s everything you’d expect from a modern DOOM game with the perfect mixture of old and new.

DOOM’s campaign is impressive, but not by modern AAA standards.  It doesn’t have the narrative of, say, an Uncharted or even that found in a contemporary shooter like Call of Duty.  The fun is in the gameplay.  It’s fast and fluid, brutal and bloody.  You’re not gonna find a lot of filler in DOOM.  It’s all-action, all the time, and you know if you’re the type of shooter player that would enjoy something like this or not.  You don’t have to have played previous games in this series to enjoy the new DOOM, but it will certainly make you appreciate how far it’s come.  It melds old and new pretty well, giving players the constant action and gameplay they expect with some new trappings in regards to upgrade systems and melee combat, as well as a slew of secrets to discover and difficulty settings to tackle.

doomreview-single-player-mode

DOOM is fast and silky smooth by any standard of measure for modern first person shooters.  It’s beautiful in it’s own demented way.  Maps are open areas that hearken back to a different era with plenty of ammunition, health, and, of course, enemies.  What’s changed the most, and what will probably be remembered as this new game’s biggest feature is the melee system called “Glory Kill.”  Alongside the breakneck pace of shootouts with a wide variety of demons, you’re performing melee attacks that can only occur when you make an enemy vulnerable.  These attacks both allow you to become invulnerable for short time, and pick-up health in the process.  I wasn’t quite sure if they were going to work or not, but after finishing the game and having faced some of its toughest challenges, I can say that I think they add just the right amount of break in the gunplay to keep things interesting.  There are still your traditional health, ammo, and armor pickups strewn throughout each level, but this is a way to pick-up extra while in battle.  While there are plenty of guns to choose from, as well as different mods to use for each, the melee system constantly has you breaking this action, performing these kills, and then repeating until you’ve cleared an area.  You’ll know when a Demonic presence has been eliminated, the rocking soundtrack that eggs you on will grind to a halt.

The melee system is certainly new for a DOOM game, but the shooting and movement feel tried and true.  Couple that with a ton of weapons to discover, which include multiple shotguns, a rocket launcher, chainsaw, and many more… and you’ve got plenty of variety in the gameplay.  Enemies on the other hand, while varied in their aesthetic and attacks, don’t necessarily require different strategies other than point, dump, kill.  Bringing the series into the modern era, there are plenty of unlockables to discover.  Yep, DOOM has a points system that allows you to upgrade both your suit and weapons.  There’s also an over-arching upgrade system that allows you to put extra points into your three main categories of Health, Armor, or Ammunition.  It’s an intriguing system that forces you to explore the sprawling levels if you want to upgrade your character as much as possible.  DOOM comes together in kind of the same way that Wolfenstein: The New Order did.  Maybe even better as DOOM sheds deep story for action, replayability, and exploration.

doom-review-single-player

Let’s get multiplayer out of the way so we don’t have to talk about it anymore.  It’s not good.  The picture above this is not from DOOM multiplayer.  I couldn’t find any good ones for this review, I think they were all deleted from the internet.  Just take my word for it.  As we said earlier, it hasn’t changed very much since the beta.  Sure, there may be some who play it and enjoy it, but I couldn’t see putting more than a few hours into it before becoming bored.  It feels uninspired and really like a mode that was added in to tick some box.  Like, this is 2016, DOOM has to have multiplayer, said someone making the decisions, and so they went for it because they had to.  There are no new good ideas here, just the stuff that every multiplayer game has in it these days — Unlockables, a variety of weapons, character customization, and loadouts.  To make matters worse it stands at odds with the very things that make the campaign feel so great.  The speed just isn’t there, the weapons feel weak, it’s not nearly as pretty, none of the single player awesomeness makes the jump to multiplayer, leaving you with something that just feels like it doesn’t belong.  Multiplayer should try to capture the essence of the single player.  It’s blatantly obvious that these feel like two separate games.  It only hurts because you look at DOOM as a whole package and wonder what it could’ve been if the multiplayer had been a little better.  There could have been a ton of replay value here, especially when you factor in campaign difficulties and secrets and the new map editing tools.

DOOM’s third part is Snap Map, a feature I wrote off that is actually quite impressive.  You can essentially make anything in Snap Map.  You can make levels, you can make modes, you can create things that have nothing to do with a shooter.  Some have likened it to Little Big Planet, I don’t think it’s quite that robust, but players are only limited to their imaginations.  Community Creations in Snap Map are curated so the good stuff seems pretty easy to find.  Some great things on the home page included a horde-style mode for up to four players to play — complete with an item shop that allowed you buy guns and power-ups between rounds.  There were plenty of recreated levels from previous DOOM games.  There were also quite a few things I would describe as “other,”  like a matching game and music maker.  The good thing is that these games look and play like the single player mode so that’s a bonus. It’s probably too early to call Snap Map a success, as it’s probably going to require the community to get on board.  The tools are fairly easy to use, but it’s going to come down to people using them and making cool things.  Here at launch, there’s no shortage of stuff to try, we’ll just have to wait and see if cool stuff keeps coming from the community.

The Verdict

DOOM is 2/3 really good and 1/3 really mediocre.  The single player campaign is an absolute blast and if you like the shooting action from that you can get all you can eat via Snap Map.  DOOM competitive multiplayer is really unfortunate, however.  If it could’ve captured even some of the magic from the campaign it might be tolerable, but as it stands, it feels like it should’ve been aborted and nobody would likely have missed it.

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DOOM

  • Available On: Xbox One, PS4, PC
  • Published By: Bethesda Softworks
  • Developed By: iD Software
  • Genre: First Person Shooter
  • US Release Date: May 13th, 2016
  • Reviewed On: Xbox One
  • Quote: "DOOM is 2/3 really good and 1/3 really mediocre. The single player campaign is an absolute blast and if you like the shooting action from that you can get all you can eat via Snap Map. DOOM competitive multiplayer is really unfortunate, however."
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The Good

  • Doom's campaign is all about gameplay with plenty of fast paced shootouts.
  • Snap Map is more robust than I thought it would be and the community seems to be taking to it.

The Bad

  • Multiplayer doesn't manage to capture the essence of single player DOOM.
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