DOOM is a really good video game.
What I love about DOOM is that it is straightforward and its only agenda is to simply be a good game. From the start, when a narrator begins to ramble about something, the player character punches the communication system, silencing any semblance of a story before it can happen. From that moment forward, it’s nothing but shoot and kill.
DOOM returns to the idea that video games are meant to be played. That’s a pretty bold thing in an age where so many things are competing for your most coveted resource: time. Since the franchise began, this industry has exponentially transformed itself into the biggest form of media that we as a species collectively consume. The way in which we take in video games is not limited to a few buttons nor a specific machine. Video games have become so much more than we could have imagined and there’s so many ways that a video game can entertain. Every year, hundreds of publications reward video games for how well they look, tell a story, sound, and innovate. There are pockets of people who are eagerly waiting for the chance to tell you that the way that they play video games is the right way; that the only way to be a real gamer is to do this with this game in this place at this time.
To all of that, DOOM says, “Fuck you.”
For 13 levels, you move your character forward as monsters come at you with everything they have. Each level adds a new maze to find your way through and a new enemy to rip apart. There are secrets hidden in each stage and each one comes packed with a few challenges that upon completing will reward you with points to level up your weapons and abilities.
That’s DOOM. And that’s all that it has to be. It’s also really good at being DOOM. I know that’s a weird, silly thing to write in a review of the game but it’s all that I kept thinking while I was playing through it. I never felt like I wished the game was anything different than what it was. I think that every game has its place, and I enjoy the cinematic blockbuster games just as much as the tiny 8-bit arcade games; but in an era where everything we consume is covered to death and we’ve experienced all that there is about a thing before we actually pay for it, DOOM is refreshing.
It knows that you know what it is and it doesn’t care. It set itself up for that. It wanted you to know that it’s a game where you shoot demons and go to hell. It hopes that you know that so that you aren’t surprised when you get there. While everyone else is busy trying to think of the next way to impress you with a gimmick or a trick, DOOM was making sure it was just fun to play.
Every weapon feels great to shoot with, although I found myself relying on my favorites. Each weapon comes with a leveling system that unlocks new upgrades for a secondary function, most of which have two to choose from. When you’ve fully upgraded a weapon, you’re presented with a challenge that enticed me to use weapons I otherwise wouldn’t have kept playing with. For example, the pistol receives the challenge to get 50 headshots, but after procuring more powerful weapons the pistol never made it into rotation. Having the challenge pushed me to return to it and made some of the areas in the game a little more interesting as I tried to get creative with my kills.
I think overall, the best part about DOOM’s combat is the glory kills. When you’ve weakened an enemy, they’ll glow blue. When you’re within the right proximity, they glow orange, allowing you to push the right analog stick and trigger a glory kill. Each one plays out a murderous animation that involves you tearing a monster apart with your hands. These could have easily been a dumb gimmick that instead continued to be an integral part of what made this game so great. The animation for each is just long enough that it remains cool to look at without becoming a distraction from playing. Additionally, a glory kill rewards you specifically with health and sometimes ammunition, both of which aren’t always easy to come by in the midst of a monster closet. They become part of a combo system that I haven’t felt the fluidity of in any other shooter. You gradually feel yourself getting better at the game as you string together gunfire with melee and work your way forward through the maze.
Visually, DOOM sits pretty well. A lot of the environments tend to bleed together without much variety overall, but there’s still a deep level of world-building that occurs in the environment design. There are times where being on Mars looks a lot like being in Hell just with less of a wet feeling to it. This never bothered me as the game still made very clear difference in the stage through the layout and path you are meant to follow. Most impressive is the consistent and high frame rate of gameplay, which really made the game feel great. There was a constant sense of movement that would have otherwise been lost had the development team not provided the game with the smoothness that it has.
Multiplayer in the game was reminiscent of Unreal Tournament to me. It’s very simple and nascent, but not without its own signature. It feels very quiet and local, something I haven’t felt since the early days of Xbox Live and it was, much like the single-player campaign, refreshing amidst a sea of everything else that this industry is continually trying to shove at us. There’s a seemingly modest approach to character customization and leveling system. I’ve slowly begun to unlock different armor pieces and colors for my character, all of which are just what they need to be and nothing more. It’s enough to keep me interested and wanting to unlock more, but not overwhelming to the point where I stop caring. In terms of gameplay, the multiplayer is mostly the arena-style deathmatch multiplayer that so classically acted as most of our entryways into online video games.
I really love DOOM and I really don’t love first-person shooters. I’ve avoided most of them in the last decade, occasionally playing a bit of some only to remind me why I hate them. There’s something special about this game that sets itself in its own class and doesn’t become muddied or stale. It’s really good at being DOOM and that says a lot when other games try to be everything they can but themselves. Perhaps in the last 12 years since the last game in the series, what was missing from first-person shooters and my enjoyment of them was in fact this game. I give it my highest recommendation and I’m eager to see what comes next from both DOOM and id Software.