DOOM (2016) - Weaponizing Demons For a Brighter Tomorrow
Introduction to DOOM
For those who don't already know and haven't already heard the story repeated 10,000 times recently DOOM was one of the originators of the "3D" First Person Shooter genre that now (over)saturates the modern video game market. While ID Softwares Wolfenstein 3D came first and laid the groundwork it was the original DOOM from 1993 that revolutionized action games, horror games and gaming in general.
Now, in 2016, Bethesda and ID Software have developed a new DOOM game which was originally slotted to be DOOM 4 but was actually reworked into what is essentially a "soft reboot". That is to say you could see it as a sequel or a remake or both.
In this hub I will offer my review and thoughts having now beat the Single Player Campaign of DOOM 2016. Does it live up to the original?
My First FPS
Many gamers played DOOM when they were kids and while I missed out on DOOM back in the 90s in the early 2000s I was introduced to ID Software's 1996 release Quake as well as the first Half-Life. Both Quake and Half-Life built on what Doom had started both in terms of fast-paced combat, fantastic weapon variation and suspenseful horror elements - not to mention story.
All three games have functionally the same story, scientists are dicking around with things they shouldn't be and it all goes wrong. The silent protagonist must then go forth with all manner of weaponry and fix everything.
In DOOM we have the UAC, which is based on Weyland-Yutani from the movie Aliens (which heavily influenced DOOM), that has opened portals to Hell and even begun weaponizing demons with cybernetic implants. In Quake it's not Hell but a Lovecraftian dimension teeming with terrifying monsters and cosmic horrors. In Half-Life it's Xen, another dimension but this one filled not with macrabe medieval monsters or mindless hellspawn bent on world domination but aliens.
So while I didn't play the original DOOM until about seven or eight years ago games that it helped create were a big part of shaping who I am as a gamer. And by the time I did get around to playing the original I absolutely loved it.
With that obligatory backstory out of the way how does the new DOOM stack up?
5 out of 5 for Single Player - 4 out of 5 Overall
Gloriously Gory Adrenaline Junky Demonic Slaying Madness
To be blunt DOOM 2016 is amazing, as far as the Single Player is concerned. Tired of all these same old same old FPS games that make you sit behind chest-high walls until your screen is no longer covered in red jelly? Itching for a game that lets you run circles around enemies while pumping enough hot lead into them that even superman couldn't see through their corpses anymore? Sick of playing military shooters that let you sprint for fifteen seconds before your soldier gets winded? DOOM is the game for you - because sprint is always on and your guy doesn't get tired!
DOOM is a game that throws realism out of the window because honestly who needs realism in a game about crushing demon skulls on a Martian research base? Combat is fast, furious and frenetic - you have to keep moving if you want to survive and the game rewards you for both exploration and perpetual motion.
Remember how much fun it was to string combos together in those first few Arkham Batman games (before the combat style got overused and old)? Well DOOM's combat comes off a little like that, only instead of punches you're laying bullets, missiles, grenades, and hot plasma into your enemies and instead of knocking the unconscious you're tearing off faces and chainsawing through hearts.
The Glory Kill system works a bit like a cross between Batman's take downs in the Arkham games and the X-Ray attacks in the most recent Mortal Kombat games. It's gory, brutal and an absolute adrenaline rush to dart around the well-designed combat areas of the game delivering punishing blows. While I've seen some reviews say that the Glory Kills get tiresome I completely disagree, not only are they almost essential to gathering health (and potentially armor/ammo) but there are ways to modify them to make gameplay ever quicker and more insane by using the Rune system.
To talk about Runes I should first talk about power-ups and weapon mods. If you're a fan of Metroid games and how exploring in those maze-like environments leads to more and more power-ups than you'll love DOOM 2016 (despite it being first person) because there are tons of power-ups, weapon mods and upgrades, Runes and other secrets in the game.
Runes are gained by finding and touching a Rune stone and then playing the brief trial mode that is accessed through the stone. Once you successfully pull off the challenge/trial you can use the power of the Rune. One Rune grants your character a speed boost for each successive glory kill, meaning the more you get the faster your character. So if you find yourself getting followed by a horde of enemies, as often happens in later levels, pulling off a few glory kills can give you enough of a speed boost to flank the bastards.
Weapons can all be upgraded, except for the BFG and Chainsaw which are already OP as fuck, so much so that they get their own hotkeys/face buttons on controller. Deciding what the right time to use the chainsaw and BFG become important in later levels when your survival absolutely depends on their use.
Story and the Story behind the Story
Spoilers may occur beyond this point but I will try to keep them to a minimum...
DOOM is amazingly gory, a testosterone induced fever dream of wish fulfillment for those who want to remorselessly tear through the endless hordes of hellspawn the game will throw at them. The main character, Doomguy or Doom Marine as the game calls him, is a throwback to the bad attitude machismo of the 80s and 90s as he smashes computer panels before characters can spout off useless exposition and plot information that the character, and player, honestly give 0 fucks about.
The story, such as it is, is sparse, but populated with enough secrets, collectibles, lore elements, etc to keep fans of such things satiated. The story doesn't really get in the way of the action and that's a good thing because this is a DOOM game.
The actual story of the game, that is to say the Meta-Story, is about the DOOM SLAYER, a legendary figure. Unlike in the original Doom where you are just a UAC Space Marine grunt who happens to be the last of his squad and happens to be a total badass DOOM 2016 rewrites the character as an unstoppable legendary warrior called the DOOM SLAYER.
You awaken in the game strapped to a sarcophagus being worshiped by cultists that is after an unidentified demonic voice says that you will be WORSE than the demons and commands you to "RIP AND TEAR, until it is DONE!"
You seem commanded to do this by an unseen demon, suggesting that there are forces beyond your control at work, though it matters little since you're Doomguy and killing demons is what you do. No need for commands or payment, you'll gladly do the work for free. It is that adrenaline filled remorseless thrill of the kill that makes you "worse" than the demons, because you take pleasure in their pain.
This whole idea of the Doom Marine as some kind of artifact or god reminded me of how the most recent Godzilla film rewrites Godzilla not just as King of the Monsters, but as a primordial force of nature that brings balance to the world, an almost literal god. Here our Doom Marine is discovered in Hell already a legend, bowed down to and worshiped. This, I think, is a commentary on the cult-like devotion to Doom that many have shown and the fact that Doomguy is now enshrined, he started as a grunt but now he's something more.
Doom Marine is a force of nature and he will set the balance of the world right by fighting the forces of Hell.
Obviously those who played the original Doom know that the game is heavily influenced by two main sources, the first is the film Aliens, from which the space marine concept was taken. Aliens also provides the In Space setting of the game and the whole 'shady corporation is trying to weaponize things it shouldn't be fucking with' idea. The other source is the Evil Dead trilogy, which explains why there is a chainsaw on a Martian research base.
DOOM 2016 features some artwork that looks very reminiscent of the whole "hero who fell from the sky" bit featured in Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness.
The DOOM SLAYER
The fragments of the "Slayer's Testament" I discovered in the game suggest that Doom Marine was some kind of gladiator. The image above shows a hooded figure watching on with pleasure as he punches the pelts off of a bunch of demons. I think this hooded figure represents the PLAYER themselves, watching through their monitor or TV with glee at the gladiatorial blood sport of Doomguy absolutely decimating demons.
Helping reinforce this idea that the Doom Marine was a gladiator of some kind the place where I discovered this artifact was set up like an arena and several Barons of Hell then stormed out looking for a fight. Also later in the game you appear to be freeing several knights who were all servants or comrades of the Doom Slayer apparently fighting in Hell with him.
I hope to find more collectibles and secrets that might help explain some more of this... perhaps time travel is involved and this actually is the original Doom Marine, he's just been through some forgotten centuries of combat in Hell and has no recollection of who he really is. Or perhaps it really is just a soft reboot and I should really just relax.
Oh yeah, I forgot to talk a little about the enemies in DOOM 2016. Most of them are based on original enemies from DOOM and DOOM II. Here however the enemies are far more crafty and can maneuver through the terrain chasing after the player up ledges and into nooks and crannies. Even some of the big fat enemies can jump up onto ledges you wouldn't expect and come after you and as you get later into the story there are A LOT of big bad demons, like a ton. They throw Barons and Cacodemons and Pinkies at you like nobodies business and yes all those classic monsters (and more) are BACK and better than ever!
When they first introduce Hell Knights and Revenants it feels like a big deal but as the game ramps up you run into much more formidable enemies and they start throwing Hell Knights at you as if they were just zombies or imps. The difficulty curve is fairly steep toward the end and the game can seem unforgiving at times but with the right tools, timing and movement around the map you can overcome anything they throw at you.
Replay Factor + Length
The Campaign is actually quite long, at least it was for me playing through on Ultra Violence (Hard). There are three main difficulties to start with but once you've beaten the story you can also choose to play on Nightmare or Ultra-Nightmare both of which live up to their names. In a world where many FPS games forgo a main story altogether it's nice to see not just a campaign but a lengthy one.
And once you've beaten the game you can go back with all your weapons, power-ups, and upgrades and replay any level or mission to hunt down secrets you left behind or just beat up a bunch of demons that kicked your ass the first time you encountered them but now stand no chance.
All in all this is probably the best FPS campaign I've played in a long time, at least since the excellent reboot of Wolfenstein (The New Order) but maybe even since way back in 2007 when Half-Life 2 Episode 2 came out.
If I have any complaints they are very minor. The Story does drag at times and the difficulty curve does seem to ramp up rather quickly. Another thing I really miss is the ability to Quick Save. I'm not sure why they went the Check Point only route, maybe to make it more of a challenge, but I much prefer the old school FPS way of being able to save anytime, anywhere. And it isn't as if games can't do this anymore, games like Skyrim and Dishonored both allow you to quick save just about anywhere as long as you aren't taking damage or in mid-air.
The Glory Kill animations could have used a tiny bit more variety, while I never tired of the kills themselves sometimes I would encounter the same animation several times in a row, there's only so many times you can put a pinky's eye out with his horn in a row without breaking the illusion. Also, while the game does cut down on the maze-like elements of the original DOOM (the original being a huge 'where the fuck do I go now?' kinda game) there were still times when the objective markers were confusing or misleading and the first person platforming a bit questionable to navigate (although for the most part both are done beautifully).
While I'm still on the fence about the outsourced multiplayer the Single Player is a sight to behold, graphically beautiful, smooth, fast-paced and with just enough RPG-lite elements and upgrades to give it the depth it needs to hold your attention and grant it replay-ability. There are plenty of secrets to hunt down when you're done smashing demon skulls AND doing the demonic skull smashing is amazingly addicting and adrenaline filled. This is especially true when you can work the BFG, chainsaw, chaingun, supershotgun and indeed every weapon in your oversized arsenal all into one fight.
DOOM 2016 is great, if you're a fan of action-horror, gore, demonic imagery, circle strafing or gratuitous heavy metal I highly recommend this game.