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‘Doom’ Review: Gorehound Gumbo

After a twelve year hiatus, the Doom we know and love has returned, and it’s even learned some new tricks since we last saw it. Developer id Software had to overcome numerous obstacles over its troubled development, even going so far as to start from scratch back in 2011 when the team realized it “lacked a soul,” and the result is a bloody good time.

Referring to a video game’s soul seems a bit silly. I sometimes refer to it as the “core”, a central idea or mechanic that much, if not all, of the rest of the game revolves around — but when Bethesda broke the news that its pre-2011 iteration lacked a spirit, and that it “didn’t have the passion and soul of what an id game is,” the meaning is clear. It just didn’t feel like a Doom game.

The “soul” of a video game is the foundation for everything else, and for Doom, it’s about the flow of the combat. Its the fast pacing and fluid movement that transforms every battle into a bloody ballet that doesn’t stop until the last man, woman or demon is left standing atop a sea of mangled corpses and spent shells. You either run out of enemies or you’re overcome by them.

Doom doesn’t set aside any time for you to reload, take cover or find another weapon, and thanks to the addition of Glory Kills, even wounds can be mended without ever having to pause.

Glory Kills are brutal executions that double as a tremendously satisfying way of finishing a staggered foe without breaking up the purposeful flow of the combat. When an enemy takes enough damage they become temporarily incapacitated, leaving their supple demon bodies vulnerable to all sorts of terrible things, like a finishing move that effectively transforms them into a living piñata filled with health, ammunition, or even armor, when you have the required perk.

This is what separates Doom from just about every other game in the genre it created, the exception being the handful of other 90s era shooters we still occasionally hear from today, such as Wolfenstein or Unreal Tournament. There’s no pesky stamina meter you need to monitor either, so you never have to take a break from the gory fun so your character can catch his breath.

There’s more to these games than the frantic combat that makes them so addictive, but that’s a crucial part of it. It’s also one of the many areas where this reboot truly succeeds in modernizing the gameplay without sacrificing any of the many different things that form the Doom experience. This is the most impressive, and respectful series reboot I’ve played since the 2003 Resident Evil remake for the GameCube.

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The world is there, in all its dusty glory. Villains assume their roles with the requisite amount of malevolence, their philosophical musings, agendas and general dialogue marinated in just enough sinister intent so as to make them easily identifiable as big ole meanies. They’re the co-narrators of this tale of renewable energy and demon genocide because they have to be. Maybe our marine will follow in the Master Chief’s footsteps and gradually learn to speak like a human being, but I doubt it. That’s not what Doom is about.

Even the Union Aerospace Corporation, which owns and operates the Mars facility on which much of the game is set, hasn’t let up on their maniacally dickish pursuits of Hellscience, nor have they found a way to contain the shit when it inevitably hits the fan. It seems as if they’re struggling to graduate from Shit Containment 101, alongside most other evil video game corporations.

The story and dialogue are mercifully thin, their sole purpose to quickly provide you with enough substance and motivation to mull over as you venture to Mars to Hell and back. Neither are ever bad, but they’re also never really all that good. That’s par for the course with this series, which has always treated both as a checkmark in a box on a list of things modern video games need to have.

So in that case: does Doom have a story and dialogue? Check.

Before it was thrown out, pre-2011 Doom was much less linear than the first two games, which weren’t completely linear themselves. The openness of their design has always been part of the appeal of this series, as it allows players to explore freely, without nagging reminders from NPCs, tooltips, beacons, blips, and the like whose job is to annoy you into quickly closing the distance between you and your objective.

Pre-2011 Doom sounded like it was more or less an open-world game, and though the game we got doesn’t go quite as far as its creators originally intended, it is considerably more open in its expansive level design than any of its predecessors.

The game basically recaps your accomplishments at the end of each chapter — total kills, upgrades procured, hidden collectibles discovered — so you’ll want to explore all of it, if only to make sure you’re properly geared up for the final showdown.

The arsenal is traditional for these games, and it does a fine job in covering all your bases. The shotgun, super shotgun (sawed-off) and chainsaw are swell at carving demons from within their personal bubbles, and the chainsaw even showers you with gore and ammo, should you find yourself in need of the latter. The heavy assault rifle, plasma rifle, and pistol are more adept at long-range combat, then there’s the chaingun, gauss cannon and rocket launcher, which you might want to save for bigger foes.

Plus, most of the weapons have two mods that equip them with secondary abilities, like the shotgun’s burst fire mode, the assault rifle’s micro-missiles, or the rocket launcher’s homing capabilities.

Self-improvement isn’t limited to your arsenal, your Praetor Suit can also be upgraded using tokens that buffer your resistance to environmental hazards, boost your agility, and enhance the efficacy of power-ups, among other improvements. There are also small glass Sauron Eyes you can break to release their unholy essence, granting you a permanent boost to your base health, armor or ammo capacity.

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The Runes make up the final piece of this self-improvement puzzle, though getting them may prove to be a challenge as you’ll have to find the hidden portal that takes you to an isolated area where you must conquer a trial. Each trial comes with specific objectives that must be completed before the time runs out, with the reward being a Rune that enhances your marine’s equipment (grenades), his penchant for Glory Kills, etc. No more than three can be equipped, and if you can get it, you’ll want one of them to be the Rune that gives you one extra life. That would’ve saved me some frustration, not that I ever die.

There’s multiplayer too! You might’ve seen one of the many multiplayer-centric trailers I’ve shared here over the last few months that break down its maps, modes, power-ups, and customization features. I’ve never loved the arena-based combat, but I have played enough to say it’s decidedly Doom in flavor.

The Doom multiplayer is designed for a very specific audience to which I do not belong. I’m awful at it. I’m too slow to react to an enemy’s presence, and I’m far too easily distracted by shiny objects. I can’t be sure, but I think my armor actually attracts more bullets to my tender flesh. With that said, it’s still enormously amusing in small, bite-sized portions. If you’re a fan of the multiplayer offerings in the first two games, you’ll probably like what id has done to update it.

The verticality of the level design really stood out to me. Opponents can come from anywhere, and based on my experience, an awareness of one’s surroundings, and specifically what’s above you, is often just as important to one’s survival as anything else.

Classic Doom multiplayer with a modern twist is one-half of id Software’s strategy for fostering an active community around this game, and it’s joined by the new SnapMap modding utility. For the uninitiated, SnapMap is a level editor that allows the curious and/or the creative to come up with their own creations, similar to the Forge Bungie introduced with Halo 3, or Steam Workshop, if you’re a PC gamer.

It’s powerful and more than capable of realizing the imaginations of those who think about more than which structure(s) look the most like the head of a penis, yet it appears easy enough to use for those who do think about that sort of thing. I imagine SnapMap will be the feature that keeps Doom interesting long after the season pass has finished inflating the multiplayer, so I’m eager to see if it catches on with modders.

I’m relieved and more than a little giddy to be able to say that Doom has returned in all its gory glory. It’s made up for the solid, if somewhat bland and predictable experience that was Doom 3, and I think it’s new enough to entice newcomers while staying familiar enough to keep from upsetting Doom vets. Whichever group you belong to, I absolutely recommend you check it out.

The Final Word: id Software has successfully reinvented the classic Doom experience for a modern audience without actually having to reinvent anything. It’s not a reboot, it’s a revival. If you’ve ever wondered what Doom might look like in 2016, this is it.

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COMMENTS

22 Comments
  • Rohan Sorensen

    When it comes to the doom guy and who everyone thinks he is a stale character, there is a moment that I thought was really interesting later on in the campaign.
    SPOILERS
    When you go to destroy VEGA so you can go back to hell, Doomguy is shown to have a, how do I put this, merciful side? What happens is when he is about to shut down VEGA, he hesitates. He shows sympathy for VEGA, even though he is just an AI, and downloads a backup for VEGA. The whole scenario is kind of sad, and doomguy is shown to have, for the first time that I’ve seen, a sympathetic side to him. I found that to be very interesting in such an unforgiving and brutal game, and that made it all the better.

  • Flu-Like Symptoms

    I was really skeptical after all the bland gameplay footage and lack of actual reviews before launch. But, I picked it up on a whim on release night and was pleasantly surprised. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played through so far.

  • Death Jesus. King of HEELS

    I feel sympathy for these demons that i’ve killed. poor demons. all they wanted to do was to take over not only Mars, but create a gateway to this fucking shit hole called “earth…”

    • Taboo

      🙁

  • Phendranah

    This game is beautiful. I’m about halfway through and loving it. The combat feels so damn good and the challenge is there. It doesn’t feel unfair and whenever I’m blown up, stomped on, torn apart or scorched all I want to do is jump back in and see if another strategy works. Well done Id!

  • besark

    In a world where games are reviewed only on there story mode this game is top notch , but sadly the MP is Ok at most .

    Also : Doom on PC is 40$ right now http://bit.ly/1TcxXKm .

  • Cure4Humanity

    So far I’ve enjoyed the game quite a bit. The campaign is a lot of fun and I like trying to find all the secret areas and items in each level. Snapmap is awesome, the ability to craft and play other people’s creations is great. It’s not overly complicated and there is a ton of depth to what can be created. My biggest complaint is MP. It can be fun but it should have stuck closer to the arena shooter roots imo. It feels to much like halo combined with cod if that makes sense. It’s not terrible, I guess I just hoped it would be more like Unreal Tournament in execution. I’d give Doom an 8/10 personally.

  • Shay Lauderdale

    I loved the last Doom, & this game looks like more of the same (that is totally a good thing). I have come to terms with the fact that most everything that comes out now is soulless. I use that to explain the way I feel about 80% of the movies, games, tv shows, etc that I see now.
    I feel like most projects are made just to make money without caring about how good it maybe.
    I am proud of Bethesda for realizing this error, & correcting it. If only others would do the same.
    I cannot count how many movies I have seen that do not move me emotionally or involve me enough to care about what is happening. Soulless is by far the best way to describe it.
    There are still movies & games that make my heart race like the Avenger movies, The Witch, Star Wars, Orphan Black, Tomb Raider, Doctor Who, etc. Movies like Batman vs. Superman are examples of being Soulless. Or Captain America Civil War was the first Marvel movie so far to make me feel empty after seeing it (even though I like it, It did not excite me at all)

  • Taboo

    I’m glad to see a lot of people are enjoying the game. From what I’ve seen SP seems pretty fun and multiplayer has mixed opinions. I know my expectations for this game were way out there, but I always thought and wanted so bad for this to be a Dead Space kind of horror, serious, atmospheric and scary.

  • alwayswipetwice

    Seeing that ‘Editor’s Choice’ at the top of the article made my heart swell and burst into a celebratory firework of blood. I figured you’d like it though because, well… you’d have to be a horribly cynical fuck living a miserable existence to not enjoy this game. My fondest gaming memories are from Descent, UT, and Red Faction – and this multiplayer brings all of that back. Easily the most fun I’ve ever had online on console (Clan Arena is fucking amazing fun). The preset loadouts don’t bother me at all (my favorite is rockets/pulse rifle/tesla). While I’m pretty shocked they don’t have a classic scavenger mode, they can either add it later or someone can just build it on SnapMap. I also didn’t expect to like the character customization, but I found myself pretty amused at the “fashion shows” that take place in the lobbies. The taunts can be hilarious too. I like running out in the middle of combat and doing the salsa or climbing to the highest pillar and doing yoga moves (warning: killer dance moves don’t equate to kills). Pure hilarity. The 32-bit level easter eggs is a thing of gold. And when you fall into the lava in campaign, Doom Guy gives the thumbs up as he sinks (T2 style!). Nitpicking: I wish they had the imp snorting sound fx every so often, and also the Doom Guy sound fx (ie: “YEAHHH” when you complete a level). Bethesda and id fucking nailed it though!

  • Adaaification

    I played the whole game in one round. Took me around 17 hours on ultra violence and i didn’t find everything. But i think when you search for everything and find it, you will be very over powerd very soon. And i played the original in the 90’s when it was released and i’m still playing it today without regret.

    The core of Doom is intact, what means you have great speed, big guns and way too much gore this time. But the heart, the horror and suspense is not existing. So yeah, in the core this is Doom in a nutshell. And what the hell did they with the design of the Mancubus and Cyberdemon? Jesus. That looks like a anime.

    It is a great game and it makes a lot of fun. ID did a great job.

  • James Allard

    I told myself I would not buy another gaming console. Ever. Now, well….

    • Why’d you tell yourself that?!

      • James Allard

        LOL! $$$
        That, and I am not really that much of a gamer but for a new Doom…. well, y’know.

  • zombie84_41

    Whats sup is there a co-op missions ?

    • The campaign does not support co-op, but SnapMap does. To play Doom cooperatively, you’ll either need to make your own levels to play on, or you can look through the community created content. When there’s enough of SnapMap content out there, I’ll showcase the best of it here so you guys can check it out, if you like.

      • zombie84_41

        Ok sweet thanks Adam. Can’t wait to play the game.

  • Hamsterballs

    I am so happy that I was wrong about this game. Granted, the multiplayer is still lukewarm garbage, but the campaign literally puts a smile on my face when the action picks up; it’s the most pure fun I’ve had from a single player game in a long time.

    It’s also genuinely difficult (at least on Ultra-violence difficulty and I’m sure is even more so on Nightmare) without having the false difficulty of hitscan shooter enemies with perfect aim and infinite grenades. Every hit can be avoided, and every death leads you to try to improve your skills or come up with a different approach to the encounter.

    Excellent game.

  • diapers

    As a Doom (and Quake!) freak from the olden days, might I ask if the new Doom keeps the secret rooms and shootable trap doors concept intact? I was a real sucker for spending hours wandering the halls, looking for wall textures that were slightly off.

  • JohnnePTC

    “Bland and predictable experience that was Doom 3” ???? And isn’t this new Doom predictable?? HAHAHA.
    So, what is it good in this game?? Graphic, arsenal, some action. Wow that’s great. And fans say: “Come on man, this is DOOM, it is like that, just shooting some demons, this is so sick, like the first game back in the 90’s”.

    The 90’s, ok. Yeah why evolve?? Why develop something new?? Better make a game with the same limitations they had 20 years ago.

    ID guy defining Doom: “Badass demons, big fucking guns and moving fast”. Fantastic man, don’t think too hard on this.

    Funny thing: Doom fans criticizing COD fans, like this new Doom isn’t as mediocre as the last CODs.

    I assume that Serious Sam and Killing Flor would receive 9.8 and 9.9 for all that fun.

    • Doot

      Are you fucking kidding? Every part of this game has been changed from the original. Every enemy has been changed in both appearance and mechanics, there is an upgrade system, the levels have far more verticality, you get powerups now, and there are more bosses to boot. The movement is very satisfying, blowing demon’s heads off with a shotgun is even more satisfying. Don’t knock this game having never tried it bro. DOOM was never designed to have an expansive universe, or a huge tech tree, it has always been about the gameplay, and ID got this one bang on. Every single part of the playthrough is filled with “holy shit I actually did that?” moments, where you manage to kill a massive army of demons with only your shotgun, or plough through a line of them with the Gauss cannon. The thing about DOOM 3 was that it focused too much on trying to be scary, that the gameplay became predictable and boring. This one puts you straight in to the action, and makes you feel like a demon slaying GOD. From the moment you get up to the moment you finish it’s pretty much non stop action, gore, and a HELL of a lot of fun. Every part of the game is centered around making the player feel as powerful as possible, and it succeeds at that marvellously. When a game makes you feel that good, evolution doesn’t matter, but in this case, they managed to do both extremely well. If you seriously think they just cloned the original doom here, you’re dead wrong.

  • ok, I am buying this. Spent my money on uncharted 4 limited collector’s edition and three days afterwards we get doom. Then next week mirror’s edge! Come on, for months the market was dead and now it has been populated with three major releases in a month. Bye money

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