While frantically gliding around one of the many arenas in Doom’s campaign, as its heavy metal soundtracked pulsated and I buried my chainsaw into the bowels of an imposing Mancubus while in search of ammo for my Super Shotgun, the same thought flew through my head that had a dozen times before, “Why aren’t all first person shooter campaigns this fun?”
Doom constantly elicits excitement in its purest form, and is a satisfying evolution of the franchise that retains the classic first person shooter design philosophy from the 90s, yet adapts to tropes of modern shooters where it works and matters most. This is arguably the game’s most impressive achievement. Doom manages to comfortably fit itself into the modern FPS genre while staying true to the original games. Features akin to what we expect from a modern shooter, such as an upgrade system and thruster boots, are all handled in moderation and don’t overpower what the series is really all about. What’s a Doom game without blowing a demon’s legs off?
Good news, that part kicks ass.
Doom’s combat is fast and visceral. Every weapon and game mechanic works together to keep fights varied, and there is a pleasing ebb and flow to Doom’s arena-type lockdown fights. On the surface, it looks like a simple game, but gameplay is more complex than it seems. Understanding the appropriate situational use of the campaign’s eight weapons, timing the use of your chainsaw to drop a profusion of ammo, and knowing when it’s viable to pull out your terrifying BFG to decimate everything in your line of fire increasingly becomes muscle memory over the 12 hours it will take you to complete the game. Developing a rhythm and intertwining all of the game’s mechanics is immensely satisfying.
Also quite remarkable is the game’s tempo. Its gradual acceleration and increasing challenge throughout the game is paced perfectly. From the start of the game, you’re immediately tossed into action, but don’t feel like the game is throwing you to a fire. You’re always put on your toes, but never given a challenge that the game hasn’t prepared you for. Once you have the hang of the platforming, it gives you the thruster boots, and once you’ve gotten to the point where harder enemies are appearing, it gives you the Gauss Cannon and the Super Shotgun. Surprisingly well coupled by this linear progression is non linear exploration that rewards you with tokens and points to upgrade your suit and weapons.
In spite of everything Doom does right in terms of gameplay, its writing suffers from somewhat of an identity crisis, particularly in conversation with Dr. Samuel Hayden’s character. It’s ironic that a game like Doom, so simple in premise, has ended up with a narrative that doesn’t seem to understand that. It essentially boils down to Hayden wanting a sustainable energy resource from Hell, and Dr. Olivia Pierce opening a portal from Hell to Mars. It’s a very convoluted, non sympathizable, and pointless plot, and a simpler one might’ve reflected the tone of the game better. Occasionally awkward plot aside, Doom’s campaign is miraculously fun.
After the 12 odd hours the single player takes to complete, you’ll likely be longing for more, as I was. Thankfully, Doom comes out of the box rocking a competent multiplayer component that encompasses the fun of the main campaign into a very enjoyable, if somewhat generic, multiplayer component. With so many recent advancements and complexities in multiplayer shooters (with the likes of Battleborn, Overwatch, and Halo 5’s Warzone), we’ve come to expect a lot of variety and originality from our competitive online firefights, but Doom’s multiplayer comes with about as much content as a shooter from 2010. This isn’t necessarily bad, however. The movement is snappy, fights are frantic, the maps are fun to play and well designed, and the character and weapon customization are very nice touches (if somewhat shallow). What’s here is quite fun and doesn’t overstay its welcome, but its lack of variety of game modes is disappointing. There are 6 game modes to speak of, each a staple of modern shooters that we’ve seen in hundreds of games. Nothing about the game’s modes are original, but they’re fun to play nonetheless.
Despite how much fun I had fragging online, those expecting revolutionary multiplayer won’t find it here. On top of the single and multiplayer modes, Id Software has included an intuitive level editor, SnapMap, to keep the community alive long after its release. The developers understand that the modding community for Doom has been incredibly active, and SnapMap is a solid tool that could easily prolong the life of the game, but time will tell if the community takes to it in the way Id Software hopes it will.
+ Enthralling Shooting
+ Well Designed, Old School Campaign
+ Lots of Bang for your buck
– Slightly Unfitting Narrative
Doom’s core gameplay is an embodiment of everything I enjoy about shooters. It’s truly one of the best current gen First Person Shooter campaigns you can buy
Kevin Punter is an Associate Editor at The Game Bolt, people make lots of Canadian jokes about him, but he’s okay with it.