“In the first age, in the first battle, when the shadows first lengthened, one stood. In his ravenous hatred he found no peace; and with boiling blood he scoured the Umbral Plains seeking vengeance against the dark lords who had wronged him and those that tasted the bite of his sword named him…the Doom Slayer.”
The original 1993 Doom was one of those pieces of brilliance that I stumbled upon early in life, only by chance. My mom worked at a school and one day brought home a large pack of software disks they had issued her that ranged between shareware and full retail copies of programs. I remember looking through them in hopes to find anything to do with games. I was in more luck that day than could imagine. Among them was id Software’s Doom shareware disk, which contained the full first episode (Knee Deep in the Dead) of the game. Needless to say, it was mind blowing. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I usually played platforming, action, or adventure games that had a hero with lots of narrative and played in a 2D world. Doom had action, but not really any of the rest, it was something new to me, a first person shooter. No real story, just that I was a marine and all literal hell was breaking loose, leaving me to defeat the evil alone. All I had was a pistol to start with and menacing foes everywhere. I must have played through that entire episode hundreds of times before getting my hands on The Ultimate Doom, which included an additional three episodes. It became one of my favorite games ever and still packs the same punch today as it did back then.
Fast forward over a decade and a few sequels being released, like Doom II, Doom 64, Final Doom, and Doom 3. Also many ports of the original Doom and new spins on the title (Doom RPG and the like), as well as a release including all of the first three Doom titles with a new Lost Mission campaign for Doom 3. Right after id’s release of Rage, they announced that they had two teams already working on new Doom title. I was stoked at the thought of this, but sadly the wait would be much more than I anticipated (much like with Rage, which had a lengthy development process before being released). It went through many hurdles, including having a build that was altogether completely scrapped because it didn’t really have any heart and was shaping up to be a Call of Duty clone. I kept waiting patiently but I feared for the worst and I was so anxious for a new Doom.
I had read that this was the year it was coming. The problem was that the E3 footage released in 2015 and also the hands-on demo that I watched right before the game’s due date were missing something. Doom has always been a fast-paced and exciting game, but this seemed…safe, reserved, and kind of boring looking. Sure, it looked aesthetically cool, but just not enough like the originals. It had all of the elements like big guns, a chainsaw, and demons ripe for the slaughter, but it just seemed slow. It looked faster than Doom 3, (which was fun, but much slower and more about horror and dread than old school FPS action) but still just not quite what I was hoping for.
Then, it happened. A few days before the game was to arrive in stores I saw a video on YouTube showing off Doom on PC with the Vulkan API. This video changed my entire perception of the project up unto this point. The man playing it was on a mouse and keyboard setup and on a very high difficulty setting, the result was fast, frantic, brutal, and most importantly: it looked FUN. I realized that the videos I had seen before played things safe and were trying not to give too much away, but they missed out on showing Doom for what it was: balls-out brutality and mayhem. At that point, it became a day one purchase for me with little to no doubt.
If there is one staple of most new games it is that they usually have long cutscenes at the beginning explaining the plot and how everything got to be the way it is in the world you are dropped into, but Doom is different. It starts off with your character strapped to a table with demons around you that would love nothing more than to take a bite out of you, but your character (known only in the lore as the Doom Slayer) is not going down that easily. He bashes one of their heads in, breaks his chains, and grabs a pistol. That is where you take control, and the action begins. You soon find out that Samuel Hayden, the director of the Union Aerospace Corporation (a group that is draining energy from hell to try and save Earth), has unearthed you from a tomb in hell because he wants you to help him stop Olivia Pierce, a scientist who has made a deal with the demons that more than likely won’t end well for anyone. The interesting thing about the implementation of the story in this game is the fact that for the most part, you don’t have to pay any attention to it if you don’t want to. I can only think of a few small instances where it stopped me from the action to force me to know what is going on.
One core element of gameplay that helps keep the action fast and tough, but at the same time fair, are glory kills. When an enemy is low on health they start flashing blue and if you press the melee button while in close proximity you will do a quick finishing move that will either net you some health or ammo. Take too long, however, and they turn orange meaning that you have very little time before they recover from this stunned and vulnerable state. This really comes in handy when you are facing a lot of foes and have taken a good amount of damage or used a good bit of your ammo. Near the beginning of the game you are weaker and don’t have as high of an ammo count, nor do you have all that many weapons.
Speaking of which, let’s take a look at the weapons of Doom. I have always loved the loadout in Doom games and this one didn’t let me down in any way (except for maybe the pistol, which is dubbed the LFG). All of the fan favorites return: the pistol, shotgun, super shotgun, chaingun, chainsaw, rocket launcher, plasma rifle, your fists (when you grab a certain power-up) and of course, the BFG. Not only do you have those classic weapons to choose from, but also a few new flavors: the heavy machinegun (possibly brought in because of the machinegun being implemented in the Doom mod Brutal Doom), the gauss rifle (one of the best in the arsenal, hands down), decoys (which confuse the enemy into paying attention to a fake you rather than the real you while also attacking the enemies and doing a bit of damage), and grenades. They all have their strengths, and the fun part is finding what weapon to switch to whenever a certain enemy type shows up. It always reminds me of playing Mega Man, where each boss has a weakness to a certain weapon and to do the most damage you have to figure out which one.
While there are still corridors aplenty to explore, Doom takes the excellent approach of adding arena-like sections throughout the campaign where you summon hordes of enemies and cleanse them from the area so you can move on to the next section of the level due to security lockdowns being in place as a result of demon infestation. This makes for very intense fights where you never know what and how many demons will be thrown at you.
One thing that this series uses that is really old-school in an arcadey sort of way is powerups. Sometimes the developers were nice enough to place them in an arena that is going to be chocked-full o’baddies, just to give you a little bit of an advantage. Some of the powerups include Berserk, which returns from the old games and lets you get some ripping and tearing done with your fists, Quad Damage, which is a great powerup from the old Quake series that lets you deal 4 times the damage that you normally do, Invulnerability, which makes you impervious to damage, and Haste, which lets you move and shoot much faster. Just to name a few. They come in handy during some of the tougher battles and a lot of times you know you might have a long one ahead if you see one of these floating around somewhere.
Another addition to this title that the earlier games in the series didn’t have are upgrades. You have a lot of different choices that can make you virtual demon killing life so much easier. First, you have weapon upgrades called mods. You have two different mods for each weapon and they have varied uses from one another, making them useful and not just throwaway accessories. The shotgun, for instance, has one mod that allows you to shoot rockets from it and the other lets you shoot 3 shots in quick succession. Also switching between the mods on any weapon is just a simple button press away. You don’t have to reload in this game, so now you can use that reload button or key for something much more useful. Who’s got time to worry about reloading when there are enemies to obliterate? Not me. Second, you have upgrades that can be made to your suit. Some help with finding secrets easier with better radar, some help with you taking less damage from environmental hazards and explosions, some give you access to more equipment (such as grenades and decoys), some give you the options of grabbing onto ledges faster or switching weapons or weapon mods at an accelerated rate, and lastly you can increase the effectiveness of powerups. And finally, you have items semi-hidden around the levels that give you an increase in either health, armor, or ammo. Finding as many of these as you can, will help you on your journey through hell. Also hidden away are little bobbleheads that can be collected of cute little Doom Guys.
As for the enemies? I absolutely love the fresh new coats of paint put on the old enemies. Imps are now fast little bastards that can climb walls and chuck fireballs at you while also occasionally sneaking up behind you to hit you and then run away before you can turn around. Pinky Demons are now much more of a threat because they charge you from across the room, only take real damage from shots dealt from behind (or a well placed explosive round), and do massive amounts of damage to you (not to mention the Spectre versions late in the game that are invisible). Hell Knights are just as big of bullet sponges as they were in the past, but now they are far more mobile and dangerous. They can leap a great distance and also slam their fists into the ground, causing an area of effect-like attack. Also, they can just punch the hell out of you, so keeping your distance and dealing a lot of fast damage to them is key. Cacodemons are just the same as they were in previous Doom titles: slow and simple. Although now their fireball like attacks are much larger than they used to be and they do a fair amount of damage. Revenants aren’t quite as much of a pain as they were in the older titles, with less accurate rocket projectiles than before and going down after a few well-placed rocket shots of your own, The Mancubus is still a giant asshole with rocket launchers in each hand, but now there are two different types of them: one has rockets and flamethrowers for if you venture too close, and the other shoots green energy balls at you. They both take loads of damage before going down, so using big weapons like rockets and gauss shots are ideal. Speaking of having to use big weapons, the Baron of Hell is the much scarier version of the Hell Knight. They are huge and I usually saved my chainsaw and BFG shots for them above anything else. There are new enemies to the series too, but I am going to leave those as a surprise. Also, there are some boss fights, and even though they were (for the most part) in previous games, I won’t spoil what they are either. I had a lot of fun with those as well.
Lastly, the gameplay feels like it looks: heavy, solid, and brutal. When you fire off a shotgun you can almost feel it’s weight. It has punch. The sound design also accompanies that feeling with effects that fit perfectly. The music is crushing and some of the best I have heard in a game, thanks to Mick Gordon, who has also done excellent work on Wolfenstein: The New Order and the new Killer Instinct. His synth and 9-string guitar mayhem make your demon slaughter all the more satisfying.
All in all, this Doom was everything I wanted in a new title in the series. Not only with great and fun level design, but with all the secrets you can go back and look for, which help in giving your character more abilities, thus making things much easier later on. Doom also contains a perma-death difficulty setting that deletes your save if you die. Now that is brutal! Doom lives up to all of the hype, and is every bit as intense and exciting as the old ones. I can’t recommend it enough to veterans of the original games, or even new players who want to see what the fuss is about. It delivers on its promise of old-school glory, and I can’t wait to see where they go with it from here.