Originally published on Trevor Trove on July 11, 2016
TL; DR(eview) – Doom is an action-packed throwback to an older generation of first-person shooters, but it is also acutely aware that it is a first-person shooter in 2016. Leveling up and customization elements help expand on the tried-and-true run-and-gun formula of the original games.
While the original id Software founders like John Carmack and John Romero have moved on from the company that many consider to have founded and popularized the first-person shooter genre with Wolfenstein 3D and the original Doom, the team at the now Bethesda/Zenimax-owned studio have managed to channel the 90s feel into an undeniably modern game. Doom stays largely true to its roots, favoring health and shield pick-ups over the more modern approach of regenerating health and a cover system. The original game was all about tearing through enemies with your limited resources and this game follows suit, even going so far as to take a literal approach with its glory kill system.
Tearing Through Hell
From the games opening moments, and heavy metal-inspired soundtrack, Doom immediately punches you in the face with its tone. It recognizes that you’re probably not playing Doom for an in-depth “story” (though it surprises you with one if you’re the kind of person to read all of the collectible bits of lore throughout the campaign). You’re most likely here because you want to shoot and kills lots and lots of things. Your nameless/voiceless protagonist exists in this world for one reason: to fuck up the demons of Hell. Mankind’s arrogance and hubris has led to the Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) and its researchers to syphon energy from Hell via its research lab on Mars in order of solve the energy crisis on Earth. This, of course, leads to and inevitable breach with demons tearing through the facility killing pretty much everyone before you, the “Doom Slayer” are awoken to deal with the problem.
The game takes you through this facility, then to Hell, and back and forth a couple times over the course of its campaign. The game is at its best when its throwing you into one of its many monster arenas where you are outnumbered by wave after wave of an ever-increasing variety of demons. And whereas many games of the modern era prioritize strategy and tactical combat techniques like cover of flanking, Doom always encourages you to keep moving, keep firing, and when your enemies are staggered, go in for the death blow with a Glory Kill, a particularly brutal attack that rewards the player with additional health and ammo pick-ups in a game where (especially on harder difficulties) those items might be in short supply.
Customizing Your Doom Slayer
New to the series (at least as far as I can recall), are the RPG leveling mechanics. Throughout each level, you’ll earn combat points and discover Rune challenges and collectibles that can be used to level up your various weapons, health/armor/ammo capacity, and provide the Doom Slayer with additional perks (like temporary power-ups last longer, climb up ledges quicker, etc.). Leveling up and modifying the weapons encouraged me to change up my play style every now and then but didn’t require it. If I preferred my Assault Rifle shoot explosive rounds instead of giving me a scope, I didn’t have to invest my points in the scope.
If you happen to be a completionist, be warned, hunting down all of these collectibles and secrets within each level might ultimately hinder your enjoyment of the game. These secrets are almost always easy enough to find using the game’s map, but if you miss one near the beginning of a level, back-tracking through the now empty map (assuming you’ve already killed everything like I had) becomes more an exercise of OCD tedium than anything particularly fun.
Much like Machine Games recent take on Wolfenstein, Doom honors the original series by hiding secret areas of the original game in each level, which then unlock levels from the original title outside of the campaign.
This 2016 version of Doom succeeds in bringing the attitude and frenetic gameplay of the 1990s-era games into the modern shooter age. By embracing its style and legacy, Doom manages to stand out above the crowded first-person shooter market by providing players with something new, or rather something old but presented once again in a new way. As a result, it is one of the best entries in the genre I have played in years and would recommend it to any fan of first-person shooters, whether you know the history behind the series or not.