Review: Doom (2016)

NOTE: For this review, I’ve tried out a new review style that attempts to be a bit more concise and easier to read.  I’m not sure if I will stick with it in the future, so there might be further experimentation.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

Doom Logo

Initial Release Date: May 13, 2016

Developer: id Software

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Platforms: PC, PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One

Introduction

Perhaps THE classic shooter – Doom – was rebooted across the major platforms and sought to get back to its roots.  While suffering in telling any kind of cohesive story, Doom manages to mix guns, gore, and vibe into a high tempo slaughterfest.

Doom Mancubus Gameplay

Narrative/Story

Doom has never emphasized the narrative behind the bloodbath, and that trend continues in this installment.  The general premise is that the Director of a large corporation has been siphoning energy from Hell through various futuristic devices and means.  In doing so, the avarice of the collection has awoken various demonic forces who need to be cleansed.  Thus, the player is resurrected as the doom slayer to thwart the demonic onslaught, starting on the planet Mars.

Doom Cover

Little explanation on character.  The game opens up with you simply guided by the mysterious voice beckoning you to start the slaughter and follow his orders.  The player does not have a name or any personality, nor any speaking parts.  The silent, mysterious protagonist is a trope of the series (and also of Half Life).

Little character development.  The other characters are also generally glossed over in depth or substance.  While Director Hayden hogs most all of the dialogue, one of the main villains is hardly interacted with until the end of the story.  There are few other real characters throughout the story, as most human personnel are simply discarded bodies, and the demons are portrayed as mindless killing machines (not necessarily a bad thing).

Doom Mancubus

Focus on the bloodbath.  Doom was never designed or marketed as an in-depth story that will lead to moments of epiphany.  The game is built as a straightforward gorefest, and, as discussed below, it hits that note hard.  In some ways, the complete lack of narrative is an artifact of Doom’s heritage, when games did not focus on story, and that trend both follows the series lineage, and enhances the message and point of the game: demon slaughter.

Gameplay

While the narrative is skeletal at best, Doom makes up for story in the gameplay.  In an era where first person shooters are everywhere, not to mention some of the colossal yearly releases in the genre, the Doom reboot needed to go back to its roots to stand out, and I think it’s done a great job of getting there.

Doom Floating Demons

Up-tempo chaos.  Shooters have increasingly emphasized the tactical or deliberate aspects of setting up attacks or ambushes.  Personally, I’m more of fan of the route Doom has taken: run-and-gun shooting, switching weapons on the fly while dodging the streams of bullets and demonic ichor.  The fast-paced gameplay helps Doom differentiate from the “realistic” shooter that has inundated the market, and perfectly fits the style and atmosphere of the game.

Oddly similar to Super Mario World (but with guns).  While this is a bit of a bold comparison, in many ways the Doom reboot mirrors the basic gameplay structure of the iconic SNES title: the player starts at the beginning of the level, progressing by killing the pre-placed enemies, all the while seeking to find all the secret nooks and crannies before completing the level.  While scouring for secrets, you are picking up items to strengthen or continue your assault, along with key cards and different access devices.  Just as you check every pipe, block, and cloud in the run to the end of a Super Mario World level, the Doom Slayer oddly emulates the same (but with guns instead of jumps of course).

Healthy dose of weapons and goals keeps the bloodbath going.  Throughout the run, the player is acquiring different weapons and different ammo, all of which are held simultaneously (no dropping weapons) and can be swapped instantly (via a wheel).  Further, each level has secondary objectives mostly incentivizing killing sprees, which then fuel the different currencies to upgrade the player.

Doom Entrance to Hell

Upgrades galore.  The upgrades can take the form of suit upgrades, weapon upgrades, or even equipment upgrades (such as grenades).  You can choose to have more health, armor, or ammo for certain weapons as well.  Different currencies do different things, so you might find suit upgrades through exploring, but gain weapon upgrades through the secondary objectives.

Difficulty scaled; possibly easier on PC.  I’m used to playing most FPS games via keyboard and mouse, so going to the DualShock controller felt a little more difficult.  Regardless, the game has different tiers of difficulty, with a no respawn mode to try and beat the game in one go.  All skill levels are accommodated.

Doom Portal

Doom brings together all the high tempo action pieces into a fun gameplay experience. Big weapon inventories with incentives for causing as much damage as possible is a refreshing break from the more plodding tactical shooters.  Any hesitation to “slow it down” to prop up an already weak story would hurt the momentum Doom builds through gameplay.

Additional Factors

While the sound and graphics fit into the style of Doom, they were slightly off the mark.

Sound fits…when you can hear it.  With the uptempo gameplay, the industrial beats and metal/rock as well as electronic tracks fit the mood.  The heavy tunes help complement the destructive revelry of the Doom Slayer.  However, I did experience some issues with sound balance.  Often, the game sound effects were louder than the music, or the music was difficult to hear.  This might have been a hardware issue on my side, but it took away from mood a bit.

Doom Enemy

Graphics a product of the setting.  Again, my PC experience informs my thoughts here:  the game looked fine playing on a regular PS4, but I couldn’t help but think that PC on ultra would really bring out the gore.  That was definitely the strong point in the presentation, as the visceral explosions of gore are key to the theme of Doom.  The environments are nothing special and borderline boring — typical industrial warehouse, along with some dusty Mars parts (this is however, the setting Doom has typically inhabited).

Doom Gore Explosion

Replayability good for short game.  The main campaign does not take long to play through on normal (roughly 12 hours).  However, with the increased difficulty levels and bevy of secrets, the game was built to be played through multiple times.

Conclusion

The Doom reboot has done a great job in bringing the classic series back to relevance.  The up-tempo gorefest manages to keep up the pace and differentiate itself from modern shooters, while also embracing its roots.  Doom is a great change of pace for players looking to sit back and spray demon guts all over Mars.

Doom Floating Demons

The Good

+Fast paced shooter keeps up the action

+Straight forward and knows exactly what it wants to do

+Satisfying campaign and gunplay chuck full of secrets to find

The Bad

-Little to no story for those that need background

-Sound balance issues while playing on console

 

Total Score: 7.0/10

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11 thoughts on “Review: Doom (2016)

  1. Re: the format, I gotta say, I’m not a great fan of all those subject headings. I would think it would flow better without those, even if you left the rest of the content the same.

    Made it crazy easy to skim, though, so if that’s what you’re going for, good on you there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the feedback! I had seen the style elsewhere and felt it did make it easier to kind of find the parts that caught your eye vs traditional review walk through style. I was actually debating the headings as well – seem like an artifact of the old style. Either way, I think I’ll be tweaking it in the future!

      Like

  2. That comparison to Super Mario World actually works! I had a blast exploring each level. I would usually play for about an hour a night (until the intensity would skyrocket my heartrate too high, only half kidding here) but rarely play more than a level until I found all the secrets. Very rewarding game!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Doom was a pretty fun reboot. It carried over a lot from the original game though it still wasn’t quite as open as the old games. Nevertheless I enjoyed it a lot. Ultra settings were pretty amazing, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yea, I think I might have had a better visual experience on PC (I had also just completed Witcher 3 on PC on ultra so that’s a tough benchmark when going back to console). Between Doom and the new Wolfenstein, I think both series are back to relevance.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. If it weren’t for Inside, this would have been my game of 2016. There is a surprising amount of back story in the game, but it’s mostly in amongst the text logs you can read through which is a pity. The best thing in it for me is the feeling of momentum and rhythm, if you have the layout of an area figured out you can have one hell of a flow as you move from place to place, enemy to enemy, killing them and grabbing the items as you go. I loved that feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really enjoyed the game for exactly the “flow” you can build as you mentioned. No other game (recently) has hit that note for me. I’m looking forward to more Doom goodness given this games success.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review! Loved this game and pretty much align with your thoughts entirely. Cool take on the Mario World comparison – I never considered that, and it’s a concise way of describing the fun and dynamic level design.

    Liked by 1 person

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