Dated Review - DOOM 2016

Dated Review - DOOM 2016

I had some personal anecdotes lined up about how much I like first person shooters. And how I wanted to play DOOM Eternal, but this month (and the next month) are super crowded for releases. The truth is more mundane - I had writer's block and couldn't be bothered.

I still have writer's block, so I just opted to have the pitcher "lob one over the plate" as it were.

So yes - DOOM '16. In the same week as its sequel. Awkward timing? You bet! Do I care? Well no-one reads this trash anyway, so no.

There isn't terribly much to say about DOOM. It's a gloriously violent, two-fists to the sky tribute to the primordial soup of first person shooters. Gone are modernisms like reloading, limited weapon slots, sprinting, regenerating health and many other things I haven't mentioned here. That's the miracle of DOOM, though - it means different things to different people. They feel different emotions when they play and draw different parallels.

Make no mistake, DOOM (and its developer, ID, who get all the credit here, because Bethesda are awful) is a clever video game - and far from a tribute. The game leverages nostalgia, certainly. However, DOOM in its design and execution is so much more than a tribute. It's the next logical step forward for the shooter genre. It joins an exclusive club with games like Wolfenstein: The New Order in breathing new life into a corner of a market once believed to be totally explored and exhausted. It helps that us spacemen of year X can see that DOOM sold gangbusters. In doing so it proved to an audience (and more importantly, game developers and publishers) numbed to proper shooters by the glut of "modern" shooters that there is room for tradition. Plenty of room at that. Perhaps more room now than ever.

There's lots to like about DOOM from a technical perspective. It's well optimised, meaning it runs well on modern hardware. I had a solid 144Hz framerate lock. It's got nice visuals, variety in scenery and locales and plenty of gory detail. This includes extremely detailed viscera generated from killing demons. If you wish for it to feel closer to the original games, you can make the gun models smaller and place them in the middle of the screen. From the outset, the game is a technical workhorse. But we're only scratching the surface.

Then there's the actual game. From the beginning, DOOM hits you with an injection of movement and adrenaline - you rip and tear from the surly bonds of earth, find a weapon and start blasting. Fast-paced cathartic violence coupled with a light sprinkling of weapon upgrades and limited ammunition mechanics which force you to use all the different colours of the weapon rainbow. Except for the starting pistol, each weapon is fun to use in its own unique way and all of them feel satisfying. Monsters fall apart in a variety of gory and pleasing ways. Limbs fly off, bodies separate, heads explode - you really feel the impact and the intensity of the gunplay.

Once the arena design starts to expand and get creative, that's when the game reaches its zenith. There are excellent uses of space and verticality to create hectic, run-and-gun movement focussed combat encounters. Of course, not every arena is a winner (Google ‘Pinky Room Lazarus Labs’ and you'll know what I mean). But there's no outright stinkers and there are plenty of arenas that are absolute gems - the Cargo Area in the Lazarus Labs is one of my favourite examples of clever design, ducking in and out of empty containers, climbing up floors and conveniently placed barricades, whilst happily blasting away imps with the super shotgun. A perfect example (in a near perfect game) of the savage joy of movement and slaughter evoked by DOOM.

Of course, no game is complete without a story. DOOM has one and that's about all I know. There are options to read and learn and there are audio-logs and transcripts about what went wrong on the Mars Base. But it's there as a sideshow - the emphasis is on the mechanics and the gameplay. It does enough to flavour the world, combined with the other elements. The story elements are well written and clearly indicate to the viewer that man dabbled in things he might ought not to. It doesn't interfere in the flow of the game, with the exception of halfway through the game where the momentum comes to a screeching halt in Samuel Hayden's office. But there's just enough intrigue that you understand your place in the world - as an unstoppable murder machine.

Overall I'm keeping this one short because DOOM '16 is a fantastic game - and needs very little pomp and ceremony. The Doom Slayer would probably have murdered me halfway through this scene already. It is also already known to be an excellent game and has most likely been played by everyone reading this publication.

I consider DOOM to be part of the 'One-Two Punch' of ID software. Starting with Wolfenstein the New Order - which showed that At the time, it was the next step forward for a genre that was considered to have faded into the background. It is a demonstration of the potential of first person shooters and the possibilities they offer.

So bring on DOOM Eternal - when I get a copy.

Catch you next time,
Vulkan

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Rowan Naveau

About Rowan Naveau

I'm Rowan (Vulkan) - and this is my blog. Here you'll find a stream of consciousness about video games, wargaming and just about everything else.