Saturday, September 24, 2022

First Play Review: DOOM [2016]

Despite the success of DOOM 3 in 2004 it would take Id Software twelve years to release the next installment along with some incredible new technology. DOOM released in 2016 is more a sequel to the games released prior to DOOM 3 as that game's perpetually dark survival horror didn't really gel with the Doom concept. As a consequence DOOM is also a reboot as such and has lost its numbering but retains it's primary identity of balls-to-the-wall demon-killing FPS shenanigans where you put an end to the latest demonic invasion from Hell. Only this time you learn to be quick about it!

Doom has always been light on story. Any plot was even once relegated to a few pages of the manual that came with the original games of the 90's and DOOM 3 had very little by way of narrative in contrast to its peer FPSs of the early 2000s (it was released in the same year as Half-Life 2). DOOM today however has an 11.5 hour (on average) campaign which, while not a narrative cutscene filled epic by any sense, still fleshes out the story of the Doom Slayer (or Doom Marine) as your character still only gets a moniker as opposed to a name but you get the feeling you have more in terms of a story, a past and a goal. You play the Slayer that was essentially there since DOOM (1993) and you piece together a story that you were captured by the demons and imprisoned in hell after the events depicted in DOOM 64, only to be excavated by those working in a new Martian hellgate project facility under the control of scientific-genius(?) Dr. Samuel Hayden. Of course at least until he naturally loses the control and releases you to clean up the mess. So that's your job and just like you did in the 90's, you go through all of Mars and Hell itself to do it (again).

Much like it's predecessors, DOOM follows the principle of basically shooting everything that moves and doing it while not stopping. Stopping, even slowing and any form of careful strategy is death here, one must keep moving and killing rooms of enemies before you are allowed to progress to the next one. One of the ways employed to keep you moving is "glory kills", context-sensitive melee attacks that guarantee to both kill your target and claim rewards like health, armour and ammunition that 'spew' from it as it's beheaded or explodes in gore (no I don't know what the in-game explanation for why that happens). It's a genuinely fun mechanic and encourages you to shoot and finish an enemy off with a melee attack which powers you up for the next target and so on until you clear the room.

The game brings back not only the Doom Slayer but also has the elements that make it Doom, your weapons, enemies and systems. Your weapons are all here, shotgun, plasma rifle, minigun, chainsaw and naturally the BFG. This time you get alternate fire modes and a choice of two modifications that are upgraded as you progress expending the base weapons with zoom functions and specialised explosive ammo etc. The mobs are what make DOOM Doom in my opinion and they all return here, Zombie soldiers, Imps, Barons of Hell, Cacodemons, Mancubui and Revenants to name but a small few. Everything is basically a upgraded design from mobs as seen in DOOM II, sure they have some variants with different attacks and strategies but they were all just too iconic not to use again.

Even with welcome additions like RPG-lite enhancements to customise your weapons and armour, the additions of grenades and jumping jet boots DOOM is still the essence of the experience it was in the 1990's. You sometimes have to grab a blue/red/yellow skull-key to unlock a door or reveal secret areas (some which are pieces of levels from DOOM (1993)) with collectables or ammunition and finishing a level gives you screen to tell you what goodies you found but also what you missed if you want to try it again for full achievements.

As good as the visuals are, the sound design and score are even more outstanding. Mick Gordon's score was a multi award-winning highlight and primarily consisted of digitally synthesized progressive metal processed with analog effects. The post-industrial, dark synth-rock influenced score contains references to earlier Doom entries by Bobby Prince. Audio designer Chad Mossholder's work on the mobs, environments and weapons were punctuated by a disembodied demon narrator voiced by prolific video game and TV voice-actor and impressionist Piotr Michael.

Final Verdict: Despite being a visceral experience with heat-pounding fights where you are always outnumbered, DOOM is still comfort-gaming as it evokes much of the spirit of FPS gaming from the 1990's when times, and games, were simpler. The only real difference is that you're doing it with modern era graphics and effects. Id did the right thing here, they didn't try to do something vastly different with the franchise, just take the originals and update it to reflect the technological evolution of the 20+ years since it first appeared. The overwhelming success of of DOOM and that it spawned a sequel, DOOM Eternal four years later means it's exactly what people wanted.

Technicals: 18.5 hours playtime through Steam using a Nvidia 3070Ti @ 3440x1440 on Windows 11 partly with HDR enabled. No crashes or bugs evident.

DOOM is available from Steam for €19.99 but is occasionally found on sale for around €9.99 or less either on Steam itself or using Fanatical, Humble Bundle or Green Man Gaming. Review copy purchased from Steam for € August 2018.

Series Timeline:
DOOM [1993]
DOOM II: Hell on Earth [1994]
- Final DOOM [1996]
- DOOM 64 [1997]
DOOM 3 [2004]
- DOOM 3: Resurrection of Evil [2005]
DOOM [2016]
DOOM Eternal [2020]
- DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods I [2020]
- DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods II [2021]

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