Doom Review – Flashback to the Future?

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Doom
id Software/Bethesda

Many months ago, when I’d originally heard about id Software (the developer) and Bethesda (the publisher) teaming up in order to produce the next Doom game, I was ecstatic. For me, the news brought back warm and fuzzy memories from my youth of laying waste to (or being wasted by) to entire legions of horrific demons, in the original Doom. Yeah, that game was hard as hell (pun intended) but never quite reached the insane Dark Souls levels of ridiculous, rage-quit-worthy loftiness.

In addition to being one of the first arena shooters I’d ever played (the other of course was Unreal Tournament), there was something very satisfying about clearing out whole hordes of hellspawn in the various rooms and hallways of Doom’s Phobos moon military complexes and research stations. And who could ever forget when they first felt that they were actually getting somewhere when they were teleported to Deimos, only to later find out that that moon was hovering above Hell itself?

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The original game’s sequels were solid enough, but just didn’t quite capture that same magic that it had. So does the fourth game in the series (originally titled Doom 4 by the way), simply called Doom, live up to all of the pre-hype, pomp and ceremony, that has had gamers salivating at their mouths with anticipation? Well, let’s find out…

First of all, I must state that this new Doom game apparently is the first installment in a total reboot of the series. I didn’t see any allusions to the previous Doom sequels. Indeed, the story is pretty simple. You step into the grimy combat boots of a “Doom Marine” – a special kind of super soldier who was rumored to have almost destroyed Hell itself in a previous era. He basically wakes up after being imprisoned within a research facility on Mars, which just so happens to be in the midst of a full-blown demonic invasion. His mission is to find the source of the raids, and in the process, kill as many of the hellspawns as he can along the way.

Through obtaining clues, you learn that Samuel Hayden, the head honcho of the facility whose consciousness has been transferred over into an AI entity, had been trying to harness Hell’s resources in order to help solve an major energy crisis on Earth. Later (spoiler alert) you discover a dastardly plot hatched by head researcher Olivia Pierce (whoa – a female villain for once???) who is secretly also the leader of a cult of demon-worshippers whom wish to unleash the ruinous forces of Hell on Earth—literally.

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Our determined Doom Marine is later transported to Hell (just as in the original) where he must face the hellacious Cyberdemon and then somehow make it back to Mars using clues left behind by the intrepid Chief Hayden. So what does this boil down to as far as in gameplay terms? Moving fast, and shooting and killing lots of monsters of course!

I must back up a little here and mention that in order to get as close to an unfiltered and objective opinion of Doom as possible, I purposefully didn’t watch any pre-release footage of this new Doom game—I didn’t even dare a peek at any of the trailers. Suffice it to say that after playing Doom for several hours (okay, more like eight or nine) a familiar pattern began to emerge. The developers definitely took the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach with the fourth Doom.

Everything that made the original so addictive—the gratuitous (and at the time very controversial) gore, the seemingly endless waves of demons which became progressively more difficult to kill, the new power-ups/rewards you earned after clearing various areas of hostiles, the cool new weapons that you got to wield—it’s all here. The latest Doom doesn’t stray far from the beaten path. Some may deride this as the safe route, where the developers eschewed any opportunity to introduce any new or revolutionary gameplay elements. Others will embrace this seeming retread of old ideas and features, settling into them just as they would a cozy, well-worn Lay-Z-Boy chair.

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Personally, I felt that there were both factors at play here—nothing jaw-dropping nor innovative, but fun enough for what it basically is: A love letter to the Arena Shooters of old, but with trussed-up graphics and even faster gameplay. In reductive terms, Doom primarily has you moving from room to room, clearing them of enemies (in brutal fashion), with light platforming and puzzle elements thrown in to complement its rather equally shallow narrative.

Yes, Doom offers new and creative ways of dispatching enemies, some clever ways to utilize the weapons that you come across, and some truly frenetic gameplay, but little else. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it does engender some of the feelings of the original. I say “some,” because just as with any sequel or reboot, they will never quite stack up to the original—there was just nothing that compares to how revolutionary 1993’s Doom was—but as mentioned, this new version is a worthy tribute to it.

The new Doom’s graphics have, of course, been bumped up enormously, and are highly-detailed in every sense. The weapons, characters and monsters, and environments all look gorgeous. You certainly know you’re playing a triple-A title, which means that hopefully you own a mighty gaming PC that can handle its rather stringent hardware requirements. The game is also aurally sound, with horrific screeches, ominous wailing, and blood-curdling death-cries that lend a grisly weight to the rather fluffy and outlandish proceedings.

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Unfortunately, however fun and frivolous the single-player component is, the multi-player portion is pretty lackluster. Whoever thought it was a good idea to have players spawn into each game with full weapon loadouts was sorely mistaken. Classic Arena Shooters were all about everyone starting with nothing, and then having to quickly learn each map as well as where all of the weapons, armor, and item pick-ups were.

In this way, those who had done their homework had a tactical advantage over their adversaries, and any progression that took place was solely restricted by what each particular map featured, or did not feature. Also, there just isn’t anything unusual or unique about Doom’s multiplayer, you just run around and blast away at each other, rinse, and then repeat.

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In all, the new Doom reboot is a fun throwback to a place and time that Is special in many a gamer’s heart. Its classic blend of (sometimes hilarious) over-the-top violence, carnage, and bloodletting, silly yet fun story, straight ahead gameplay mechanics, and addictive progression elements, that will keep folks up long into the night. However, just as with a shiny new sports car, once the pretty paintjob begins to fade there might not be enough under its hood to keep today’s low attention-spanned gamers sated for long. Perhaps this can be mitigated through patches and DLC content but we’ll just have to wait and see.

SCORE: 78%

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