By Tommy Robbins. This is LOAD FILE, where absurd cyber-metalcore tunes and laughably powerful weapons come together to make our new favorite action game of 2016. This week, Tommy reviews ‘DOOM’ from id Software for the PlayStation 4.
DOOM has been undeniably influential on the action shooter genre. It changed an entire generation of games for the better. But when id and Bethesda announced a new telling of the classic, a sense of dread was inevitable for some. (There’s a sort of, “Well, good luck with that…” mentality when it comes to revamping classics.) After the release of the multiplayer beta, that dread seemed justified. A lack of review copies being sent out prior to release signified an uncertainty from the creators regarding the game. DOOM 2016 seemed… well… doomed. All of this assumption and speculation could not have proven to be more ill-formed.
DEMONIC PRESENCE AT UNSAFE LEVELS
Narratively, DOOM is about as deep as a puddle in a Martian desert, although the intro does blasts a few implications your way. Samuel Hayden, the cyborg in charge of a research facility on Mars, and Olivia Pierce, one of his lead researchers, have discovered the key to unlocking Hell. Their research promised scientific advances unlike any seen before, so they did a real dumb thing… they opened that gate to Hell. And what do you know? Shit got bad.
This ‘action first/story second’ intro establishes one thing clearly: the DOOM marine, now held as somewhat of a god, is still a relentless badass fit for any Hollywood action flick. He gives no fucks about the mildly justifiable actions that brought forth this destruction. His only concern is the eradication of scummy hellspawn. Everything is backdrop, set up to give you a feeling of place, but mostly it’s there for Mr. DOOM to ignore, haphazardly punching computer terminals as he metaphorically flips the bird to the establishment. The bombastic presentation creates a mission in the player’s mind: KILL DEMONS, SCREW THE FILLER.
Que the late title card and gritty cyber-metal tunes. DOOM is here.
LOCKDOWN IN EFFECT
Mechanically, DOOM is a challenge of dexterity and reaction speed. There are no long corridors full of waist-high cover points. Sitting still equates to death. Always be moving. Always be killing. Entering that Martian or hellish landscape with an ego driven decision to play on a high difficulty will lead to death after death for most — the long respawn loads killing all momentum. Reluctantly lowering the difficulty can be a disparaging but wise decision that transforms DOOM from a punishing and basic Unreal Tournament-style shooter into something that transcends all previously set expectations of an action game in 2016.
That doesn’t mean DOOM should only be enjoyed on the lowest difficulty, but with the difficulty appropriately set to the player’s skill level, the games excessive pace and impossible battle arenas become a white knuckle thrill ride that creates an environment that can turn the most quiet and timid players into shouting lunatics. What could potentially feel like impossible odds and unusable features evolves into manageable and valuable action gameplay mechanics that feel exquisitely balanced. It all comes down to playing the difficulty that suits you.
Now, let’s talk about tight, dynamic gameplay for a second. Ammo scarcity is the #1 issue in the game. DOOM (1993) had no reloading, and so is the case in DOOM (2016). Flying through ammo without stopping to reload, and in turn finding oneself without, is a common occurrence. And the supplied ammo caches are all too quickly depleted. Managing one’s supplies is left to ingenuity: Enter the chainsaw. The fan favorite superfluous gore machine now serves perhaps the most crucial role in the game. Every bone sawing kill turns demons into a sort of ammunition piñata, making ammo crises a thing of the past and quickly turning it into one of the most enjoyable and thrilling aspects of the game.
Aside from this phenomenal answer to ammunition management, there are some other mechanical choices that add to the power struggle. Berserker and Damage Boost power ups hidden in each arena are a god-send when the time comes to lay waste to the encroaching demonic hoards. Whether punching or one-shotting, the explosions of blood and hell spawn guts give a moment of respite as your character blatantly overpowers all that surround him. And Rune Challenges found around the maps offer the chance to complete arcade-style objectives that supply new runes, each rune offering different power ups. All of these features and mechanics come together and make an absurdly intense, but keenly manageable game that plays like a tug-o-war for control.
DEMONIC PRESENCE ELIMINATED. LOCKDOWN DISENGAGED.
Back around 2013, id Software scrapped its previous work and rebooted development of DOOM. This was said to be done because the game didn’t feel like ‘DOOM’, a term that has transcended its status as a game title and become more of a tonal and stylistic reference point. In 2016, that decision and the product of their labors have since paid off. The fast-paced punishment machine that is DOOM (2016) holds true to that style, to the tone and feel that we expect from a game called DOOM, but without relying simply on nostalgia. With a soundtrack of absurd cyber-pseudo-metal backing a shooter with intensity unfit for the faint of heart, DOOM is thrilling in a way most things put out today just aren’t.
If DOOM (1993) was like your first sweaty, nervous shag in the back seat of your parents’ crappy sedan — then DOOM (2016) is like the first time indulging in an orgy of flesh. It’s dirty, maybe even a little scary, but when you’re done… you won’t stop thinking about going back for more.
Developed by id Software.
Published by Bethesda Softworks.
Directed by Marty Stratton and Hugo Martin.
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One.
9.5 out of 10