DOOM (2016) REVIEW

 

To say Doom is among the greatest dynasties the games industry has ever seen barely does it justice. It’s hard to find anyone with even a cursory familiarity with video games that doesn’t know the name Doom.  It’s been ported to almost every device with a screen,  from ATM’s to refrigerators, and still enjoys one of gaming’s most dedicated fan bases, almost 25 years after its original release. And now it’s back.

The last time we heard from the franchise was in 2004 with the release of Doom 3. It was generally considered a commercial success but it failed to resonate with long-time fans for one crucial reason; it just didn’t feel like Doom. Doom is, for the most part about fast, atmospheric action with a distinct arcade feel.  It’s dumb, ultra-violent and scary, but most importantly, it just feels fucking good.

The way your avatar, the Doomguy, slides through the game’s darkened, haunting corridors at breakneck speed, weaving in and out of hordes of demons amidst a constant stream of unrelenting gunfire creates an almost operatic ballet—a perfect harmony of atmosphere, speed and violence.

As a result of its enormous success and profound impact on gaming in general, it could be argued that no game has spawned a countless legion of imitators the way Doom has. And yet, despite that, no one, including the original developers, id Software, have been able to get it quite right since.

Until now.

In what came as a complete shock to pretty much everyone, (including myself) DOOM nails virtually everything that made the original games great. It does so by getting rid of all the extraneous nonsense, usually present in the name of “realism,” that has come to define what we consider the ‘modern shooter.’

The annoying weapon limit that forces you to choose between hanging on to that trusty shotgun or swapping it for a rocket launcher with an anemic ammo supply? Gone.  Reloading? Gone. Recharging health? Gone. Anything that may slow you down, and would be all over any other “modern shooter” (I’m looking at you, waist-high walls that somehow find a reason to be everywhere) is absent here.  And god, is it awesome.

The basic movement speed is magnitudes beyond what most games would consider a sprint. And you always get to move that fast. The entire game seems designed around the basic concept of always be moving and it works wonders. From the Glory Kill system that rewards getting right up in the faces of your demonic adversaries to the frantic, non-stop gunplay and sparingly placed health and ammo drops, DOOM flows with a symphonic grace that hasn’t been seen since the classic shooters of the ‘90s.

The game is marred only by a few missteps. For example, the continued attempt to insert any type of story in the Doom series baffles me. The very concept of a highly developed and nuanced narrative is antithetical to the basic nature of a game like DOOM.  The original still did it best in barely a paragraph. There’s a portal to hell and lots of demons, kill all of them before they kill you. What more do you need?

Additional details or exposition would serve only to break the spell that’s woven by the elegantly simple concept that is at the heart of Doom. And whether it’s absurd jumping puzzles, a try-hard plotline or repetitive and overdesigned levels, the few areas in which DOOM stumbles are when it betrays its true nature. Fortunately, these are minor grievances and don’t slow DOOM down at all. Throughout the game, the focus is always in the right place–move fast, kill everything, never stop shooting.  And it feels fucking good.

 

CONCEPT

Reinvigorate the franchise with a modern update that reasserts its relevance without sacrificing the core components that should define any DOOM game

GRAPHICS

By the end of the campaign, the lack of variation in the three main environment styles becomes slightly trying. However the overall graphical polish, detailed atmosphere and phenomenal enemy design ensure that you barely notice.

SOUND

Even though part of me was hoping we’d get something akin to Andrew Hulshult’s take on the original Doom soundtrack, Mick Gordon did an absolutely brilliant job and created a score that is both incredibly unique and fits DOOM perfectly

PLAYABILITY

This is a rare case where saying that a game plays like its 1993 is actually the highest level of reverence I can think of.

ENTERTAINMENT

DOOM is either your thing or it isn’t. Call of Duty die-hards or anyone opposed to fun or the concept of enjoyment may not understand what’s going on here at first.

REPLAY

DOOM’s entire philosophy and approach to game design mean that it’s naturally skewed towards an audience that favors a ‘pick up and play’ style experience .It’s extremely resistant to burn out and remains fun whether you play for five hours or ten minutes