So, my first review of something in ages, I should do it more often really. My focus this time is on the cross platform Doom ‘re-boot’ as played on the Xbox One. I have to admit to getting rather giddy with excitement when I saw a bus-stop and then a bus itself emblazoned with the familiar Doom text logo. Promising to be a straight up FPS in keeping with the original Doom that was to launch a thousand first person shooters and capture the imaginations of millions. I can’t really begin this review without first touching upon the history behind it all. Put simply, the original PC based Doom is and probably will always be the closest I’ve ever come to gaming heaven – stunning graphics (for then), scary as feck monsters, awesome weapons and an adrenaline rush from the first level to the last. It was to spawn an inevitable sequel (Doom II, imaginatively) and an absolute mountain of custom made maps and mods from the public domain. Back in them days the game didn’t allow you to jump, nor did the maps allow for true three dimensional levels of play, you could just move sideways to dodge incoming fire with the most ludicrous head bobbing movement that if I watched someone playing the game made me feel quite bilious!
Enter the next generation take on the Doom world, and with it vastly improved graphics, depth of play arenas and… you can now jump and in a beautiful homage to Quake 2, intentional or otherwise, you can also double jump – when you get the right boots on of course. I was a big fan of Doom 3 when it made its next gen appearance, but there was far too much emphasis on the creepy factor for it to be truly classed as Doom – it felt for me more in keeping with the fear and dread that Dead Space induces than the immediate in-your-face carnage that Doom should be serving you up. Indeed, this is where I can cunningly begin my comments on Doom 2016 – referred to simply as Doom from here-on-in. We catch up with Doom guy, eponymous marine hero of the day, tethered to an operating table of some description, blood and gore all around him. Somehow he gets free and rather than be tempted into a tense and stealthy approach, Bethesda just launch you straight into the fray. From here, it doesn’t really let up… ever!
I’m not even going to insult you all with a little of the back story, it really is superfluous – you are on your own, there is no help, there are lots and lots and LOTS of demons in 36 different guises, there are lots of bad-ass weaponry and there is but one objective – survive for the sake of mankind etc..blah..blah, and all set on a combination of Mars and Hell itself. Yeah! My kind of game, just disconnect that brain, and get shoulder and knee deep in the gibs! To help you on your way there are frequent health, armour and ammo strewn throughout the levels, along with old favourites such as mega health and armour that are usually in hard to reach places. Again this is where the game pays beautiful homage to the original, with lots of secret locations to discover some of which will get you access to enhancements for your body suit and helmet, while others will take into a classic Doom graphical world which looks awesome when viewed from within the next-gen visuals. There are augmentations to be found as well that will permanently increase your health, ammo and armour capacity along with weapon enhancements. Perhaps the most enjoyable of all though are the Rune mini-games that will give you certain bonus capabilities, with up to three (eventually) selectable, such as the ability to move in the air while jumping or widening the automatic collection radius of dropped items from enemies. The mini games as you imagine range in difficulty, from the stupidly easy to the ridiculously hard – air killing Barons anyone FFS?!
There has been criticism of the pace of the game, ie you have all the weaponry and discover all the monsters far too quickly, but for me it worked at exactly the right pace. For example, the first time you meet a Hell Knight, apart from soiling your breeches, you will also find him a tough cookie to take down. As the game wears on and your guy gets more capabilities and capacity for stuff, so these battles become easier – but never for once do they get any less chaotic! This is what I loved about the original, and this has transferred beautifully to the modern adaptation. No matter how kick ass your Marine has become, there is always some demon or a marauding group of them that can take you down. One of the bestiary that regularly scared the bejesus out of me in the original were the Pinkies and their genetic-experiment-gone-wrong-almost-invisible-cousins the Spectres. Both feature in the game and both have caused a quick pause of the game on a few occasions to recover one’s heartbeat. Cacodemons are every bit as annoying as the original too, and frequently you’ll be patting yourself on the back on a job well done getting the room mostly cleared and forgetting about your airborne assailants! Perhaps the most striking of all though is how fabulously rendered the bestiary look – pick up secret Doom guys and you’ll get the extra ability to view some of these animations in isolation – the work that has gone into the detail and movement is staggeringly good. A particular favourite is the Revenant, who I loved in the original, with their individually rotatable shoulder mounted rocket launchers. Some of the enemies are exactly the same in style as their original counterparts, whereas others have been given a bit of an upgrade – and there are couple of entirely new foe to play with too. The game runs flawlessly on the Xbox One, with absolutely no slow down even in the most busy of battles – I can see how they have achieved this with distance drawing being reduced noticeably, but it doesn’t spoil the look in any way and I’d far rather play something smooth and slick than a juddering death fest!
Weaponry as you’d expect has been well thought out too, and most if not all from the original make an appearance. The chainsaw is no longer unlimited as it was in the original, you have to collect fuel to re-use, but they have taken a leaf out of Quake’s book and given you an unlimited pistol/blaster instead. As with all the weapons the pistol can be upgraded, and ends up being quite the useful gun when all others are out of ammunition. All of them have secondary firing modes and are upgradeable via pick-ups from fallen foes or by felling certain waves of monsters. A particular favourite of mine is the fully upgraded Chain Gun , oh my “!$!”$!” God!
The game certainly warrants its 18 certificate, pulling absolutely no punches in terms of its gruesomeness – check out some of the ways the different type of demons toy with your deceased body for example! Geez! It’s fast, it’s frenetic and at times seemingly really REALLY unfair, but again the game level design pulls a master stroke as most of the time a seemingly impossible section can be made more simple by finding one of the really quite well hidden power ups! In my experience you normally discover these as your falling to your death! Power ups are also extremely good fun, with the original Berserk mode making an appearance along with Quake inspired quad damage and haste power ups. The question is when to use them, and this usually requires learning the spawn sequence of the enemies to get the best out of the limited time you have with them.
I’ve not even touched upon the awesome sounds that accompany you throughout the game, setting you on edge when you hear the familiar sound of a Cacodemon, or just the odd whispering that you witness from time to time. All of this backed by a kick ass heavy guitar score that kicks in at appropriate battle moments. Everything has been so intricately thought through and executed with aplomb. There are times where you wish the scenery was a little more interactive and destructible, but that’s just the bull in a china shop in me I guess – ultimately it’s not that kind of game.
A lot has also been said of the multiplayer and it being seemingly bolted on for the sake of it, but in fairness I have yet to sample it and to be honest I doubt I ever will. Doom for me is a single player experience, if I want multiplayer carnage games like Gears of War lend themselves far better to this than an FPS in my humble opinion. But what an experience this is; it’s the games simplicity that makes it shine, with old school gameplay oozing from every pore – it’s been a while since a game has been this maddeningly addictive! You still have the levels with the cunningly placed coloured key (or skull) in a nice open room with just enough ammo and health dotted around to suggest that taking said key will trigger something of a riot. Even this simple mechanic has been given the next-gen lick of paint, prizing said keys off fallen victims and even retrieving one from underneath a bloody and battered demon! Little things like this take the focus away from ‘get-key-find-door’ mundaneness.
To carry on extoling the virtues of this game would probably introduce a fair degree of spoilers and I’ve probably already given a couple away here, but have tried to stick to stuff that you will have likely have read about elsewhere anyway. If not, I apologise. There is so much cool stuff going on in this game that you just simply need to fire it up and play it to experience for yourself. If you want a story to drive you through the game, don’t buy it. If you want something that will challenge you with complex puzzles and strategies, don’t buy it. If however, you want to jump in, lay waste to anything that moves and ask questions later with as much kick ass weaponry, blood and guts as you can handle, and not have to do any thinking whatsoever – you owe it to yourself to have this game in your collection. My only hope is that it is not the last of its kind.