It’s finally here.
After all the talk about the beta, and “Will it be an authentic Doom experience?”, the time has come to find out.
Is this Doom, as we remember it? Well… yes, and no. Read on, my friend.
The FPS genre has come a long way since the times of Doom and Doom 2. It has even moved on a long way from Doom 3. Regenerating health is the order of the day, and hand-holding our dear players through the game mechanics has become second nature. And power-ups. I don’t mean Megasphere’s or Quake-style Quad Damage – we’re talking all manner of weapon and skill customizations. Although not all weapon mods are born equal; pimping the basic gun still feels a bit like a pea-shooter; more so when you’ve added explosive rounds to the shotgun. But first:
I mention regenerating health for an important reason; Doom does not have it. However, it does allow you to collect small health boosts when you kill an enemy using a Glory Kill. A Glory Kill is a one-hit melee death (usually after you’ve weakened the enemy first), which results in a very short and brutal enemy execution. A broken neck here, a face-stomp there. But by chaining Glory Kills together, it’s “as if” if you had regenerating health.
But rather than one that rewards you for getting out of the action, and avoiding damage for a moment – it instead rewards you for charging headlong at an Imp screaming “I’m going to rip off your face, you filthy Hell spawn”.
I can’t overplay how important a distinction that is. I admit, I started playing the game by sniping enemies at a distance – feeling very “modern FPS”. Ha, you haven’t locked on to me over here, due to AI short-comings, I am the greatest ever. But I’m missing out on a ton of face-stomping goodies!
So Doom forced me to relearn my modern FPS technique. It made me re-evaluate how I’m playing, and develop a better strategy, more suited to this game. And that involves getting down and dirty with the Hell spawn.
Personally, I think that’s a brilliant, subtle little touch. It marries modern FPS lessons with old school, to create something better. I know people were concerned that Glory Kills would result in too much breaking up of the action, but the animations are incredibly fluid, and for the bulk of enemies, momentary. A quick flash of head-stomping, and it’s back to the action. On some of the bigger enemies, yes – some of the animations are a little more convoluted, but that’s perhaps to be expected – this is your chance to tea bag a Hell Knight. You’re filled with the glory of the kill, so it feels fitting to take a second longer. All in all, it feels like a system that adds to the game, and never feels like it’s “in the way”. And if you choose to ignore it entirely, that’s also an option.
Each level feels like a hand-rolled cigar; to be savoured and enjoyed. The map design is sublime, giving that classic Doom feeling of claustrophobia, while simultaneously giving you a lot of area to explore. The map is tightly held together – it feels like planning went into every nook and cranny. And the jump / climb adds to the exploration, as you bound around the map, looking for secret areas to discover.
The jumping is perhaps one minor area of frustration; slightly lacking the “being able to jump anywhere” of old school classics, I did attempt a jump or two that looked plausible, only to find myself not ‘pulling up’ on the scenery and falling to a fiery death. The jumping offers a nod to Far Cry 3 & 4 by providing visual clues as to the ledges that are “pull-up-able”. A very minor nitpick.
I do plan to give the multi-player mode a thorough going-over, and it feels distinct enough to warrant its own review. Once I’ve completed Doom, I’ll be diving in – although I will say, from my experience with the beta, I was delighted with how it handled. It felt like the emphasis was in the right place; speed. It’s a proper celebration of how old FPS should be played. Fast as Hell, with guns blazing all the time. But yes – enough of that for now. I will revisit when I’ve given it a proper going over; so please consider this review purely for its campaign reflections.
How does the engine handle? Like a dream. This is a sports car. She purrs along, never letting up for a moment. No noticeable dips in frame-rate, even when the action is getting heavy. Being attacked on all sides by fireball-lobbing imps, Hell Knights galore – and it positively zips along. The game has cleverly broken action up, into a number of smaller trigger-based battles, with the occasional Possessed roaming around the level. In doing so, it allows for the tension to build. Screams of demons are heard, bouncing off the environment. Electronic doors open and seem to offer up a mechanical squeal of their own – on one occasion, I admit to having jumped at the sound, expecting a demon attack.
But once an attack kicks off, the music kicks into overdrive. And you’re bouncing around the environment, climbing, dodging, and engaging; wiping out the Satanic infection as God Himself intended.
It feels righteous.
Pros: Old school fused with the best bits of modern shooters.
- The game encourages you to get down and dirty, diving into the fight.
- The graphics are beautiful; dark, demonic, bloody. All you could hope for.
- The sounds are great, and the music helps to crank you up.
Cons: Not a lot, really.
- Jumping mechanics could be tweaked.
Both literally and figuratively. The gore flies as heads explode, as I bounce like a Satanic bunny all over the map, at break-neck speeds within a beautiful engine.
Is this old school? No. In some ways, it’s better – adding the lessons of the last 20 years to the dynamic. Will you ever experience the sensation of firing up original Doom for the first time, again? Probably not, sadly. But get over that, and just enjoy this game for what it is.
Damn. Good. Fun.