All Doom, No Gloom
Written by Joshua David Anderson
Making video games is hard. Bringing a brand new idea to the market can be a gamble on whether it will resonate or not. Even when you are making a game in a well-known series, it can be difficult to recapture the feeling or momentum of the original. When a new Doom title was announced in 2008, expectations were high as there are very few games as influential and as important to gaming as Doom. As the pioneer of the first-person shooter, Doom has been the inspiration for much of modern gaming, so the question was “Would this new Doom make the cut?” When development was stated to have been rebooted in 2011, things looked bad for the new title in this storied franchise. Now, five years later, the new Doom has been released. Does it live up to it’s legacy?
Running on the new id Tech 6 engine, Doom looks and runs fantastic. The graphics are truly impressive, even on home consoles. High resolution graphics allow the demons of Hell to look better than they ever have. Enemies animate fluidly, particle effects are spectacular, and weapons feel and look both heavy and powerful. In terms of environments, you get a little variety, from grimy facilities on Mars to barren hellscapes. This is a Doom title, so don’t expect lush forests or beautiful sunsets. Instead, you get to see Hell in all it’s glory, and it looks great. Similarly, the Mars buildings all look appropriately lived in, and you even get to revisit some areas after things have changed environmentally. The game also runs very well, keeping up the framerate so that the action always feel smooth.
And that is important, because the action is front and center. Let’s just get this out of the way: Doom may be the single best example of a game modernizing its mechanics while staying true to the spirit of the original. Everything about Doom feels great and plays like you would expect a Doom game would, without feeling outdated. Some of this is because Doom stays true to the core mechanics of the original. There is no run button, because your default movement speed is faster than most other games. There is no reloading of weapons, no weapon limit, and no aiming down iron sights, with a few exceptions. There is no recharging health, with all healing done by picking up health packs and armor drops. All of this is delightfully anachronistic, but Doom keeps itself fresh with some new ideas. For one, there is no cover system, so the game encourages you to be moving at all times. Enemy projectiles move slower than in most other games, so you can dodge and juke past energy blasts and rockets being hurled at you. The other smart addition are the glory kills. After you shoot a demon enough times, you stagger them and they will start to flash briefly. If you hit them with your melee attack at this time, you will perform a scripted kill that not only looks brutal, but also causes the enemy to drop health and ammo. This is primarily how you can heal and get more munitions, and the effect on gameplay is huge. Instead of playing the game cautiously, Doom incentivizes aggressive play. If you are going to die or run out of ammo, get in there, get up close, get moving. This is the perfect example of a game adding something fresh and new to a formula while making sure it fits the feel of the original.
Aside from a stellar campaign, Doom also has multiplayer and a new Snapmap feature. The multiplayer is perhaps the biggest letdown in the game. While perfectly serviceable, it simply doesn’t feel as innovative and fluid as the single player. You get your compliment of standard modes and maps, and it runs fine. Along with multiplayer, Doom features Snapmap, a creation tool that allows players to make their own maps and scenarios for single player, co-op, or multiplayer. Maps are made using an intuitive editor, and they can be uploaded and voted on by other players.
Despite the pedigree, it is still shocking how good Doom is. For a game with such a troubled development, the fact that not only does this Doom feel as great as the original and also happens to feel modern is a feat that every developer should be paying attention to. Even with a ho-hum multiplayer mode, the campaign is so good all the way through and suggests that Doom may be the gold standard for how to bring a classic franchise forward into the modern era.
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