It wasn't until Wolfenstein: The New Order that we noticed how homogeneous first-person shooters have become over the past decade. The genre's certainly made strides forward, but from a big picture perspective, we've spent the past decade or so taking cover and performing pot-shots to reach our objectives. However, MachineGames' reboot plotted a partial return to the speedy, run-'n'-gun gameplay of the 90s.
On the other hand, DOOM fully embraces its old-school roots by shifting all emphasis toward perpetual movement guided by a hastily offensive mindset, not concerning you with caution in the slightest. It forces you to unlearn what you've learned about first-person shooters, and while that may be jarring for some, it's a welcome jolt the genre needs to break out of its stubborn complacency.
DOOM encourages rapid reactions for movement and gunplay. In removing limited weapon inventories and manual sprinting, there's a weapon wheel and running is default. With no reloading or regenerating health, instantaneous vaulting, and little to no aiming, this game's about all-out action, punishing those who stay still for but a few seconds. It's a mentality that may overwhelm you at first – especially when you consider all the weapons at your disposal and how they have secondary functions with attachments you can switch out for more options on the fly. As you master these skills, the speed at which you'll execute your bullet storms upon demon hordes will become more personally rewarding.
This is aided by the taxing AI, which consists of diverse devils ranging from the nimble, fire-throwing Imp to the cannon-equipped bullet sponge Mancubus. Many old adversaries from the classic DOOM titles have returned with more varied abilities and navigational proclivities, and as you fight them across Mars and Hell, you'll see that they complement each others' strengths and weaknesses well, ensuring that you'll never take one of them for granted. They can move and react as quickly as you can, and with plenty of open arenas filled with verticality, they can take advantage of the level design just like you, too.
A claustrophobic room with three levels, an expansive foundry with damaged walkways above lava, an uneven valley of rock with turning pathways – these are but a few kinds of arenas you'll battle upon, which are all perfectly laid out for situational awareness and spontaneous diversions in direction. You'll occasionally get caught on something or not properly vault, but traversal is nearly seamless, so you won't feel uncomfortable briefly walking backwards or turning every which way as you scour for ammo, health, and useful power-ups that can shortly amp up your speed or power.
Glory Kills, short yet satisfactory kill animations, don't interrupt momentum either since they last two seconds on average. They flawlessly blend with your actions because they change depending on what part of a demon's body you're looking at upon activating one. There are dozens to discover that feel like they were always meant to be a part of DOOM due to their gratifying, instant payoffs. Even the weapon wheel doesn't interfere with pacing since time is slowed when you activate it and resumes without a hitch upon selecting a firearm, so those worried about uneven gameplay can rest easy. It's anything but that.
Speaking of weapons, they're a joy to gather up as you find ways to interchange between them all. None of them lose their appeal due to their balanced attributes and unique attachments, like the Combat Shotgun. You can upgrade its Charged and Triple Shot modifiers to suit close or medium range fire, and the same applies to switching between the Tactical Scope and Micro Missiles with your Heavy Assault Rifle for long range duty or heavy damage. Multitasking is par for the course of being in the fast lane with the Doom Marine, and we wouldn't have it any other way with this old school romp that smartly blends past and present shooter sensibilities.
There are secrets hidden throughout maps that can not only upgrade weapons, but also armour and passive abilities. Finding dead Elite Guards will grant you tokens toward improving your Praetor suit to locate secrets more easily or switch between attachments faster. We were actually expecting more depth here since we thought that this would act as a broad skill tree that truly tailored to playing styles, but at least Argent Cells somewhat make up for this by boosting health, armour, or ammo capacity in your preferred order. And that's not mentioning how you can collect hard-to-find Doomguy figures and rack up kills in combat for points to upgrade weapon attachments' capabilities. Things like these bolster exploration, and with massive, semi-linear levels, it allows for short respites worth taking to absorb the world around you.
But towards the campaign's tail end we became so attuned to the gameplay that it started to feel repetitious. Some would rightly argue that the one-dimensional focus of DOOM to prioritise endless demon slaughter is essential, since many shooters already diversify with vehicular levels, sniper missions, etc. However, we would've liked to have seen it do its own spins on a couple sequences you'd find in today's shooters. It definitely could've benefited from some traditional objectives like a get-away or defending mission to spice things up. The game admirably attempts to diversify dozens of demon cage matches, and a few, filler boss fights somewhat break them up during the last few hours, but they were overstaying their welcome near the end.
The music is exceptionally well done by Mick Gordon, who we believe captures the tone of DOOM more appropriately than the original games, even though he may not surpass some of their classic tracks. There's metal with electric guitars at extremely low octaves and insane percussion, but the dubstep-like sounds are the real kickers, which add electronic screeches, ambient bass, and distortion wired with the harmonies of the normal instrumentation. Combined together, they thematically match the unholy union of flesh and metal defining the opposition and get you hyped for each fight.
We bow to id Software for getting this to run at 1080p and 60 frames-per-second without compromising much. While some of the texture work and environmental details look a tad off in places, the game's still visually formidable with dynamic lighting, acute animation, and stunning art direction. The low amount of settings will give you déjà vu sometimes, but the developer takes you to varying locations across the cold, industrial UAC base on Mars and numerous layers of Hell to avoid this from happening too often. These environments are busy with grotesque objects and sound architectural design with sci-fi/fantasy splendour. The weapons' and demons' designs also speak for how a tough balance between grounded realism and tongue-in-cheek creativity is struck.
That reminds us of the story, which is a perfect indicator of that last statement. You'd think demons invading Mars would be ridiculous, especially since a lone marine fights them all off while going to Hell and back. The strange thing is that, much like Wolfenstein: The New Order, the writers accept the general premise and build an ironically serious yet self-aware narrative around it.
The moment-to-moment story doesn't get in the way of the gameplay, which your character is humourously unconcerned with as well, but we were fascinated to find out more about some of the characters, especially the retelling of the DOOM Marine's origins. Thankfully, Data Logs throughout the levels indulge info surrounding the UAC's history, the ancient mysteries of Hell, and what's up with characters like Samuel Hayden and Olivia Pierce. These accounts, even entries explaining how weapons function, are cleverly written, making the universe seem plausible in itself despite how laughable that may seem.
The substantial campaign lasts for about 15 hours, which pleasantly surprised us since we kept expecting the game to end. It alone is worth being cast into this lake of fire, but we also think you'll find some enjoyment in the multiplayer. While it's not revolutionary since it lacks essential modes and features, there's still a lot of fun to be had with the vertically-inclined maps, good selection of weapons, decent customization, and close-quarters, quick gameplay that somewhat resembles Quake. It's a well-intentioned endeavor to provide an arcade multiplayer shooter with fast-paced, mindless mayhem, even if it's no contender to top-tier contemporaries.
We can't say much about the SnapMap mode, but we did fiddle with it and were impressed with the intuitiveness of constructing maps and logic pathways for enemy and object behaviour. It's also the place to find custom survival maps and co-op challenges, and while we wish there had been a separate mode with specially designed, unique maps, it's a cluttered yet neat mode to mess around in with friends or by yourself.
DOOM may become repetitious near the end and doesn't take needed risks with mission variety, but it boasts some of the finest shooting mechanics and thoughtful levels we've seen in a first-person shooter in years, pushing it to the very fringes of excellence. The campaign's a head-banging, heavy metal hoot with a surprisingly good backstory, striking visuals, and two decent multiplayer-minded modes to back it up. We'd dare say this could be the Dark Souls of its genre, gripping you with its nonconformity while unleashing its own kind of glorious Hell upon you. However, where this illustration falls apart is how you can raise Hell in return, going on the power trip of a lifetime to rip and tear through legions of demons.