DOOM wastes no time setting out its stall. There a pentagram, a pistol, and one of Satan's soldiers. Pew, pew – off we go. Extremely late review copies mean that we've only just managed to get our hands on id Software's key card collecting sim – but does this unashamedly old-school FPS make a strong first impression? We're about three or so hours in, and we're cautiously optimistic.
Perhaps the main appeal here is that games like this simply don't exist in a post-Modern Warfare world. Wolfenstein: The New Order likely scratched the arcade shooter itch for many of you, but you'd probably have to go back to Resistance 3 to find another big-budget weapon wheel flavoured foray from the same tree. That game released all the way back in 2011 – doesn't time fly?
Of course, that also means that you need to have an appreciation for what you're getting into here. We've only had time to try the campaign so far, but it's… Surprisingly like DOOM. Levels very quickly become labyrinth-esque – the third stage, a giant forge filled with furnaces and molten liquid, finds you performing a bit of platforming as you search for key cards and mow down mutants – while the combat is just about as frantic as you may expect.
The game does play a little like the PlayStation 3 generation didn't happen in some regards, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The temptation to automatically "aim down the sights" means that you'll organically discover your armoury's alt-fire options, which can be swapped out as you collect different weapon mods and upgraded using MacGuffin points that you unlock for completing challenges and fulfilling various kill quotas.
The guns "feel" really good: they're loud, loaded with kickback, and they deliver devastating damage to Satan's servants. The obligatory shotgun – which you unlock almost immediately – can be augmented with a kind of mini-grenade launcher, or alternatively it can be modified to fire three shells in quick succession. Unloading either of these into the face of a demon is incredibly satisfying – not least because the brutality of the game means that in most cases they splinter into tiny pieces.
The movement is similarly aggressive, with your bog-standard walk speed set to "Usain Bolt" by default. It means that you can get around the levels very quickly, and it's certainly entertaining leaping from platform to platform, pumping monsters full of red hot lead. There's no regenerating health here, so you need to "earn" vitality by finishing off foes using close-quarters "glory kills" – think of these like mini-fatalities – which could have been obnoxious, but seem short enough to not get repetitive.
A similar system is implemented for the chainsaw, which nets you ammo each time that you elect to perform impromptu surgery on one of the devil's offspring. It's a nice system that the game's got going on, and it forces you to explore all of your options in combat in order to maximise your chances of success. When you factor in the weapon wheel as well, there's plenty to experiment with, which should hopefully keep things feeling fresh.
But there's a big question mark hanging over that final point. Already we're beginning to feel like too much of DOOM relies on locking you in a room and forcing you to clear it of enemies, and while we appreciate that this is part of the appeal, we are hopeful that it's going to have a little… Something else to offer. Different types of arena definitely inject a little variety into the action – sometimes you're battling it out in crowded corridors, other times wide open spaces – but even with the sprawling arsenal and upgrades, there's always the danger that this kind of experience could overstay its welcome.
It's not like this release will be able to hang its space marine helmet on its story, after all. All we really understand so far is that there's a robot man, a Tilda Swinton look-a-like, and a portal to hell. It's not important, and at least the game recognises that, keeping any fiction to a minimum – and in some cases simply allowing you to walk away. The protagonist doesn't even care, opting to shut up many characters before they even stop talking.
And again, that's absolutely fine – on the back of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, it's actually something of a palette cleanser. But, as alluded above, DOOM's true test will be whether it can maintain an element of surprise over the course of a full campaign. It certainly looks nice and it sounds like a headache in the making, but will it have any staying power? Look out for our review in a week or so to find out.
Has DOOM got your blood pumping, or do you wish that this game would go to Hell? Throw some horns in the comments section below.