DOOM (2016) - How I learned to stop worrying and love the BFG!     - Spoiler Free (lol)
Disclaimer: The game acquisition was wholly funded by the reviewer, this review is based on the MS Windows version of the game, played wholly using the Vulcan API version on an Intel platform and AMD graphics.
Interesting numbers: The game was played for a total of approximately 22h in the Ultra Violence difficulty setting and the default campaign was completed. There was a brief stint in the multiplayer but I will not pronounce about it as it was manifestly too short of an experience to be able to fully evaluate the mode.
Oh man, where to start. After the (for some, myself not included) lacklustre DOOM3 interpretation of the franchise I really thought the franchise was dead. Then the development of “Doom4” was canned and hope started to dwindle. That is until I saw a video named “WTF is DOOM”. My heart was filled with both apprehension and joy. The game appeared to have captured the essence of the early instalments of the franchise peppered with some modern concepts and a great look. “I have to get this” I thought. I did and after squeezing some 20h out of a busy schedule, it was worth it. Let’s start with setting and story. WARNING, if you are looking for a deep and convoluted plot á la Kojima, please, save your hard earned money and look elsewhere, (waves hand) this is not the franchise you are looking for. The story is spoon fed through in-engine dialogue cut scenes delivered to us in first person perspective. It is at best serviceable although the fact we are given any type of plot driven motivation, albeit rudimentary, to slaughter the spawn of hell, is a positive one. There is some degree of pseudoscientific jargon thrown around too but it is quite acceptable and does not detract from the experience of the whole sci fi/horror elements, if anything, it further reinforces the whole B-class film backdrop that usually goes hand in hand with this kind of game. In sum, the story is there but it is not something that you will carry with you for the rest of your life, it’s a minute detail in the grand scheme of things and it does not detract from the overall experience of the game, it never feels intrusive and there are some extra details about the universe peppered around the world in the form of collectibles.
From a technical standpoint the game performs quite well. The Vulcan version is smooth as velvet and there are hardly any noticeable slowdowns throughout the whole gameplay. There are of course some blemishes in the execution, at points there are some low res textures that detract from the overall feel of polish (figure 1). Apart from these details the heart of the game lies in non-stop action, and in these moments the last thing on your mind will be “oh mah gawd, this lava texture (picture below) is so 2000s, blerghhh”. I experienced zero crashes during the whole playthrough. If I had any serious complaint it would be the extensive loading times but these can be mitigated by installing the game on an SSD. Overall the played version of the game was pristine. I will not pronounce myself on the state of the game at release as the version played was patched multiple times. As played, it is a sound, stable, and technically competent piece of entertainment.
As for gameplay, in a nutshell, it’s cocaine in game form! Right at the beginning of the game you are given a handgun that makes you wish you had the gravity gun from Half Life in order to actually be able to damage anything. This is a short lived frustration and soon you are presented with a treat, your shiny new shotgun! From here on it’s a thrill ride. The core of the gameplay is action, and aggressive gunplay is rewarded mechanically by increasing the survivability of the player. A more thoughtful and static approach, common in ANNO 2017 shooters, is very punishing in doom due to the high damage that even the weakest enemies inflict. Furthermore, constant movement is rewarded with fewer enemy hits which constantly props the player to be dynamic while approaching combat. There is also the inclusion of, at a first glance, dubious quicktime event kills. These can be triggered when an enemy is stunned after a couple of shots. On a lighter note I must write never mind the quicktime event naysayers! Gutting a demon in first person perspective never feels old and it is refreshing to see dated gameplay concepts successfully adapted to new uses! These mostly feel well placed and always reward you with health which is a very good motivator to take risks. Overall this makes the gameplay more hectic and rewarding. At the beginning, the enemy selection is limited and there are only zombies and a foot soldier enemy type, the imp (that will be a constant nuisance throughout the game). As the game progresses, new enemy types are introduced to the tune of more than two handfuls excluding bosses. Thanks to all of this, combat is always kept fresh and engaging. Towards the later phases, the player is presented with some very interesting boss battles, these bosses are much more than bullet hoses and are tuned to each present the player with a unique challenge. These will help mitigate any fatigue that may arise after the gameplay hours needed to reach the boss encounters, especially when playing in higher difficulty levels.
DOOM represents a return to form from ID. The game is hectic, challenging with a tremendous amount of kinetic fun whilst still remaining accessible and rewarding. I wholeheartedly recommend this game to any fan of shooters that are looking for "no strings attached fun" that can be had without committing to long play sessions. Before paying the price of admission to this rollercoaster of a game though, make sure you are not sensitive to violence and don’t require a meaningful story in your games to keep you satisfied, as you will be disappointed. For everyone else, step right in, the blood and guts festival is about to start!
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