This game is rated M for mature audiences over the age of 17 by the Electronic Software Ratings Board due to violence and strong language.
DOOM is a ballet of death.
That’s the only way I can describe the heart-pounding, 12-hour singleplayer campaign in this latest entry to the long-running shooter franchise. Id Software grabs the reins of the genre their ancestors, John Carmack and John Romero, popularized 25 years ago with the release of the original game. While the multiplayer suite currently available with the game does a disservice to DOOM’s elevated position as the forebear of competitive fragging, the single-player experience is at once a satisfying and bone-crushing walk down memory lane and a completely new way to think about progression in a genre begging for revisions to core mechanics.
The story in DOOM serves its purpose – pitting your character (the seemingly immortal Doomguy) against waves of increasingly difficult enemies. Praised and reviled for its violence in the early 1990s, the latest DOOM game embraces the franchise’s complicated moral mantle. Before the game is through, you’ll curbstomb demons’ heads to mush, chainsaw their torsos as sinews snap in full high-definition, and shove horns and other non-organic items in orifices where they’re not intended. If you’re squeamish, this one ain’t for you.
Instead of giving you AI teammates in an all-out war scenario, the favored trope of Halo, Call of Duty and other titans of the genre, or retreading the somewhat ill-received survival horror mechanics of Doom 3, DOOM takes the training wheels off immediately and pits you and you alone against the horde. Your goal is to kill in the most effective way possible, and DOOM provides you with some new ways to do that.
Weakening enemies causes them to flash, enabling what are called glory kills – contextual animations that will leave your stomach retching as you snatch up the health and ammo pickups that spew like a fountain from your slain foes. There’s no reloading – that square button you rely on to empty a clip in modern shooters instead pulls out a chainsaw that insta-gibs, as long as you have enough fuel to tackle the class of enemy towering over you. Non-linear levels are littered with collectibles and pick-ups that augment your abilities, eventually opening up aerial gunplay and teasing out different strategies, depending on the ammo you have in your arsenal.
Hellscapes on the Martian surface are varied enough that most encounters feel like playgrounds for your wanton displays of gratuitous violence. When the original Doom was released, there were few games like it on the market. Now that DOOM is competing with not only first-person opponents, but also hyper-violent third person shooters such as Gears of War that are clearly inspired by Carmack and Romero’s original megahit, the violence here – while excessive – seems more a mechanic built in to what makes the game so technically satisfying, rather than pushing the envelope for controversy’s sake.
The multiplayer suite offers a progression system that unlocks new weapons and abilities, as well as cosmetic changes to your armor and emotes for the now obligatory victor celebratory screen at the end of each match. Loadouts are a huge misstep, however. What made the original Doom (and games like Halo: Combat Evolved and Goldeneye) so successful was the rush for power weapons that created their own sense of tension in the maps. DOOM’s maps seem built for these kind of choke points, as is evidenced by the game’s shining mode, Warpath. A single capture point moves around the map on a fixed track, which is visible to all players. Holding the capture point for the longest amount of time results in a win.
DOOM tries to fix this weapon balancing issue by spawning “demon runes” at various intervals, but they just don’t do enough to turn the tide of a match. You can play for about three hours and unlock all the weapons you’ll need to succeed at DOOM, and the matches will become rather boring at that point, unless you’re into unlocking all the decorative elements available in the game.
SnapMap is id’s answer to map and level creation, and while it offers some fun diversions (including a masterful attempt at recreating a MOBA in DOOM’s engine), there’s not enough here to keep casual fans entertained for more than a few hours. Budding game developers may have fun with the logic scripts built into the mode, however.
DOOM gleefully kicks to the curb conventions of modern shooters and seeks something that plays as a hybrid of old, new and what could be on the horizon. It takes the violent gimmicks of a game like Bulletstorm, which still played as a conventional shooter, and builds them into a game that seeks more from its active and relentless pursuit of more violence. While some gamers may be squeamish by the blood and gore on screen, those that are able to stomach (and emotionally handle) the carnage coming through the console will experience a shooter unlike anything else on the market today.
Verdict: 4.5 / 5 stars