DOOM Review: This Reboot Is Heaven

Get your ass to Mars.

Doom. It's rare that a single word can define an entire genre, but not every game is Doom. The 1993 original looks quaint by today’s standards, a first person shooter with no real story besides “you’re a space marine killing demons straight from hell”, but it's impossible to understate the original's influence on the entire video game industry. 

While there had certainly been first person shooters before - id Software’s own Wolfenstein 3D among them - no one had ever seen anything like Doom upon its release. A blazingly fast first-person shooter with massive, full-textured levels that was absolutely soaked in satanic imagery, it was violent and addictive and played by nearly everyone (in 1995 it was reportedly installed on more computers than Windows 95) The dream team combo of John Carmack’s brilliant engine, John Romero’s secret-laden level design, and Adrian Carmack’s iconic demon designs combined with some Slayer-influenced metal riffs to create a true classic. This was the game that created multiplayer games as we know them, and was also one of the first to allow and encourage you to make modifications, fostering one of the first (and undoubtedly the largest) mod communities in existence and kicking off a trend that continues today.

So yeah, Doom was big, and that's perhaps why it’s taken so long for them to bring it back properly. id Software was in a very tight spot - if they stayed faithful to Doom by releasing an old-school throwback they’d only appeal to an increasingly small niche of players, but if they went full modern shooter with it they would have seen incredible fan outcry over its lack of authenticity. Behind the scenes it seems to have been as hard developing it as you’d imagine, with a planned sequel (Doom 4) first announced back in 2008 before its production was entirely scrapped three years ago in favor of a complete series reboot. 

Now we have come full circle back to Doom, and let’s put things simply - they nailed it. Like 2014’s Wolfenstein before it, Doom somehow manages to pay homage to its namesake while updating it for the modern generation perfectly, at least for the campaign. The multiplayer is another matter, but we’ll get to that... 

As you’d expect from the name, Doom pays homage to the original and does it wonderfully, eschewing the dark and foreboding scares of Doom 3 for the straight-up demon splattering madness of the originals. There’s much more of a story this time but your protagonist is still mute and unseen. You’re on Mars and scientists, being scientists, are meddling with things they don’t understand, this time trying to utilize Hell itself as a sustainable source of energy. Guess what happens. 

You're tasked with closing the portals to Hell, sometimes from within, in order to save humanity. Fortunately your Doomguy gets his hands on the "Praetor suit", an upgradable exoskeleton that gives him lots of power and allows him to leap into the air. Doom actually pulls off a Dying Light and makes it really easy to grab onto platforms and pull yourself up, making for a much more vertical experience than you’d expect from the series.

The levels are once again massive and multi-tiered, full of secret areas and pick-ups to unearth. Enemies come in waves, warping in and swarming you by the dozens, and all your favorite enemies return, from Cacodemons to Pinkies. The very level design itself feels like Doom, with a few obvious references to moments from the first game that will leave fans giggle with joy (one I would love to spoil, but it’s an incredible throwback I wouldn’t want to ruin). Your health and armor don’t automatically replenish, leaving you on the hunt for health packs and armor shards during pitched battles. A cover system? Well, there’s no such thing.

But the game has been updated for modern sensibilities, including new mechanics that encourage you to utilize each and every weapon in your arsenal. Each new gun can be upgraded by finding weapon mods, which are carried by little flying robots. (In true Doom fashion, you grab onto the mod’s box with one hand and free it from the robot by punching it in its stupid face with the other.) There are two for nearly each weapon - the combat shotgun, for example, can be outfitted with a mod that fires off three shots in quick succession or another that lobs explosive rounds. Once you’ve unlocked a mod you can put in upgrade points (earned from killing demons) to further improve it, and once you’ve earned all the upgrades you’ll unlock a new ability for the mod. The shotgun’s explosive rounds will further explode into a cluster bomb when it’s fully mastered.

This ensures that you never stick with one weapon for very long, keeping you changing up your tactics mid-battle as new enemy types appear and your ammo exhausts. That combines with new finishing moves (called Glory Kills, because of course) that you can unleash after whittling a demon’s health down to nearly nothing. These brutal finishers not only look cool but they award you with health and ammo pickups, encouraging you to get up close to some very dangerous beasts in order to replenish your stock. The same works for the Chainsaw, which allows for an instant kill of an enemy and a ridiculous ammo drop, but only comes with a limited amount of gas.You'll want to save it for when you really need it... and the same goes for the ridiculously overpowered BFG, which of course returns to splatter everything in front of you. 

In a hilarious reversal of most new FPSes, multiplayer is divisive in all the ways the campaign isn’t. It just doesn’t feel like Doom is the common complaint, and that’s fair enough. Players have to choose loadouts that restrict them to a mere two weapons and one piece of equipment (a grenade, or personal teleporter, or what have you), which makes the game feel much more like a modern shooter, fast and jumpy and frantic. There’s also the fact that some modes spawn demon runes into a map, allowing players to transform into one of four unlockable demons. They’re much like the monsters in Evolve - nigh unstoppable when faced one on one - and grabbing one of these runes is as good a guarantee of a kill streak as a player can get. Personally, I love the dynamic it brings, as it encourages smart team play in order to minimize casualties on your side, and really it’s just damn fun to play a completely overpowered beast for a few seconds.

Multiplayer offers a good number of modes, from your usual Team Deathmatch and Control modes, but a highlight is Warpath, which sees teams trying to control an ever-moving area that glides through the entire map. It makes for a really fun back and forth match that has you changing up your strategies constantly to adapt to the changing terrain. It’s definitely the one that will get the most play, especially after you’ve played modes like Freeze Tag once and quickly forgotten them, and once you start playing you’ll keep unlocking new stuff level after level, just as you’d expect. 

But besides the campaign and multiplayer there’s a third extensive mode in Doom - SnapMap. Think Mario Maker with a lot more shotguns. This allows you to create your own maps with an incredibly powerful editor that really does let you simply snap together pieces. As you edit the map, adding new chunks and whatever items, weapons, enemies, and even events you desire, you can jump into a match instantly to see how it plays. Yes, this even works on consoles.

After creating a map you can upload it to the rest of the community, who will play through your creations and rate them, with the most popular getting highlighted to ensure you always have some good ones to check out. There are some really impressive creations up already, and once you fool around with the editor a bit you’ll unlock new items to use for it. 

So that’s three extensive modes for the price of one, although for some reason the game always starts up in campaign mode and requires an massive loading screen in order to switch to another. Annoying when you just want to play some multiplayer.

(A sidenote - another worrying thing besides loading times for PS4 users is the sound the system’s fan will make. It was an issue with the beta that worryingly hasn’t been fixed for the final game, and while I haven’t heard any reports of systems overheating one can only hope this isn’t another Dead Rising situation, where a game is just trying to do too much for the system to handle.)

As someone who appreciated Doom 3 for its slower, badly lit feeling, it still feels great to go back to the more colorful and just straight-up fun old ways. We have grown complacent with first person shooters who ignore the campaign experience for multiplayer, so it’s wonderful to play through such a satisfying game. Welcome back, Hell.

Doom was reviewed from a PS4 code provided by the publisher. The campaign will take you around 12-15 hours to complete.