DOOM (2016) – Review

JD3nF9wRip And Tear

DOOM
Reviewed on PC (also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One)
Developed by Id Software and Certain Affinity / Published by Bethesda Studios
For the purposes of making this review easier to read I have decided to split the gameplay segments into three separate sections for the three different modes DOOM can be played in; Singleplayer, Multiplayer and SnapMap.

I first played the original DOOM from 1993 when I was four years old, far too young for it but so intrigued by the angry Cacodemon icon I spotted on our brand new Windows 95 computer that I had to try it. Ever since then, I’ve had Id Software’s classic series in my blood and have never let it go. From the original two games, to the strange spinoffs to the polarizing but stellar DOOM 3, I’ve loved almost everything put out in the way of games within this franchise. And now, in 2016, we get the first flagship release in twelve years. But does it do the DOOM brand justice, or is it an icon of sin upon Id Software’s very clean record?


DOOM (2016) - Part 6 - Andrea Plays.Still114Campaign

I’ve not made a secret that leading up to the release of DOOM I had practically no faith in the singleplayer delivering any satisfying content. The reason why being Id Software and Bethesda’s continuous neglect to show off their own campaign and subpar presentations of what little they had decided to show. With that said, I’m not one to not give a product the benefit of the doubt and speak for itself, and I’m glad I did. Because DOOM‘s singleplayer campaign is stellar.

The story takes place on Mars in the 22nd century, much like DOOM 3 did. The nameless Doom Marine wakes up in the middle of a massive demon invasion inside an underground facility belonging to the Union Aerospace Corporation and begins fighting his way to the surface to find out what has happened. We soon learn that the UAC were harvesting resources from the demon’s dimension, aka. hell, and were conducting weapon experiments on demons in hope of “improving mankind”, then a scientist named Olivia Pierce screwed them all over by giving hell the upper hand.

While there are obvious homages and parallels to previous DOOM games, the narrative differs quite a bit from them. But the biggest departure from the earlier titles would be the tone everything is presented in. There’s a level of tongue-in-cheek self-awareness about what’s going on, sometimes balancing on the edge of falling into self-parody. Demonology is seen as an incredibly casual concept on the UAC base by pretty much anyone, even the computer systems can rank demon invasion levels between safe and critical. It’s a tone that I personally wasn’t too fond of at the start, but it works for what the game is going for.

The Doom Marine himself is also a little different from previous iterations. While he’s always been a silent white man without a name (and still is) he’s changed a lot in visual design and behaviour. Gone are the almost skimpy-dressed sleeveless Doom Marines of the past, instead we have a fully armored suit that look less like the classic DOOM armor and more like a bootleg Master Chief costume. Not that it matters much, since you won’t be seeing much of it. The Doom Marine is also very angry this time around. While he’s always been violent, the monologues in the original DOOM and the cutscenes in DOOM 3 presented him as a bit more calm and collected, where as our new Doom Marine will punch anyone and everything mid-sentence.

DOOM (2016) - Part 6 - Andrea Plays.Still112But enough about narrative and characterization, what matters the most in the end is the gameplay, right? DOOM is a game that’s not shy of throwing you straight into the action, with the intro sequence lasting a mere few seconds before you’re shooting at demons and only another two minutes or so until you get your hands on a Shotgun. The game clearly want you to understand from the start what the game is about, and that is fast-paced on-the-move gunplay where you will kill everything in sight at all times.

This is both to DOOM‘s strength and weakness in the long run, as running around shooting is no doubt fun and exciting but have a lot of unpolished elements to it. This is mainly a problem with the guns themselves as there’s no real sense of impact or knockback from weapons. You can shoot an Imp with your shotgun when he’s in the middle of a jump towards you, but it won’t knock him back or down to the ground, it’ll deal damage to him but not affect his position. The same goes for the Doom Marine taking damage, far too often do I not realize just how much damage I’m taking until I look at my health bar because taking one hit feels the same as taking five. This becomes a larger issue in the multiplayer later on, but has its share of issues in the singleplayer too.

Alongside the gunplay, movement is a key element of the game. You’re always running, jumping and climbing up ledges while fighting off the hordes of hell, and it feels great for the most part. The only major issue about it is movement in mid-air. Later on in the game you get a double jump by picking up a pair of thruster boots for your suit, but it practically locks you in a direction with no good ability to swirl around or reposition yourself when you’re doing so. There’s an upgrade to the thrusters which fixes this issue partially, but it’s not on the level of what you’d expect from a game that’s essentially designed to play like a singleplayer arena shooter for the most part.

Speaking of upgrades, there are a lot of them. Most weapons have two weapon mods with their own purchasable improvements, the Doom Marine’s suit (called the Praetor Suit) has its own multiple skill trees and throughout levels you can come across Zelda II: The Adventure of Link style level ups where you get to pick between increasing your health, armor or ammo capacity. I feet decent ammo capacity shouldn’t need level ups to be aquired, especially not competing against health, but that’s a minor issue in the long run since enemies will regularly drop ammo when you perform Glory Kills, which are essentially one-button execution moves that you can perform on stunned enemies.

DOOM (2016) - Part 8 - Andrea Plays.Still117The game is divided into a number of missions that all come with large maps to explore, full of secrets and unlockables. The game uses an open-ended GoldenEye 007-style objective system where you can often do things in a custom order rather than go from point A to B to C to finish your tasks. Though this come at a slight cost, since a lot of the objectives just end up being sections where you have to kill every demon in a room to proceed, either forced on you by the game or activated by the player by starting a Gorenest segment which is a wave survival minigame that will occur over and over again in each map.

The demons themselves are mostly fun to fight, be them brand new designs or monsters of old. Some changes have been made of course, Hell Knights no longer throw plasma balls and the classic Archvile have been replaced by a new demon who serves the same purpose but has the far more generic name Summoner. Some enemies are more annoying than fun, however. The Possessed Security monsters are a ranged unit with a shield that regenerates to full strength regardless of how much damage you inflict upon it. It’s meant to have the player find a way to shoot them in the back, but it just doesn’t work well. I ended up abandoning all tactic in the longrun and just wasted explosives on these units despite being early game weak monsters, because they were just no fun to fight.

On the positive side of things, the open-ended design means that for the first time in forever we have a singleplayer first person shooter with a good use for a map, which just so happens to be lifted straight out of Metroid Prime. The game’s automap is a fully 3D virtual environment that is really useful and easy to read. I only wish we could see part of it on the HUD while running around rather than having to constantly pause the game to check it. A minor annoyance, but one that does tend to come up more often than it should when you want to find everything in a mission. There’s a ton of unlockables including classic DOOM maps, Rune Trials that serve as small challenges set to a small timer and more. It’s quite impressive just how much content has been packed into DOOM‘s singleplayer.

The game itself is not particularly challenging at first with the game’s standard difficulties. I played through the game on Ultra-Violence, the second highest difficulty setting unlocked at the start, as my very first run. As a whole, it’s definitely uneven and there’s not a very good sense of difficulty scaling as you’re moving through the missions, not that it ever stops it from being fun however The true challenge is the game’s unlockable difficulty level, Ultra Nightmare, where the player is faced with permanent death. And considering how hard it can be to tell you’re even taking damage at some points, that mode is beyond savage.. While I wouldn’t say the campaign is necessarily better than its predecessors, it does without a doubt live up to the DOOM name with great margin.


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Multiplayer

And with all the positive praise of singleplayer out of the picture, let’s talk about something a little more disappointing. DOOM‘s multiplayer is a continuous series of swings and misses from the very moment you first start playing one of the many game modes available. Co-developed by Certain Affinity, the multiplayer has more in common with Halo than it does any classic Id Multiplayer, be it DOOM or Quake. That’s not to say it’s not inspired by both of them. The game clearly wants to be Quake III Arena, and it tries really hard to live up to that. But somewhere along the line it refuses to let go of more contemporary multiplayer staples and ends up an unrewarding mess that doesn’t really cater to anybody.

The first issue is that the game uses loadouts, which at first forces players to pick from three pre-set weapon choices. A player can only carry two weapons at a time and these weapons can not be dropped or swapped for another player’s weapon. As such, all the ammo around the stage is universal ammo, to make sure players can stack up whenever they need. The problem that weapons are so poorly balanced and kill players so fast that most of the weapons you can choose from are useless. Weapons like the Burst Rifle or Static Rifle are never used by anyone, even though the latter is a lot of fun, because there’s no reason to pick it when you can always start with a superior weapon.

This becomes even more apparent when power weapons come into play. Power weapons are the only weapons that appear on the map rather than are given to players at the start. There are three of them, the BFG 9000, the Gauss Cannon and the chainsaw. These weapons have a limited of four uses and can, generally, kill any player in one hit. However, as you’ll soon discover, a lot of time it’s not worth trying to get these weapons. Because it’s so easy to evade a blast by the BFG 9000 and kill the player wielding it using your ridiculously overpowered chaingun that you will always have before they have a chance to get another shot in.

20160517230829_1And it would be one thing if these weapons were good against demon players, since the game will let you transform into a massive demon powerhouse using a Demon Rune that spawns on the map, but it frankly doesn’t do enough damage against most demons to be worth it, you’d need to basically use every BFG blast to take out a player currently roaming the map as the Baron of Hell, which doesn’t make it feel like the amazing impactful weapon it should be. As for the demons and the Demon Ruin, they have their own issues, like how the moment a Demon Rune spawns it becomes a race to get the rune, since any direct hit by any demon on a player is an instant kill, which takes away a lot of the combat experience.

In general, players just die too fast. It’s not just an issue of the demons doing it in one hit, but pretty much any weapon will kill any player, regardless of health or power-ups, in 2-3 seconds. There’s no sense of a fight going on between players, just whoever gets their “gotcha” moment first takes home the kill, unlike previous Id Software developed arena shooters where you could take a punch and still push your way through a fight to victory if you had the skill for it. It feels more like a bog-standard military shooter where you need fast realistic kills than it does DOOM, add that in with the previously mentioned issue about not being able to tell how much you’re getting hit due to a lack of impact and you have a really unsatisfying experience.

But the biggest problem of all is the fact that every single game mode is team based, with no free for all deathmatch mode existing in the game. You’re always a blue team fighting a red team, no matter which game mode you end up playing. Despite this, the game pushes a character customization option to build your own Doom Marine with the biggest emphasis being on mixing colours, which you will never get to see in-game, not even on your gun wielding hands. It’s a major disappointment, especially considering how standard free for all deathmatch has practically always been a staple of arena shooters.

All of these things, the loadouts, demons and customization options unlock as you level up your multiplayer profile. All character customization options are unlocked randomly every time you level up and there’s a ridiculous amount of things to unlock, so you’ll never know just what you get. Loudouts, the weapons inside them and the demons are fixed unlocks however, which feels a little unfair considering it means most players will be forced to use specific weapons and the Revenant demon without any option as they’re fighting people with more options to choose from and with more experience. Thankfully leveling is faster than most other shooters, so if one is willing to push through, the key things will unlock fast.

shot00069Now, I’ll have to admit that I have not played every single game mode and there’s a good reason why. The game modes are split into two categories; Objective Based and Round Based. I played all four game modes in the Objective Based category, many times. They consist of Team Deathmatch, Soul Harvest, Domination and Warpath. Team Deathmatch speaks for itself, and Soul Harvest is basically the same game mode as that but with the addition that you need to claim the souls of those you kill for it to count as a point. Domination is a simple game of capturing three zones and holding them to victory, and warpath is the same but there’s only one zone and it constantly moves around the map. Out of these I would have to say Domination and Warpath are the most fun, and Soul Harvest is easily the least fun and most tedious one.

For the Round Based category there’s Clan Arena and Freeze Tag, and the reason I’ve not played either of these mode is because no one is playing them. I’ve queued in over and over again wanting to try these game modes out, but every time I’m left alone in a lobby with no one else joining. It’s possible the content here is good, but the lack of players suggest otherwise. Either way, if anything I’ve said about the other four modes doesn’t apply to these two game modes, then I’m sorry. But I had no way of checking it for myself.

Now, despite all these negative things I feel I need to make something clear. DOOM‘s multiplayer isn’t terrible, it’s not even that bad. It’s just disappointing. What could have been a true classic arena shooter to compete with Epic Games new Unreal Tournament instead feels like a weak sigh that is just stuck onto the DOOM brand. And if it all have to be team based, why not make something interesting like have a mode where one small team hunts a solo demon and the demon player rotates each round? There’s nothing interesting done with the gameplay modes to make it feel like DOOM, and there’s not enough respect paid to classic Id Software shooters to feel like it’s worth the name.


20160519043703_1SnapMap

But if DOOM‘s multiplayer was a disappointment, this is something I’d rank as a disaster. Possibly the one feature I thought would be incredible regardless of the quality of the other two thirds of the package was SnapMap, a map creation and sharing tool that is essentially its own little software tacked onto DOOM to test how it works. At first glance it’s brilliant, a simple way to create singleplayer, co-op and multiplayer maps by stitching pre-made rooms together and decorating them with your content of choice and the share it cross-platform for everyone to enjoy. It sounds amazing, and it easily could have been.

Unfortunately, SnapMap‘s shortcomings is less its own abilities than the limitations placed upon it by DOOM. While pre-set rooms will never be as free-form or satisfying as making a map from scratch, it’s still a very good way to get into level design and the ability to share it in a Super Mario Maker or Little Big Planet style way is great. But the ugly side of DOOM‘s multiplayer creeps into SnapMap in the worse ways.

For example, players are always limited to two weapons, with the map maker being able to set loadouts or place weapons on the map for the player to swap with. Despite this, some weapons are off-limits, such as the pistol from singleplayer. The game has also a very small limit for how many demons can be active in a map at any given time, requiring the map maker to either make every room a lockdown event or have all demons very carefully spawn using triggers that hopefully won’t be used by the player while there’s still demons roaming around the map. This makes a lot of maps buggy and sometimes unbeatable.

20160519002236_1There’s also a severe lack of simple rooms. You’d think they’d give you a lot of open spaces, but instead most rooms would make DOOM 3 ask for less claustrophobic environments, meaning that any customization you can put inside of the room is limited to that small space. Why we couldn’t have large empty square chambers and taller barricade obstacles to build decent walls with of our own eludes me, since the one open room that does exist has been proven by very talented SnapMap users to be perfect for doing just that. Instead most maps just feel like a rehash of the same rooms in different orders, because that’s all that it is. You can’t even apply basic physics to objects to make a barrel roll down stairs or decorate the floor with dead bodies to attach key cards to.

The user interface makes no sense either, you can snap to a grid that you can’t even see and depending on what window you’re currently on the Space, Enter or X key will be how to confirm you action, where as other times Space or Enter will be how you exit a window, causing you to constantly open and close things by accident. You can’t use more than one viewport at once and there’s no decent wireframe mode to scan through your map quickly apart from a style-over-substance x-ray mode that is only useful to see which doors you’ve not utilized yet. It’s obvious this was mainly made to work on consoles, which is fine, but you’d think they at least considered the PC version for a brief second when designing it.

But here’s the thing, there are good maps on the SnapMap community that you can, there are some very good maps in fact. The problem is that even the best maps start feeling the same quite fast, and that wouldn’t be so bad if DOOM offered any other kind of mod and map support, but it doesn’t. If you can’t do it in SnapMap, you can’t do it for DOOM. And that’s a shame, because it means we won’t see recreations of Quake II‘s The Edge or a cool modern reimagining of the original DOOM‘s Phobos Anomaly, which is the kind of things that we normally see happen for any game with map creation tools, and it’s always a delight. And without that element, I don’t see SnapMap being worth thinking of in just a few weeks from now when everyone has grown tired of it.

The customization element from multiplayer returns, but rather than syncing your Doom Marine from that mode, you need to unlock everything from scratch, this time using an in-game currency that takes forever to gather any decent amount of. I gave up quickly because it was just tedious to try to do this, especially when you need that currency to unlock images to create your map thumbnail as well, which is obviously important to make your map seen and played. but hey, at least you get to see your Doom Marine this time, unlike the multiplayer. It’s a shame that what was supposed to be the big revolutionary aspect of DOOM instead became a weak recreation of the 2005 DOOM boardgame instead, which actually offered more detailed map making.


20160523062900_1The Rest

DOOM runs on the new idTech 6 engine and is something of an oddity in that it’s the first new idTech iteration to launch without John Carmack being part of Id Software, perhaps that’s why the jump from idTech 5 to idTech 6 is lacking in new things to show. It’d be criminally wrong to suggest that DOOM isn’t gorgeous to look at, but when compared to Wolfenstein: The New Order or even 2011’s RAGE it still looks like they’re cut from the same cloth as those. Perhaps even stranger is how DOOM manages to have a ton of advanced video settings that don’t have that much of an impact on performance or visuals when compared side by side. Apart from draw distance, bloom lighting and antialising, DOOM almost always looks and runs the same regardless of settings.

Though perhaps this is more related to the bad optimization done on the PC version than the engine itself. DOOM seemingly have a lot of trouble with Nvidia cards, and you don’t have to play much of the game to notice it. Sometimes the company logo FMVs at the start of the game will not even be able to run properly. That’s not to say the game runs bad all the time, in fact it runs great most of the time. I’ve been playing on high settings with a good stable high framerate in both singleplayer and multiplayer for hours without problem. But then suddenly out of nowhere the game will suddenly crash to desktop, or perhaps worse, it will suddenly drop to quarter speed.

This has happened to me in all game modes with no direct correlation as to what might cause it. I’ll be playing the game normally, and it runs perfect, only for a loading screen to finish and suddenly the game drops to about a fourth of the framerate that it’s supposed to run at and is also locked to said framerate’s speed. This includes multiplayer, meaning that I can suddenly spawn in a map and see every team member run away from me much faster than I’m able to move. The only fix is to reboot the entire game, no settings or console command that I’ve found will let me fix it without quitting. Which sucks in multiplayer since it means I’m given a loss to my profile’s stats.

DOOM (2016) - Part 5 - Andrea Plays.Still103That’s not the only problem however, models will often flicker in and out of existence between animations for a frame or two, something I’ve even noticed in Id Software’s own official footage and quite often light sources will ignore to render the player’s shadow, despite me having that setting set to on since I like the look of it. It’s strange to see this kind of mess on a PC release by Id Software, since that’s normally where they shine. Even when RAGE launched to countless driver issues it was fixed within a few days, but not DOOM. Hopefully there will be patches for these issues soon, because the game deserves to function better on PCs that clearly can run it well most of the time.

Speaking of settings, the game has a really vast number of them for gameplay customization. You can turn off the glowing indicator for Glory Kills if you wish, which makes the game feel much better in my opinion and you can also remove tutorials, damage numbers or even the entire UI if you please. There’s of course also the option to set your own FOV, which you ca even do on the console version, making for a great experience. Strangely enough some standard settings are missing however, such as the ability to set crouching to hold instead of toggle, which I don’t understand.

The soundtrack by Mick Gordon is most of the time really spot on, with brand new tunes for combat and remixes of both the original DOOM tunes and DOOM 3‘s theme song being present. Sadly the sound design outside of the music is quite lacking. There’s no real atmosphere to the environmental sounds, weapon sounds aren’t particularly satisfying and the demons have forgettable indistinct sounds which is kind of the opposite of previous titles where you could quickly tell what was around a corner by just hearing them. But it gets even worse in multiplayer where you don’t even get to hear footsteps because they’re too quiet and that’s despite there being practically no background audio at all.

DOOM‘s visual design is most often impressive, with a lot of the demons looking familiar but new at the same time. But some designs are far more disappointing, such as the standard Possessed enemies that all look really bland and uninteresting. When it comes to using classic designs, the game mixes the original DOOM with DOOM 3 to a great degree. Hell Knights sport their sleek beefy DOOM 3 design while the Barons of Hell look identical to their classic DOOM appearances. Even the Cyberdemon has a little bit of DOOM 64 to him. I like this kind of respect for the older games, as you’ll too often see revivals only focus on one side of old designs rather than many of them.

DOOM (2016) - Part 8 - Andrea Plays.Still123I love the new DOOM, and I’m so happy I can say that. It’s just a shame that despite all the glorious parts it gets dragged down by unpolished details, bad tacked-on experiences, lack of mod support and a PC version that is not up to series, or company, standards. But even so, I can’t deny that this game is something I’d recommend to pretty much anyone who enjoys games where you kill things.

Hell, if Japanese pop idol and voice actress Kanako “King” Takatsuki can enjoy it, so can you.

Go to hell, now.

Score: 8/10

Recommendation: Play the singleplayer and maybe give the multiplayer a chance, but don’t devote yourself to it. Overwatch is out in about 3 hours.


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