It’s 2016, and a new DOOM is upon us. It isn’t quite DOOM 4 — that game was scrapped after developer id Software decided they weren’t doing the series justice. The now defunct DOOM 4 was rumored to be heavily scripted, a Call of Duty-esque take on the series that just wasn’t heading in the direction they wanted.
So id went back the drawing board and decided to make something very, very DOOM. Clearly, that was the right decision. Reviews have been stellar, and players are loving what the game has to offer. Here’s what we think is great about the new DOOM.
There are threads of narrative in DOOM, but I wouldn’t say it tells a fully fleshed story. Just like in the original game (and its first remake, DOOM 3) you play as an unnamed Marine at a facility on Mars who must mow down hordes of demons with an impressive arsenal of weapons. The premise of the original game involved teleportation technology gone awry, accidentally exposing an entire facility of workers, scientists, and soldiers to Hell.
In the 2016 game, that premise has been slightly streamlined and modified. Instead of a teleportation mishap, scientists were trying to figure out how to harness the power of Hell for cheap energy. Olivia Pierce, a scientist who looks like Tilda Swinton’s head on Chappie’s body, was seduced by the powers of Hell and decided to let a bunch of evil stuff loose in the facility. Your job, naturally, is to clean all of that up.
DOOM‘s simplicity is, in a sense, regressive. However, when that regressiveness services the game in a positive way, it’s tough to argue that this game should’ve had a proper plot, complex characters, and an additional hour of cinematics. This game just doesn’t have the time for it.
It’s Fast as Hell
After the relative slog of DOOM 3‘s survival horror, this game rockets forward in the tradition of classic DOOM and Quake. You hardly ever need to move slower than a full on sprint, and the game encourages you to stay mobile by entirely excluding a cover mechanic. Unlike most contemporary shooters, there’s hardly any cover to be found anywhere. Chest-high walls are nowhere to be found on Mars or in Hell.
To keep the game running (and double-jumping) smoothly, there’s been a lot of work behind the scenes to maintain a high frame rate. Consequently, you’ll hear the fans on your gaming rig ramp up whenever a big fight breaks out. It’s a demanding game, and the console versions have had to make a few necessary sacrifices to maintain DOOM‘s breakneck speed.
Huge, Open Levels
DOOM isn’t confined to cramped hallways or ugly, flat landscapes anymore. The new game places an emphasis on vertical level design and fun platforming, allowing the player to double-jump across deep chasms and drop from great heights.
Players will often traverse areas they’ve already explored and are frequently encouraged to stray from the beaten path to find secrets and upgrades. It helps break up the inherent monotony and linearity often seen in games like this. Moreover, while levels are much larger, taller, and detailed than any other game in the DOOM series, they still retain a classic look and feel that should satisfy series devotees.
A Badass Attitude
Instead of focusing on realistic violence, developers id and Bethesda cranked every aspect of the game’s violence past any previous limits. It’s consciously too violent, to the point of silliness. But y’know what? That’s great. The game has a sense of humor about its violence. It gives you the feeling that the guy in the Praetor suit is a cro-magnon hunk of beefcake, not some sensitive, intelligent soul with an AI friend or a family back home. He’s a dude who’ll yank an arm off a dead body as easily as unplugging a vacuum cleaner from an electrical socket. Then he’ll use the severed arm on a hand-print scanner.
The sly humor and self-awareness we saw in Wolfenstein: The New Order is here, but used more subtly. But everything about the new DOOM is designed to be the most extreme, the most ridiculous, and the most fun. Instead of being just a retro cash-in, that sense of irony is a great reason to revisit the franchise’s simple roots, but with a lot more ripping and tearing.
Balancing Fresh and Old School
Even with all this, I can see how people who haven’t yet played the game could still think it’s just a soulless throwback. It’s more than that. While it is beholden to the aesthetic of the original, Doom knows when to give you something new. Most of the game’s monsters are faithful redesigns from the original, but they’ve been given new behaviors to match the game’s updated and polished playing style.
Smart design abounds in this game: The facilities on Mars use green lights to mark grab-friendly edges, so platforming isn’t frustrating and the player can quickly scale a level. The levels are more open, but the easy-to-use 3D map prevents that openness from becoming overwhelming. Game developers have learned a lot in the past decade about design and how to properly balance a player’s feelings of helplessness and godlike power. That’s what makes DOOM a must-buy for first-person shooter fans — even the old ones like me, who grew up with the original.