Frivolous Waste of Time

Sci-fi, fantasy and video games

Doom for PS4, Xbox One and PC

I have no nostalgia for the Doom series. The original was a bit before my time; the oldest FPS I’ve played all the way through is Half-Life. I appreciated what Doom did for the genre, but a reboot was not exactly on my agenda. After giving it a go though, I ended up really liking it. It felt retro but with enough concessions to modern gaming to make it still feel accessible.

Doom has a story but you won’t be worrying about it much. Demons have overrun a station on Mars after a misguided attempt to harness energy from Hell as an unlimited fuel source. The player character is the Doom Slayer, a warrior who was imprisoned by the demons in a mythic sarcophagus who has now been freed to slaughter demons and close the portal to Hell. Doom has just the right amount of plot, rarely breaking up the action to talk to us. The story isn’t actually bad at all. That said, the player will mostly just be itching to reduce demons to lumps of flesh. The clever part is that the protagonist feels much the same way. He’s silent, but the way he moves makes it clear that he is mostly interested in killing demons and not much else. This creates what I can only call the exact opposite of ludonarrative dissonance; the protagonist’s desires and actions match pretty much entirely with the player’s. It seems obvious, but very few games have pulled this off as well as Doom.

Doom is a mechanically pure game; you’ll do very little that doesn’t involve slaughtering hordes of demons. Doom makes the rare choice to only do One Thing, but to do that One Thing incredibly well. This is shooting at its purest; no cover mechanic, run and gun. This type of shooter has almost died in AAA gaming; even Halo, one of the last bastions, is shifting away from this sort of thing. The first thing that a coddled modern FPS player will notice is that Doom is fast. The pace is frantic and you must be constantly moving; as a loading screen tells us, to stand still is death. You don’t need to reload the guns, meaning that you essentially never have to stop shooting. When you’ve done enough damage to a foe they begin to glow orange and at that point you can come in close for a violent melee ‘glory kill.’ I wasn’t sure how this would work, but in practice it’s wonderful. There’s a sense of rhythm to the core gameplay loop of Doom which I loved; shoot, get close, kill, shoot, get close, kill. Doom almost put me into the trance like state that rhythm games like Guitar Hero can bring about, which is pretty insane for a shooter. The best way to play Doom (at normal difficulty at least) is to turn your brain off and allow instinct to take over, giving Doom a sense of purity missing in many modern shooters. Doom has one of the most solid mechanical bases in any shooter I’ve played; it’s a shame that the bells and whistles on top didn’t quite appeal to me as much.

Doom is a decent length and has a good variety of weaponry. They fit within the standard mold of FPS guns, but are extremely satisfying to use and handle beautifully. Most guns can be modified one of two ways, allowing you a bit of control over your play style. Even after I started picking up chainguns and gauss rifles my favourite was still the trusty double barrelled shotgun. Doom also has a couple of platforming sections, which stunningly actually work rather well. Good platforming in an FPS, I never through I’d see the day. I found the level design a bit less inspired and it’s here where my lack of nostalgia may have affected the experience. I get that Doom is about Martian space stations and Hell, but I got pretty bored of the same-y environments. The Hell setting is open to some weird designs, but mostly it’s fairly conservative fire and brimstone or sinister tomb stuff. If this game gets a sequel (and I hope it does) I would like them to taken us to some more varied and interesting locations within which to reduce demons to their component pieces. All said though, when the core mechanics are this good any other criticisms feel like quibbles.

There’s a good level of attention to detail in Doom. The demon designs are brilliant, with a wide range of enemy designs all looking good and providing a unique challenge. The general feel of the guns are incredible, helped in no small part by excellent visual and sound design. The sound guns make when they fire is an underappreciated art in FPS design and Doom nails it. The soundtrack is classic obnoxious metal. In any other context I don’t think I could bear to listen to it for more than a few seconds but in the heat of the moment it just works. I mentioned before that I didn’t love the general design of the setting, which may just be down to personal taste. I think Doom achieves visually in what it sets out to do, but what it sets out to do just isn’t particularly interesting to me. A choppy framerate would (ahem) doom a fast game like this so thankfully the game ran perfectly throughout, without a hitch.

Doom is a rock solid foundation that I hope is built on in a sequel, which the story does set up. Where violence in games can sometimes just be nauseating, Doom is so ridiculously over the top that it feels like a cartoon. Doom is a hell of a lot of fun and I recommend it to anyone who misses the purity of run and gun.

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