Doom. Doom never changes
HIGH Remembering to use the one-hit kill chainsaw in a tight spot
LOW Frustrating boss fights
WTF Antagonist Olivia Pierce looks like Tilda Swinton
Although Doom doesn’t do anything new, I’m confident it’ll alter the way I judge action-oriented first-person shooters for a long time. Eighty percent of the game is little more than aiming at something and pulling the trigger, but the sheer pace and intensity is unmatched in the genre as far as I’m concerned.
Doom’s story doesn’t vary much from its predecessors—an unchecked megacorporation on Mars opens a portal to Hell, and Hell’s demons cross over and murder everything in their immediate radius. This time the portal is opened to harness Hell’s unlimited energy for human use and instead of playing as a regular space marine, players are the Doom Slayer—a special space marine released from a tomb to do battle with demons.
What saves Doom from feeling like other shooters is its lightness and speed. I was prepared to creep along while carefully monitoring the shadows like I did in Doom 3, but the new Doom dials back the horror and cranks up the action. Most firefights are held in large arena areas, and I quickly discovered that if I wanted to stay alive, I had to constantly be on the move— standing still gets players killed quickly.
Even though Doom features several guns and special weapons (each with upgradeable mods), combat is so frenetic I never felt like I had an opportunity to be tactical about my choice of firearms, and somehow I mean that as a compliment.
Doom also does an excellent job of introducing new enemies to keep the action evolving. Every time a new demon type arrived, I’d panic and wonder how in the world I’d deal with that one on top of the other ones I was already battling. The devs never let players get too comfortable, and I’d find myself sweating during the chaotic firefights.
Getting back to my earlier statement that Doom doesn’t do anything new, this entry leans heavily on its classic shooting formula. Health doesn’t regenerate, there’s no sticky cover, most weapons have no iron sights, and there are no limits to the number of weapons able to be carried. There isn’t even a reload button; ammo found in the environment is automatically added to the player’s clips as it’s picked up. No reloading might sound weird by today’s standards, but I was more than happy to skip the time needed to chamber more rounds while demons were swarming me.
On the other hand, not everything taking from the past is great. One old-school choice I found disappointing were the boss fights. Although Doom’s boss encounters can be counted on one hand, I came close to testing how well a PS4 controller functions as a boomerang after dying multiple times in some of them.
Doom trained me to prioritize quick footwork and brute force to overcome enemies, yet boss fights require learning their attacks and going on defense. One hit from a boss can knock a substantial amount of health off, and most bosses whip out entirely new moves once their health is chipped down enough. I understand the use of a boss in campaign design, but their handling here feels contrary to how I engage with the rest of the game.
Another drawback to the single-player campaign is that it runs low on steam before the end. By the time I’d discovered all the enemy types, the battles almost starting feeling rote. I also found Doom’s second half a bit disappointing after the open areas in the first. Early levels are immense, multi-tiered and encourage exploration between fights. Later levels felt like simple funnels from one combat arena to the next. I can’t say that Doom overstayed its welcome, but it wasn’t far off, either.
I’ve played a Doom on each console cycle since the N64, and each time I go back to the series I’m always surprised by how little id Software changes the formula while managing to keep it feeling fresh and invigorating. Although this feels at home on current consoles, it will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s played Doom before. By sticking to its core identity and cranking the intensity up, id has raised the bar on how I want action-oriented first-person shooters to feel, and it’s going to be hard to go back to something with less adrenaline after my time with this heavy metal beast.
Disclosures: This game was developed by id Software and published by Bethesda. This review copy was obtained via paid rental and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 14 hours were spent with the campaign and it was completed once. Multiplayer modes and a map-making mode exist, and two hours were spent between them.
Parents: Doom is rated Mature by the ESRB for: blood and gore, intense violence and strong language. Much like Dooms in the past, this one is extremely violent. Players use several firearms to kill demonic creatures and perform hand-to-hand executions for violent fatalities. Only players who don’t mind heavy blood, violence and dismemberment should play. I didn’t notice much language, but I’m not sensitive to it, either.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Doom has optional subtitles. No threat or damage indicators exist to warn players about enemies, and the when enemies are about to attack, the music gets louder and heavier. Growls without visual indicators for monsters offscreen are also important cues. Hard of hearing players will have to be extra alert for enemies just in case.
Controls: Y-axis inversion is available. Stick sensitivity sliders and several button layouts exist, but no complete custom controller mapping options are here on PS4.
Colorblind modes: No colorblind assistance is available.
He has a Bachelor’s in magazine journalism from the University of Missouri. He also has a personal blog (who doesn’t?) that he updates sporadically. He’s been writing for GameCritics.com since 2012 and has appeared on the podcast a handful of times.
If you want to dive deep, type his name into a Google Image search and you’ll most likely be treated to a scandalous picture of his Deus Ex tattoo. He also has a music background from 7 years on high school and college drumlines, and last but not least he’s dabbled in parkour. Don’t let those activities fool you about his ambition – he’s in his late 20s and still has no idea what he wants to do with his life.