Doom is a gory return to the halcyon days of my PC gaming youth. When it first came out, I was playing off Shareware disks or taking forever to download the file from a local, dial-up bulletin board system. Even though Wolfenstein 3D came first, Doom was a revelation to me, and it paved the way for some of gaming’s most classic FPS games, becoming so well-known in the general culture, that it was another game blamed for violent behavior among teens.
With all that history weighing down on this new release, I was really apprehensive about id Software making a new Doom. If that sounds like you, there is no reason to worry. Welcome home to hell.
The beginning of the game has you waking up on Mars in a stone sarcophagus, and it rockets you immediately into the frenetic action. From the very beginning, it is putting a gun into your hand and letting you gleefully run into danger, and I was really surprised at how fast the character moves. If you have played a cover based shooter recently, this is going to feel exceptionally fast. The pacing is also perfect with areas designed to build to an explosive frenzy and then backing off for just long enough for you to catch your breath.
The guns in the game feel great and are also updated from the original. You can even choose from different upgrades to better fit your play style. The shotgun was a mainstay in the game, and you could choose from explosive shells or multiple shots at the same time. All of the weapons have their place, and it was nice to see that choosing the right tool for the job could make the difference. After playing for a while, I also appreciated that the chainsaw was given its own button on the controller.
What would a Doom game be without monsters? All your old friends are here, and they look better than ever. The fiends of hell range from the nimble imps to the slow but powerful Mancubus. By far, one of my favorites was the Revenant that they have used in the ads. A towering, screaming skeleton with rocket launchers and a jet pack on its back? Yes, please.
Glory kills are a new feature in the game. Once you damage a foe enough, they will move slowly and begin to blink with a blue light. This allows you to run up to them and kill them in a particularly visceral way, forcing health or ammo to shoot out of them like a demonic pinata. If you have enough fuel, you use the chainsaw to kill an enemy, causing them to drop a huge amount of ammo. This can keep you in the fight if you are running low.
Throughout the game, there are large arenas that force you to kill every monster in the room, before you can move forward. The room is filled with power-ups, health, and ammo. Health is important, because your health will not recover on its own. Power-ups are short, one-time use items that give you an advantage such as speed or increased damage. These arenas are vertical and can often have multiple levels. Standing still means certain death, so you are constantly dodging, climbing, jumping, and, of course, shooting everything that moves in a ballet of carnage.
This game looks great on the PS4. The lighting effects are top-notch as the walls and floors are lit from your weapons and blasts of energy from your enemies. Even during times when my screen was covered in activity, I did not notice any slowing or hitching in the game. However, there are some lengthy load times after a death, to switch to another mode, or to load a new level. I didn’t time them, but prepare to sit through them more than some parts of the game, especially if you die as much as I did in some of the arenas.
As you are walking through the levels, make sure to explore. The game has a number of secret areas with hidden treasure and additional opportunities for you to upgrade your suit and weapons. Since the levels are tiered, make sure you are looking up and down when you move through an area. I thought I scoured a level only to find that I did not see many of the secrets.
The music rises and falls with the action. When an intense rock riff started booming through the speakers, I knew a fight was on the way. Paired with the heavy riffs was some industrial music and even a vocal choir in the (spoiler alert) depths of hell. When it is quieter, the game has plenty of ambient noise making the environments come to life.
If you are looking for a twisting plot to keep you hooked, look elsewhere. This game has more story than the original, but this game is not about the story. There are even some funny parts where this is expressed in the game. There are databases and information tucked within every level, if you want it, but they are never forced on you. When the game does show a cinematic scene, it is always very short. As a normally narrative focused gamer, this did not bother me in the least.
The multiplayer is good, but I did not find it nearly as engaging as the single player game. I found it to be fun and very polished, but most of the modes are only Doom flavored versions of what you can find elsewhere. It runs on the same level and upgrade system as many other multiplayer games, so, if that is your jam, you will feel at home.
The biggest change in multiplayer is that you can become a demon and decimate the other team. It is great to be chasing an opponent only to have them change into a Revenant and swat you like a fly. As you gain levels, you can pick from different demons. The other interesting change was a team deathmatch mode named Freeze Tag. If you are killed by the other team, you are frozen in ice. Your team can unfreeze you, while trying to freeze all the players on the other team. If all players on a team are frozen, the match ends. It was a great twist on the normal deathmatch I have seen in the past.
SnapMap is Doom’s user-generated content creation system. After a few short tutorials, you can create your own map, add demons and objects, create events such as a monster spawning, and this is all easily done within the interface. You can play these maps and tweak them in many different ways. There was a surprising amount of depth here. It will not match some editors on PC, but it shows that consoles are changing. If your creative well is drier than the Sahara, there are user generated maps that you can play. Some are better than others, but there are some really creative people making maps.
Overall, the game is an excellent package, bringing Doom back into modern gaming with the spirit of the old gameplay intact for long time fans and adding features that enhance it for a modern feel. If you have a PS4 and you like shooters, do not miss this excellent game.