Like, I suspect, many others of my generation, the original Doom was a key moment in my gaming history. I was working for Future Zone/Electronics Boutique when we received a box of the shareware disks to put on our shelves but it was already well known to me. While it wasn't the game that got me into PC gaming (that honour is held by Dune II: Battle for Arrakis), it was the game that got me into multiplayer and map making (using DEU). The mods were also incredible and many nights were lost to the likes of Aliens TC.
So, as you can imagine, I'm rather invested in the Doom series and after the third outing, which I found to be a little boring and predicable, I was keen to see just what ID could come up with in the age of recharging shields, on-rails sections and QTE laden FPS games.
I'm pleased to say that, as far as the single player campaign goes, they didn't disappoint.
Using what I can only assume is black magic, ID have actually manage to blend a lot of older mechanics with a more modern feeling shooter. You'll find no regerating health or shields here... health and armour can only be replenished with pickups or the occassional health station. There is no cover mechanic or stealth sections... movement is the only way to keep alive. No quick time events or on-rails sections. No vehicles (apart from a train used to get from one map to another). There isn't really even much of a story, although what is has is surprisingly engaging.
What you do have is fast, violent, unforgiving combat. Staying alive requires you to keep moving and attacking. Dodgy behind pillars and crates in well designed levels to avoid fireballs and rockets; learn how each demon moves, how it attacks and, most importantly, the quickest way to kill it! When you do kill a demon, the genius of ID's design really kicks in... every kill has a chance to drop health, ammo and (with the help of a rune) armour. So the best way to stay healthy and alive is to kill demons. To make this even more compelling, you never have to reload. That's right, never... just keep firing until you run out of ammo. This means that there are almost no breaks in the flow of combat. The only exception to this is the "Glory Kill". Do enough damage to a demon without actually killing them and there is a chance they will get stunned/staggered (shown with a lovely rainbow effect so it is ultra obvious). Get in close, his the F key and watch as a suitably bloody and brutal finishing melee move is performed, the reward for which is a lovely explosion of health and a little ammo. The type of finisher you use varies depending on the demon, your position in relation to them and the body part you happen to be looking at... so quite a variety. The break in the flow is brief and I thought I'd get tired of seeing them by the end of the game, but I never did.
The weapon selection is pretty varied, with Doom favourites making the transition well. On top of this, most of the weapons have two separate, secondary-fire, upgrade trees you can follow, each ending in a challenge that gives the secondary fire a massive boost. The heavy assault rifle, for example, can either use a micro missile add-on or a sniper scope. Upgrading the micro missiles and completing the challenge means that there is no cooldown for them so you can keep firing their explosive goodness until the rifle runs out of ammo. The best part is that you are not restricted to just one of the upgrades... a single key push and you'll unclip that micro missle pod from the side of your rifle and clip the sniper sight on the top. It looks great and works well.
Your armour has a number of different upgrades as well, falling into four different categories. Some giving you better survivability, others making map secrets easier to find.
If that wasn't enough customisation for you, there are also a rune trials dotted throughout the campaign, often tucked away from the main route. Complete an instanced challenge and the rune is yours to equip... unlocking a further challenge to be completed while playing the main game. These chalenges vary in difficulty but when completed, give you a decent boost in some way; whether it's the ability to pick up items from further away (the vacuum rune, unlocked in the video below), or maybe making the demons drop armour when they die. The catch? You can only equip a limited number of them (three maximum).
The graphics of the ID Tech engine are fantastic, as you'd expect, and the sound quality is just as good. In terms of length, it took me over 20 hours to get through the single player campaign, spending a little while hunting out secret areas and collectables... of which there are a few. As well as hidden upgrade tokens for armour and weapons, there are also collectable Doomguy "dolls" and, if you can find the switches, classic Doom maps (complete with original styled textures)!
So the single player is refreshing, fast and fun... what about the multiplayer.
Sadly, this is where things (currently) fall a little short. I've played quite a few matches now and they feel generic and unbalanced. Each player is restricted to two weapons, an equipment item and a selection of 'Hack Modules' that give you temporary bonuses during the match. It means that if you're up against a player who it particularly talented with a specific weapon, they can start with that weapon rather than having to hunt it down. It seems like a really odd design choice and almost every match I played felt completely unbalanced. Personally I'd have gone for a more traditional deathmatch setup and start everyone with pistols with weapons randomly spawning. There are power ups that spawn in the map, in certain spots, that can make things a bit more interesting. One of which turns you into a demon (selected before the start of the match) which can be fun... if you can get to it before anyone else. To their credit, ID have included quite a few different game modes... but I it still doesn't prevent the multiplayer from being so lackluster, which is a real shame. Hopefully ID will release some updates in the future to make it more fun and interesting.
Finishing on another positive note, Doom also includes a map editor called "SnapMap". Unlike the editors for the original, like DEU, SnapMap makes it simple to throw together some rooms and corridors before adding some demons and logic. It may not be quite as flexible but from what I've seen so far, people are able to do some cool things with it... and knowing how long it took me just to get doors to work properly in DEU, I'm all for it!
So, overall, a great game and a definite buy if you're after some solid, single player mayhem.tags: doom, fps, id software, pc, review
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