It’s not to say that getting a review copy of a game after its release means it’s bad… but it is a fairly good indication of quality. Hell, Bethesda made sure we had a copy of Fallout 4 weeks in advance so we could sing its praises to the world. Needless to say, we – and pretty much every other major gaming outlet out there – were concerned that Bethesda delaying Doom until consumers could buy it was the first nail in the game’s coffin. A lacklustre multiplayer beta didn’t help matters either.
Thankfully, those concerns were all for nothing, as Doom’s a great game; a shining example of how the past can be modernised without stripping away everything a franchise was actually known for. Doom easily surpasses the high-quality Wolfenstein: The Old Blood and The New Order in that regard, something I wasn’t expecting at all.
Doom is old-school gaming mechanics made new again. It’s fast-paced, frenzied and frantic in any of its three main modes: single-player, multiplayer or SnapMap.
The chaotic pace of Doom means you’ll have no time to catch your breath – or fall behind cover – in any of the campaign’s thirteen chapters. Controlling your Master Chief-like silent protagonist – though to be fair, Doomguy was wearing fancy armour and shooting things in face long before any Spartan was — it’s kill or be killed. You won’t regenerate health or armour running away from baddies; big, game-saving drops come when you risk it all, stopping yourself from delivering a final shotgun blow to instead get up close and personal to execute an opponent. Bloody, brutal and thankfully varied, those executions, known as Glory Kills, never get old – and not simply because they’re great ways to fill up on ammo and health.
If brutality and speed weren’t enough, a number of subsystems feed into the gameplay loop. Through stylistic combat, you’re able to grind points that feed into weapons and new perks. Exploration brings the ability to upgrade your armour, health and ammo capacity. Rune challenges force you to play a mini-map in a certain way, earning secondary perk systems that increase your speed, the window in which to perform a Glory Kill and more. The same type of challenge system exists for each weapon and its two alt-fire modes too. Powerups – like Berserk, easily the best of the lot – overpower your character or allow him to use nothing but Glory Kills for a short period of time. Everything works together to get you to change and vary your play style to get the most out of the game. It all comes together in a wholly satisfying way; it’s hard not to feel like the bad-assiest of bad asses, especially with a hardcore metal soundtrack blasting through your speakers the entire time
id Software has done a stellar job of spacing out new weaponry and player capabilities to give you a chance to hone your skills with each. I was pretty adept with my shotgun, so a chaingun was thrown in the mix. After that, a double jump ability. That said, once I’d gone through the game and maxed out weaponry and their special challenges, I quickly fell back to my shotgun and gauss rifle. Who needs variety when you’re a refined killing machine with few tools?
The campaign’s story isn’t going to win any awards, but it does the trick; you’ll be able to see its twists a mile away. Most exposition is done through recorded tapes or holographic projections; that, coupled with your character’s silence and all the gore, means players can’t help but be reminded of Dead Space. Each mission – either in a space station, on the surface of Mars or in the depths of Hell — plays out in a similar fashion: get to a large open area; crush bad guys ’til there’s nothing left, then activate a switch or get a keycard. Rinse, repeat. It can get a bit tedious if you’re, say, trying to smash through the content for a timely review. Thankfully, the game’s ever-changing, hectic combat keeps real feelings of monotony at bay.
Though old-school sensibilities work wonders for Doom, it does let the campaign down at times; I can’t begin to tell you how horrible it is to be in a large open area with only one small baddie running around unseen. You won’t be able to progress until you track it down and kill it, and in one instance, that took me several minutes to do. That makes a frenzied game a very boring one instead; nothing wastes time and drains excitement more.
There’s not much else to fault in the campaign. Level design is pretty good, but certain platforming sequences can cause frustration either because you simply don’t know where to go, or you’ll need to be pretty damn proficient with your double jump to continue. Those frustrating bits are largely forgotten by the time you get to the campaign’s third act.
I also need to note I had a couple weird issues playing Doom’s campaign on Xbox One. My sound cut in and out during a couple missions, as did my visuals as well. The sound issue persisted for maybe two minute intervals at most, but the visuals were only seconds-long. It wasn’t anything game-breaking, but it was frustrating. The issue hasn’t occurred in any other mode, nor in any other game I’ve played this weekend.
Before we get into SnapMap, Doom’s answer to Halo’s Forge mode, I need to register how annoying it is to have to fully exit and enter each of the game’s different sections as if they were separate games. It takes forever.
That out of they, SnapMap is amazing. It’s detailed and robust, yet simple enough to use. In a matter of minutes, I was able to chain rooms together to make a decent looking environment. Then, I populated it with enemies and some pretty diverse logic chains. You can control doors, spawn points for items and enemies, and craft various win states – all that’s needed is a little brainpower.
If you’re only a player, not a maker, it’s fairly easy to navigate through maps made by the user base. Only two days in, there’s a great variety of maps and modes. You’re able to race through an obstacle course in one, go through a Horde mode in another; the sky’s really the limit. Once we’ve all smashed through the game’s campaign, I think SnapMap is the mode that’ll keep us all coming back. It can handle multiplayer instances just as easily as the game’s actual, dedicated multiplayer space.
Overall, SnapMap is simple to use and really makes you appreciate how much effort and thought has gone into the tool. Once you wrap your head around it, it’s hard not to think of how it was used to create the single-player missions seen in the campaign. That’s kind of the bad bit about it all; it takes some of the mystery away from the package, as if you’re watching a magic trick but already know how the magician does it all.
I never thought I’d be saying that multiplayer is Doom’s weakest link, but here we are.
Why beat around the bush with this one? It’s outdated. It’s a reminder of what gaming was 20 years ago. Is there still a place for fast, frenzied shotties like back in the day when you were playing over LAN with a bunch of mates? Not for me, especially not over Xbox Live, but time will tell for the community at large. Up against modern shooters like Team Fortress and Overwatch, Doom has an uphill battle ahead of it.
That all said, getting back into the right frame of mind playing single-player made multiplayer way more enjoyable than the abrupt, segmented experience I had in the beta. Whereas I walked away from the beta feeling like the game was weightless and unbalanced, I could appreciate the game proper after hours of practice with mechanics and weaponry.
Sadly, I put in about five hours with multiplayer and could only find Team Deathmatch games. To me, that’s even more of a reason to take advantage of SnapMap’s different playlist modes. That’s the best of both worlds — with a party of friends, they’ll be the closest to those aforementioned LAN experiences I remember so fondly.
Doom’s fantastic, but holy hell, did Bethesda ever stuff this one up. The beta left a bad feeling in everyone’s mouth; that, coupled with review copies being held back, almost killed this resurrection before it could actually begin.
To those cautious, rest assured that Doom’s the complete package. It’s one that we’re happy to recommend to fans of the franchise, those who love shooters and others who want to work their creative muscles. In an age of class-based warfare, it’s nice to just run up to things and shotgun them in the face.
Doom was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox One as provided by the publisher.