May 19, 2016

DOOM - Review

It has been a number of years since we last got to experience a new game in the legendary Doom series and while Doom 3 might not have been the best game, it was still a noble effort, the problem was, it was less Doom and more Halo, so when this latest Doom was announced, I was worried it would be the same, I was wrong.

The story of the new DOOM, as its meant to be written, is pretty basic, a breach of demonic energy has been unleashed upon the UAC facility on Mars and sometime after is when you come to, chained down to a giant stone slab, you have no clue as to what is going on, but as you are attacked by Demons, you pick up your first weapon and start to defend yourself. As you progress through the opening of the game, you do get a glimpse into what happened in the moments before with holographic projections of events playing out in front of you, they actually happen all throughout the game, filling in bits and pieces as they go. It is not long after the start that more details about who you are come to light and while the person responsible for the current issues would rather you be dead, you have some allies in Samuel Hayden and Vega, but mostly it’s just you against, wave after wave of demons.

The story that is in place is more or less a reason to keep pushing forward, the first games in the series never contained much in the way of story to propel the player forward and here it seems to exist only because people expect a story these days. It does have an ending that leaves things open for a sequel, which is again a given these days, but for the most part, a lot of what is talked about is explained, or at least detailed in the numerous data pads strewn around the place. Doomguy, who you play as, does not speak, very rarely makes noise at all, which is different to every other game around, but it fits in with the minimalistic story that has been set up.

What the game does well is what you want it to and that is shoot countless demons with a large arsenal of weapons. At first you get a pistol and just like the original game this does not need ammo, but as you pick up more and more powerful weapons, you will need the collect ammo, so you need to balance them somewhat, but the only times I ran out of ammo was when I was fighting bosses or the first appearance of the larger demons. For the most part, you will get to run from point a to point b, with some corridors and large open spaces in between, there is very little in the way of discoveries that can change things greatly, but of course as a Doom game, there are hidden alcoves and what not to find and doing so will let you find extra ammo, health and even some bonuses. As you move through each area, you will usually come to find a few demons in place around a new area and then more will warp in when you take them down, the cycle is pretty easy to predict as it happens all the time, what changes things up, just a little are the Gore Nets.

There are times when the facility will go into lockdown mode, if there are too many demons in a given space, in order to keep them contained, while there are times when this happens on its own, most of the time it will occur around a Gore Nest, a large heart looking thing that draws demons to it. When you rip out the core of it, it shrieks and demons of all sizes answer its call for help, what this means is that you can plan things out a little, before you get swarmed with demons. You are not able to do things like plan ambushes, as the Demons will generally pursue you without mercy, but you can make sure your weapons have ammo, your health and armour are good and such, before you start the party. There is a section early on where you need to destroy four of these things, in order for the lock down to be released, which means you need to find them, doing that is pretty easy and for the most part, each time you find a Gore Nest, it will be in a room that allows for some pretty easy maneuvering, but in one of these instances, the only real space you have to explore is up a stair case, so even when you have time to prep, things will change on you at the last minute.

When you leave the safety of the UAC and explore the locations of Hell, things can take some getting used to, floating platforms, glowing skulls for keys and such, but after a while, things become second nature. That for me was the clicking point, up until then, I was just shooting and moving through the world, nothing really clicking for me, but Hell put things in perspective and I felt that if the original Doom was made today, this is what it would be. Enemies did not wait or follow patterns of attack, it’s pretty easy to be killed if you focus on the enemy before you and forget about the ones behind you and while some enemies are more annoying than others, each has their own weakness that you can exploit for a gain. Using the chainsaw against a larger enemy is an instant kill, if you have the fuel, but I only ever used it against the smaller ones, because no matter the size of the enemy, each would act like an ammo filled piƱata when attacked with the chainsaw. The more I worked my way through the world after that, the more I was enjoying myself, each room and location had secrets I knew were around, they just had to be found and of course, new demons to defeat.

What makes this game modern, over its origin, apart from the graphics is that each level is filled with challenges and trials to discover and complete, some are as simple as defeat so many demons with a certain weapon, but some can be complex, like using gore kills, defeat six pinky demons from behind or some such, if you decide you want to do all of this, complete every challenge, it really hurts the game as it slows down a lot. Each stage has a number of hidden spaces to find, but also hidden items as well, sometimes these can be in the hidden spaces, but sometimes they will be just out of view from a main area, so you need to find a way in there. The game also tracks the number of enemies you kill per stage, which then nets you points you can use to level up your guns and finally there are ruins to find as well, which grant you boosts to your character, from an increased radius of picking up items to greater control while jumping. The issue with obtaining the ruins is that the game loads you up into a new area, where you have to complete ever increasingly difficult challenges, once you complete the challenge the game takes you back where you were, the issue is that sometimes the challenges only last for 30 seconds, which means you spend more time in load screens for very little gain. The gore kills, are the other new addition to the series, deal enough damage to an enemy and they will stagger, ripe for you to take them down with a serious move, doing this will allow you claim some health, or other pick up and while they are not an issue, doing them will cause you to lose your moment, especially as you can chain together multiple attacks.

Mutliplayer however feels as fast as you would demand it too and while each of the modes on offer is nothing special, it is still some of the best multiplayer around. Each mode is a Doom variant on the standard modes you will know from other shooters and that is just fine, what it does well is eliminate the need to become a master at each mode and weapon. There were times where I would get a string of kills without missing a beat, but then a few lives later, I would be on the receiving end of being dominated. The maps are large enough in size that you won’t spawn on top of one another, which is good, but also small enough that you won’t spend ages running around looking for a target. There were times though, when the smaller player pool did make it a challenge to find a target or two, but they were few and far between though, which was nice. As you kill and win matches, your player character will level up, doing this unlocks new weapons and gear for your character, but never mind if you are jumping in at the start, the playing field is pretty level, so a level 1 can take on a level 10 or 20 without too much fuss.

The other game mode, of sorts at least, that is presented is called SnapMap, it allows players to create maps and mini games and share them online, which in turn can be played by friends on other players. SnapMap is one very powerful tool, with little load time, you can jump into your creation and see how it plays, but you are also able to create just about anything you can think of, the problem is the system is not for everyone. SnapMap is powerful and if you have time and a lot of patience to learn how to use it, then you can create some pretty incredible maps, there are some out there already, the problem is the tools are so complex that even moving a piece in a template requires some serious thinking, once you start adding in AI characters and logic, things become even worse, I mean the game has achievements for you completing the basic and advanced SnapMap tutorials, which goes to show how much effort you need to put in.

When it comes to performance, I had no issues at all, my PC is not the best rig in the world, but everything ran smooth, with only a noticeable frame issue towards the end of the game, because of the weapon I was using, I switched weapons and all was well again. The weapons themselves are wonderfully designed, with the new BFG a stand out. The creature designs vary from your basic zombie style look to the more weaponised demon, the standouts are the mancubus, larger demons that shoot fire or poison muck, but no matter the demon, they all look great when you kill them with a gore kill. Sound wise, the music is exceptional, with things kicking into gear whenever they need to, but with a rock inspired track, sometimes the music can be more exciting than the combat. The voice acting is odd, with only a few actual characters that speak, a lot of them AI, there is little to write home about, Hayden is great, but he is more machine than man, the demon overlord you don’t see has a wonderfully bass driven voice, but it’s just what you would expect, the letdown for me is Olivia Pierce, as the antagonist, at least for a bit, she just does not deliver a significant punch to show that she is someone to be trifled with.

DOOM is about the best you could expect a modern version of this historic series to be like, it keeps the fun and fast nature of the game’s history intact, but adds in challenges and new ways of doing things to keep it modern. The single player suffers from too many things to track, which can slow things down and the gore kills will literally stop you dead, thankfully the multiplayer suffers from none of that, but SnapMap is a nightmare to create anything of worth and while there will be creators out there who do make amazing things, the level of understanding needed is a little too high for most players.

Thanks to Bethesda for supplying the game for review

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