Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
No one saw this coming. Id Software, a studio that hasn’t been relevant for two decades, that suffered such derision after the tumultuous and embarrassing Daikatana or utterly forgettable Rage, just released a new entry into the completely dormant Doom franchise that is not only good but will like end up on many Best of 2016 games list later this year. Imagine in Sega suddenly released a stunning Sonic game that scored an overall 89 on Metacritic? For most, this is absolute triumph. We’ve played through it, seen through the bitter and hellish end. So is it really that good?
Doom opens abruptly as you awake on a stone sarcophagus moments before demons apparently dissect you. There’s a story in here somewhere about eternal champions meant to fight of hell portals when opened but the Doom marine couldn’t care less as he (thankfully) shoves away explanatory monitors to get on with the carnage. Tonally the game is perfect as your hero opts to bash up expensive machinery as opposed to simply removing it openly disregarding the advice of the commander in his ear (the robotic Dr. Hayden trying to work through you to protect humanity). The Doom marine couldn’t care less for the motivations of those around him; he’s here to brutally destroy anything from hell that he can see.
And, geez, the combat is fun here. Id creatively has turned combat into mechanical functions that keep you alive and well armed. Stagger an enemy with a few shots to open them up to a visceral finishing move and you’ll net health packs. Whip out the chainsaw to mow down a few more to spawn ammo packs. It doesn’t make sense, but neither does Doom so who cares? The tactical tweaks here make combat insanely replayable. Not since Halo’s regenerating shield have we seen such innovation to make a FPS this much fun (and unlike Halo’s shield, you’re not breaking the action to recharge). Even if you don’t get a chance to play the whole game, you should try and get to know this new mechanic as future games will no doubt replicate it ad nauseam.
The combat and sense of style alone are netting this game tremendous scores; even the notoriously grumpy Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation enjoyed it. We, however, felt let down by something (and no, not the multiplayer but that’s pretty run of the mill if you’re curious).
This new Doom proudly boasts that it’s a reboot of the franchise that started way back in 1993 when violent PC games were considered risky. This means we get pretty much all of the staples of the original Doom: shotgun, chainsaw, cacodemons, one giant spider boss, the BFG9000, crazy heavy metal guitar riffs, etc. The thing is, we don’t really try anything new. Don’t get us wrong, the nostalgic joy of revisiting updated versions of our series favorite enemies is great, the previously described tactical fast-paced combat is addictive, and the game looks and sounds amazing.
We just kept hoping with this much inspiration and talent, Id Software would be willing to branch out more like Half Life 2’s incredible last act which gave you the powered up gravity gun or the recent Wolfenstein which provided an emotional gut punch for the last boss that reminded you of a painful choice you made at the start of the game. The game doesn’t want to explore the marine’s super human strength any further, or make use of your remarkable mobility with an escape sequence, or design a moment in time with the BFG9000 saves your life, or even just give us a few new enemies we haven’t faced over and over in previous Doom games.
Doom is a really great game and that alone is huge statement. It’s just disappointing that it never becomes more than a sum of its already well established parts.
What works well
You owe it to yourself to just try the combat. It’s meticulously well designed and surviving some of the later battles made us feel like we were some American Psycho version of Neo from the Matrix dodging bullets and laying waste to dozens of bad guys. The game is also among the best looking titles we’ve played running a smooth 60 FPS even during the most heated of gunfights
What doesn’t work
Multiplayer is mindless and, yeah, we’re sore there’s no coop to speak of. But we feel strongly that there’s missed potential here. There are obviously a lot of talented people behind this game to make it play this well. The fact we never escape from the original Doom’s shadow to break any new ground is disappointing.
Overall: Worth a rent
No one believed this game would be good. Early multiplayer tests declared this title as uninspiring and forgettable. But Id Software has really performed a miracle here. They’ve evolved FPS combat in a way that other games will soon follow, they’ve released a title that’s received universal praise which they’ve failed to do for a long time now, and they’ve revived a franchise we thought was dead and buried two console generations ago. Hopefully we won’t wait another decade for a worthy sequel.