PolyNerdic Review: Doom

Dear readers, would you all hate me if I described my time with Doom’s single player campaign as a hell of a good time?

I really want to make that pun but it feels a little too much like a lame dad joke.

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I’ll admit that when this game was announced I was apprehensive at best.

While my experience with Doom was limited to the 32x version of the game and listening to the stories of my more well off friends had of the computer versions of the game, one could easily argue that Doom was a large part of my childhood.  I loved everything the series, from the fast paced action, the level design, the music and of course the slaying of hordes of demons.

While a part of me wanted to immediately be excited by the prospect of a modern take on the game my more logical side couldn’t forget Doom 3.

Not that Doom 3 was a bad game but due to the limitations of the time it was released it was a much different game than the old Dooms.  I was afraid that we would end up with more of that game, a slower more methodical take on the series.

Thankfully I can say that this new Doom more or less ignores that Doom 3 ever happened and is all the better for it.

Doom (2016) is a beautiful throwback to the era I grew up with.  Whereas modern shooters, Call of Duty and the like, have you ducking behind cover and popping out to take out targets, Doom returns you to the era where stopping for a moment may well get you killed.

The story is wonderfully idiotic and picks up sometime after the end of Doom 2.  In the opening moments you wake up strapped to a table of sorts with a monstrous zombie like creature approaching.  In a moment you’ve dispatched the beast, broken free and armed yourself.  It quickly becomes apparent that you’ve been broken out of the stone that has encased you since the battle with the Icon of Sin that ended Doom 2 and that the facility you find yourself in has been overrun with demons.

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Because even the computer knows the shit has hit the fan.

You quickly find out that the UAC has been harnessing energy from Hell as a form of sustainable energy and as the game unfolds you find out they’ve been weaponizing demons.  A senior member of the facility’s staff has been listening to the demons and is assisting them in invading Mars.

From there the plot is absolutely secondary to the action as you spend the next 14 or so hours kicking demonic ass from the facility to Hell and back (several times over).  As I said earlier the gameplay itself is very old school.  Your health does not regenerate (health has to be found in the level or harvested from enemies by the use of “glory kills”) and movement is key to your survival.  Most of the game has you exploring an area until a demonic invasion triggers and then slaying all the demons before moving on.  Some may frown on this use of “kill chambers” but I quite enjoyed the way it was implemented with the security protocols of the facility triggering a lockdown until demonic activity reaches “safe levels”.

The creature design is absolutely fantastic as all the old favorites from “Pinkies” to the Cyber-Demon are represented in overhauled fashion.  Many of the creatures were down right horrifying and more than once I found myself out of breath or with an elevated heart rate after fighting off waves of the hideous beasts.  Sound design goes a long way towards creating that tension with plenty of creepy ambient sounds with an incredible hard driving soundtrack.  In fact the soundtrack to this game is likely my favorite soundtrack of the last several years.  Doom is arguably one of the most beautifully designed games visually as well.  While it no doubt pushes the current consoles near their limits it is easily one of the most beautiful games I’ve played in a long time.  The environments are as beautiful as they are terrifying and more than once I found myself just staring at the levels as I explored them.

On a performance level, Doom out performed many of the recent games I’ve played.  During my time with the game I experienced a grand total of two glitches, one involving a floating corpse and only one crash that took me back to the home screen (something that has happened many, many times with other AAA titles in the last year).

The game is perfectly paced, introducing new threats at an even rate until you’ve seen all the forms of hell-beasts possible.  Each new demon presents its own forms of challenges to the mix and you’ll quickly find yourself learning to assess the room and prioritize the threats to you as you endlessly scramble through the area, constantly sprinting and strafing through the projectiles shot your way.  The battles are intense and in many instances I found myself physically relieved when the last demon fell, heart beat racing and feeling like I had been running for my life and I absolutely loved it.  Even in the last several hours when the difficulty spikes and I found myself looking at one grisly death screen or another I couldn’t walk away.  There are only a handful of “boss” battles, at least two of which are throwbacks to classic Doom moments, and several of them are brilliantly difficult wars of attrition forcing you to duck and dodge their attacks and doing damage when you can.  The bosses in this game are the kind that make you feel like you’ve earned your victory when the battle has ended.

Final Verdict: 9 out of 10

Doom is not a perfect game but it is damn close.  I had a hell of a good time (couldn’t resist saying it again) slaying demons on a quest to save Mars from the hordes of Hell.  My only real complaints were that it was over before I was ready for it to be and honestly the ending could have been better (it has the feel of a cliffhanger setting up DLC).

Regrettably I didn’t get to play the multiplayer or snap-map modes but the single player campaign was what brought me to the game to begin with.  In the future I’ll no doubt pick it up again and check them out but I was more than satisfied with the campaign.

Doom is definitely worth your time and money if you are a fan of the old school way of doing this sort of game and definitely worth your time if you just want to destroy armies of evil beings in the name of entertainment.  Doom is the perfect mix of one part nostalgia, one part beautiful visuals, one part ass-kicking music/sound design and one part epic demon slaying action.

-Shad (@PolyNerdic)

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