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Doom: a homecoming caked in demon blood

The latest installment of the Doom series finally finds its way into Liam Maguren’s trembling hands. What he finds within is something on a biblical scale. 

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I’ve written previously about the legacy of 1993’s Doom and my experience with the new Doom’s multiplayer BETA. I have a tender fondness for the trail-blazing original and while the BETA was fun, I was afraid its lack of innovation would let down the series’ longstanding legacy.

Well, it looks like I’ll have to tattoo those words onto my knuckles and eat my own fist, because the single player in Bethesda’s Doom sticks to what it knows and finds videogame greatness in its purest, primal form.

There is no opening cut-scene to get you warmed up; you’re immediately dumped into the chaos with a crummy pistol and your mighty mitts. Storytelling wasn’t a renowned feature in any of the original games (or the movie) and that tradition remains true with this one. The game is almost gleeful at how little attention it gives its own plot; it basically sums it all up in one shot…

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More attention is given to the character designs with modern interpretations of the classic Doom artwork. Given how far videogames have progressed over the last two decades, a crazy amount of dedication must have gone into these visual choices and getting them right. It’s eerily impressive how well they did with the new design for the Cacodemon (AKA the flying meatball with teeth).

The Mars labs and the realms of hell you navigate don’t have much personality. But for a game that demands Formula One levels of speed from you, it would seem like a wasted effort to create Uncharted-like vistas that you probably wouldn’t have time to stop and Instagram.

Doom’s soul lies in its blistering gameplay, stripping away modern first person shooter conventions in order to keep the controls simple and tight. There is no ‘reload’ button. There is no ‘sprint’ mode (you’re always sprinting). All you really need to know is how to fire, how to switch weapons, and how to jump.

You’ll also want to know how to finish enemies with a ‘glory kill’, which presented the most beautiful series of images to have blessed my TV screen this year. (And I’ve just seen Brooklyn.)

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There are very few surprises in the arsenal, but you can unlock some nifty attachments to give them some tang. The shotgun can double as a grenade launcher, the chaingun can turn into a portable duel-gun turret, and the plasma rifle can melt enemies by emitting excess heat. You also have side equipment like grenades and holograms, but I honestly forgot to use them once I taught my rocket launcher to explode each shot TWICE.

The gorgeous chainsaw gets its own switch-to button, but has limited uses before you have to refuel. When you find a demon to mince, not only are you rewarded with an easy kill more glorious than a standard glory kill, ammo also showers on you like a bullet lolly scramble. This gives the chainsaw a tactical application: it tempts you to use it early on harder enemies but can save your hide later if you’re low on ammunition.

(How does a chainsaw get bullets out of a demon? Because… shut up. It’s fun.)

This game demands skill, and Doom will kick your ass repeatedly until you fit the mold. It can be intimidating at first, but like riding a bike, or playing table tennis, or attempting a backflip, perseverance leads to progress, and progress leads to you feeling like the biggest badass in the valley of badassdom.
It also doesn’t allow you to regenerate health, defying the modern strategy of ‘hide to survive’. Instead, you’re forced to pick up the health and shield packs that are generously littered all over the map, promoting the strategy of ‘be fast to save your ass’. You don’t have time to catch your breath in battle, giving Doom an exhilarating sense of all-or-nothing mania with each confrontation.

I’ve been in a few fights where I’ve been down to single-digit health only to claw my way back with some well-timed rockets, a chain of headshots, and a series of bare-hand decapitations. After each of those fights, I would impulsively stand up and yell a celebratory grunt while beating my chest.

In hindsight, I’m very embarrassed by that. But at the time, the endorphin release was exceptional.

To break up the action, the game also encourages you to explore the maps for more upgrades, collectables, data logs and secrets. There are also a number of health stations that inject you with space steroids.

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But unless you’re in need of improvements or suffer from Obsessive Completion Disorder, there’s little incentive to wander around the purposely vast and vacant areas. There is the odd platforming puzzle to get your mind off the violence, but these end up being more frustrating than fun.

All Doom really wants is to please your bloodlust with high-velocity combat, and it does its one job exceptionally. It’s the gaming Moses that parts the seas of an overcrowded genre and sprints straight across the path it created back in 1993. It’s the game every ‘90s child imagined it would be in the year 2016 – an FPS version of Bonestorm.

So tell your folks: “Buy me Doom OR GO TO HELL!”


 

This review of Doom comes to you with the support (hugs) of Bigpipe, an ISP that offers DFA with a BFG

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