DOOM: The Throwback That Does More Than Just Be Retro
In Synzer's DOOM 2016 review, he talks about how replayable DOOM is, mentioning the brilliant combat, upgrade trees, and collectibles. While I agree, the combat is exquisite, over the top, fast, frantic, and bombastic -- more adjectives are needed -- I also find it to get tedious. The enemies build in strength, you fight more and more of them, then DOOM throws all of the enemies at you, but this is when it lost me.
I really want to love DOOM, but I'm only fond of it
The combat is both my greatest praise, and biggest problem with DOOM. It is fun, it is fast, and it is very old school. But the issues turn up once you get out of the Hell for the first time.
The first few levels in DOOM start by feeling like little sandboxes, areas you move around not through, it gives you a wonderful sense of freedom. You are stumbling across groups of enemies, finding secrets, and clearing out all of the forces of Hell. However, once you get back from Hell for the first time that all changes.
Suddenly, DOOM feels like it's funneling you down a corridor, with areas which stop you being able to go back. With there being no defined direction for which you should head, which isn't inherently an issue. You may turn right at a T-junction -- the way towards to objective -- but going left would net you some rewards, unfortunately going right means you fall down a hole and can't go back. If gating wasn't part of these sections, I would be praising DOOM for allowing backtracking to nab all of the rewards.
Throwing all the enemies at you doesn't mean combat stays interesting
The two major issues I have with DOOM stem down to the game feeling like it's repeating itself, and simply filling rooms with every enemy does not keep the interest up.
During the first half of DOOM I was having the time of my life, with new enemies being introduced, new environments like Hell, different areas in the research base on Mars, adding in more vertical combat arenas, exploring the open areas, and speeding around like nobodies business.
Too many enemies are introduced too quickly, you fight most of the enemies by the time you get out of the Hell. At this point all that DOOM does is throw more enemies are you, filling rooms with 3 or 4 of the larger enemies, and 10s of imps, dragging these combat arenas out by making you backtrack through them while throwing yet more enemies into the mix. This pattern continues for the rest of the game and this is where the repetitiveness comes in. The only thing which kept DOOM from getting boring, was simply that the speed of the game. Skating around at lightning speed kept the boredom at bay, but while the combat never stopped being fun it didn't keep the excitement up due to the formulaic nature of the combat arenas.
The combat never got worse, it was simply that a pattern emerged, and nothing new was introduced -- aside from a few bosses to break up the fights. The bosses in DOOM are actually fantastic to fight, with only a few attacks I couldn't find a way to completely dodge, they do just enough to introduce new attack stages throughout to keep you on your toes.
DOOM is an excellent game, but it could be even better with a few changes
The problems I have with DOOM can be fixed, the simplest way to do that would be make the game shorter. Having completed the game in around 12 hours, perhaps shaving 3 to 4 hours off the playtime would have mitigated some of the issues. Allowing for enemies to be fed to the player over a longer time, and dropping the enemy count in the combat arenas, is another possible solution.
DOOM is one of the best shooters in a while, maybe even since Wolfenstein: The New Order, and with a few alterations it could take the crown of best classic callback from Hard Reset -- both Hard Reset and Wolfenstein: The New Order are some of the best examples of classic shooters and modern tech colliding into something amazing. It's worth mentioning that Hard Reset Redux is out on June 3 on Steam.
Enough of the negatives! DOOM is still amazing!
Everything I have just ragged on DOOM about is only applicable after the first half of the game, so while the game starts to fall apart after that point, before it DOOM is one of the best shooters around.
A never relenting pace, intersected by some less interesting story monologues by robotic science leader Dr. Samuel Hayden, DOOM has some of the best environmental and character interaction storytelling in games. The way enemies look at you, as Doomguy, with the utmost fear. At times, enemies will just scurry away -- imps running away off the side of a building, or Cacodemons flying away. When executing a Glory Kill, which is an execution which is guaranteed to give you health, most enemies have a split second of looking absolutely terrified. Doomguy is the only human -- at least we assume he is human -- to go to Hell and come back. He's the only human who can stand up to the legions of Hell, not only that but Doomguy does it all by himself.
Doomguy hates demons, all he wants to do is kill them. Instead of simply shutting down the portal to Hell, he destroys it. So while the overarching story is... let's say very DOOM -- which is to say very simplistic -- the backstory is very rich, with audio logs which are some of the few I actually want to listen to. Scanning through the text logs is actually very interesting.
With length and heel dragging issues comes a beautifully violent retro modern shooter
DOOM does everything retro shooters did, the lack of fall damage, no reloading, health which doesn't regenerate, arenas of combat not corridors, no aiming down sights, and a bunch of other classic shooter tropes. But, DOOM pairs these with diverse AI in the different enemy types, executions, smooth and detailed animations, amazing lighting, and it looks very pretty.
It's a game that knows it's roots, but doesn't reuse the shortcomings of classic shooters. DOOM tries to fix them with modern techniques. It only really falls short by introducing all the weapons and enemies too quickly, and then just repeats a pattern of throwing many of every type of monster at the player -- it may also be too long. If you want a beautiful looking call back to shooters of old DOOM is definitely one for you, I'm just ever so slightly disappointed that since finishing the game, I don't feel the need to go back.
Copy was purchased via Steam.