For almost a year now, fans of the Doom franchise have had reasons to be excited and reasons to be nervous. On the one hand id Software’s last attempt at a reboot with ‘Wolfenstein: The New Order’ was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews. This coupled with the fact that the preview footage for the latest Doom looked absolutely incredible has left gamers with high expectations. On the other hand, a lengthy development period mixed with a lukewarm multiplayer beta has led some fans to question whether or not this entry will be able to live up to the standards of this classic series. So, now it’s finally been released, how well does it hold up?
This installment of Doom has been split into 3 modes. ‘Campaign’, ‘Multiplayer’ and ‘Snap Map’. ‘Campaign’ is a single player story mode consisting of 13 lengthy missions of intense demon hunting madness. ‘Multiplayer’ is a team based online battle with a choice of 6 different scoring modes. Finally there’s ‘Snap Map’, a level editor and online hosting server which allows players to create their own single player, co-op, or death match stages to share with others.
The single player mode is the bulk of the overall package and well worth the price tag on its own. You begin the game chained to a bed in a lab and within seconds of the gameplay starting you are firing bullets into the heads of possessed scientists. Your own back story is a mystery, however through a series of encounters and holographic recordings you soon learn about this station’s recent activities and the rouge employees that have placed mankind in jeopardy.
From a gameplay perspective, id Software has clearly taken the time to go back to its roots and study what made the original Doom games the classics that they are. The motion is incredibly fast and fluid, the stages are maze like in design and chocked full of secrets, and the combat mechanics actively encourage you to fight demons up close and personal.
Two of the biggest innovations as far as the gameplay is concerned is how Doom handles glory kills (finishing an enemy off with a melee attack) and the use of the chainsaw. The chainsaw had previously been used in Doom as a last resort when you have no ammo left and glory kills were first introduced into the series by modders as novel death moves. However, in this game glory kills will reward you with health pick ups and chainsaw kills spawn a massive pile of ammo. As a result it’s possible to kill indiscriminately for ages with no need to back down and search for power ups. All you have to do is get up close and vary your kills accordingly.
The stages (that take part either on the science moon base or in a demonic hell dimension) are structured in such a way so the player can explore around and choose their own path through the various maps. As the player explores they will encounter various ambushes in arena like areas. During these battles it’s common for the surrounding doors to ‘lock down’, forcing the player to stand and fight until all the waves of demons are neutralised. Many of these demons are based on the pool of enemies found in the classic Doom games along with some brand new additions. For good measure, all of the classic Doom weapons have also been included (along with a couple that haven’t previously been featured in Doom before) and are spread out throughout the campaign to keep the combat progressive. Checkpoint occur very frequently so even if you fall in battle a lot it doesn’t get too frustrating as you are never sent too far back.
Unlike classic Doom, this new version contains a very substantial upgrade system to make your character stronger and more dynamic. Scattered across the game are various armour chips which upgrade your suit, combat points to upgrade your weapons, drones to add weapon abilities, ruin challenges to upgrade abilities, power ups which permanently upgrade your health, armour or ammo cap. It’s very difficult to avoid this sort or progression as each area of a map seems to contain some method of strengthening your abilities.
One appealing factor regarding this upgrade system is that you can replay previous missions at any time, complete with all the abilities you’ve earned so far. As a result, earlier levels become a lot easier to explore as you’re returning to them with a much stronger character. As each stage keeps a record of all the challenges you’ve completed and secrets you have found, it’s always very tempting to back track and find out what you missed the first time.
With regards to presentation, this game looks simply stunning. The environments are extremely well structured, the textures are rich with detail, the special effects such fire and explosions are first rate. Many of the assets compare very closely to those in the classic games, although now in far better quality. Even simple things like the designs of the doors and textures on the stairs are all made to mimic the original game. Overall this is a great example of how a AAA game should look in this day and age. The sound effects are very satisfying and add to the heart pounding action, however although the heavy rock soundtrack is OK at best it does not compare to all the catchy tunes we were treated to in the original classics.
During gameplay the controls are very comfortable (I say “during gameplay” for a reason which I’ll get to shortly). The twin sticks control movement with the R3 button doubling up as a melee and interact button, which reduces the need to remove your thumbs from the sticks. R2 shoots, a tap of R1 switches weapons and holding R1 brings up a weapon wheel for easy selection. The face buttons are used for special weapons, jumping and crouching, while the L buttons are used for secondary weapon modes and other equipment. Although I was fine with the default set up, a couple of my friends used the option menu to lower the twin stick sensitivity as they were not used to shooters that operate at this speed.
When you first begin a campaign you have a choice of three levels of difficulty which are all pretty well balanced and cater to players of mixed ability. For the brave amongst you it is possible to unlock ‘Nightmare’ mode which ramps the difficulty up to a very high level, and ‘Ultra Nightmare’ which is the same as Nightmare only with no checkpoints, no saves and one life.
As someone who only plays online shooter occasionally I was perfectly satisfied with the Doom multiplayer modes. When speaking to players who are a little more experienced in this field a common complaint I’ve heard is that arena shooters should have more weapon pickups throughout the stages. As it stands you unlock weapons as you level up and get to choose two each time you enter an online battle. The properties of these weapons are very varied. There are shot guns, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, a real mix to suet your personal style of play.
Arenas are selected for you and your party at random, however you do get a choice of mode. There are objective based modes such as death matches or games that involve controlling a zone on the map (this includes a mode called ‘Warpath’ where the zone you have to defend actually moves around the arena). There are also round based modes where you either have to wipe out the opposite team in its entirety before anyone can respawn for another round, or ‘Freeze tag’ where players who have been killed freeze on the spot and can be thawed back into the battle by team mates.
Not only did I enjoy the online play personally, but I also found many of these modes to be quite original and very refreshing. The closest game I can compare this mode to would probably have to be Quake 3 Arena with its teleporters and antigravity platforms. It may not have been as well received as the Campaign mode, but there is certainly fun to be had here.
Finally, there is the inclusion of the level editor. Although I am extremely grateful for its inclusion as this could potentially add an incredible amount of game time to this purchase, I feel I do have to stress that this application isn’t as thorough or in depth as many of the Doom modding tools that have surfaced throughout the years. I appreciate that in order to make the Snap Map a user friendly experience it couldn’t be too complicated, especially as id Software wanted a tool that can be used across all platforms.
The only significant drawback with Snap Map as far as limitations go is that you cannot create unique rooms to cater to the exact size and shape you want. Instead you have to make choices from a decent range of prebuilt rooms and ‘snap’ them together like a jigsaw in order to build your own unique levels. You can then insert various item pick ups, demons, events, win conditions and set pieces in order to flesh out your stages.
The controls can get a little complicated here. Understandably so as you are putting together 3D structures and essentially programming events to occur within those structures. However one aspect that makes life a little easier is the inclusion of two tutorials (basic and advanced). Obviously they do not make the controls any simpler to use but they do give you an opportunity to get used to them as they stand.
Within about 3 hours I had not only built and tested my first Doom level (which was fairly substantial in size) but I had also published it on the server and played a few co-op rounds with my friends. This was a very satisfying way to play and I’m pleased I was able to share the final experience with my friends online.
For the most part this new Doom game has been incredible, however there seem to have been a few minor bugs across all three game modes. For example in the campaign there was an instance where one of the imps was stuck in one spot but was still using his running animation. During an online game I had to wait for the time to expire even though my team had already won the round. Finally, there were a few instances in the Snap Map mode where I couldn’t get certain enemies to spawn even though I was sure I had programmed them correctly to do so. These were only minor things individually, but it seems that there are still a few tiny glitches to be ironed out. Given the size and scope of this title I can forgive these bugs as they were few and far between. There were no major problems and the game is pretty stable overall.
It may be worth noting that the disc includes a 12GB install and the day one patch (version 1.02) is around 6GB, although when I began the application (pre-patch) the only aspects I didn’t have access to were both of the online modes (including Snap Map). As such I’m guessing that the bulk of the data included in the patch only related to online play. I did experience quite a bit of screen tearing when I first began playing but this had all cleared up by mission two or three. I’m guessing the patch may have also had something to do with that. If for whatever reason your PS4 is not online this is something you may wish to consider before buying.
Overall I am completely satisfied with Doom. So far it has been my favourite third party AAA game of this console generation. I can’t remember being this impressed with a first person shooter since BioShock Infinite, and even then I think I prefer this one. Since the majority of the content in this game was inspired by Doom 1, I really hope there will be a ‘Hell on Earth’ style expansion due out in the future to incorporate some of Doom 2’s content.
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