Last updated on July 28th, 2017
DOOM is the most recent release from Id Software and the fourth game in the Doom franchise. While it is on all the major platforms, PC, Xbox One and PS4, this review focuses on the PC version. Some technical aspects may vary depending on your platform. Also, it can get a bit confusing at times as we will be talking about the Doom franchise, past Doom games, and the recently released DOOM that is the focus of this review. Anytime I refer to the recent DOOM, I’ll use all caps, and when talking about the Doom franchise I’ll use normal formatting.
Developed by: id Software
Published by: Bethesda Softworks
Release date: May 13th, 2016
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Reviewed on PC)
Launch Price: 59.99 USD
The Doom name carries a great deal of weight in the First Person Shooter world as it is commonly credited with codifying the genre. Yes there were FPS games released before. Yes, it wasn’t even the most technically advanced game of its time, given that Ultima Underworld was released a year before and had more mechanics. But no one can deny that Doom was the game that captured gamers’ (and the industry’s) attention. So for Id to release a new game in the franchise is big. To call it DOOM, dropping the number 4, is even bigger.
So how does this new DOOM stand up? There are two ways of looking at it: as its own game, and as a reboot of the Doom franchise. For the most part, it does an outstanding job in both areas. It is by no means a perfect game however, and it is held back by some frustrating multiplayer balance and some odd technical decisions.
Speaking of tech, let’s address this first. The amount of options on the PC side is glorious. DOOM has an expansive array of video options to select from, including colorblind modes. This made me smile. I am not colorblind, but I’ve known gamers that are and I really wish more developers would take the time to include modes like this in their games. But name a video option, and chances are they have it. The biggest option for an FPS is Field of View, and that ranges from 90 to 130. It also has a built in performance meter that can show CPU and GPU usage, so you can easily fine-tune your settings to get the best performance possible. I have yet to encounter any performance issues on Ultra but I do have a fairly strong machine.
Moving past settings, the next question is: how does this game hold up as a modern FPS? Masterfully is the answer. It holds up masterfully. Everything about the moment to moment gameplay is enjoyable. Movement speed is fast, really fast. This could actually be a negative to some people that are used to more tactical games, but this is not a tactical game. Jumping feels solid, grabbing ledges and pulling yourself up flows well, and the guns are incredible. They feel just right, like massive weapons of destruction. Precisely like something you would want to take with you as you descend into hell to kill demons.
Speaking of demons, they’re a fun and varied lot. Each demon has a distinct outline making it easy to identify from a distance. They also all have distinct roles, which keeps encounters fresh despite having a limited number of foes. They’re also quite fun to kill, especially with the Glory Kill system.
The Glory Kill system is a new feature that has been viewed with a fair amount of trepidation from the fan base. Much like the kill cam from Fallout 3, many were concerned that it would wear old having to constantly endure these kill animations. Well it hasn’t been the case here, and others have echoed this. The animations are quick, fluid and well done, and integrate into the game play by granting health and ammo drops. What is even better is it is totally optional. You can turn off the highlight, and you’ll still get health and ammo drops if you gib a demon.
And now to slide into the final question: with all of this glory killing, double jumping, ledge grabbing stuff going on, how does this hold up as a Doom game? This is of course going to be a bit subjective, but it is a brilliant Doom game. Doom for me has always been about running through a maze, shooting tons of demons and trying to puzzle out where all the secrets are. DOOM has this in spades. You are almost always running around killing demons and finding puzzling secrets. However, it does take the bulk of its lineage from Doom 1 and 2. You can see hints of Doom 3 in here, but they don’t amount to much. So if your only experience with Doom is from Doom 3, it is going to feel like a very different game.
Now, let’s talk problems. First off is a minor nitpick: for some baffling reason the PC version needs to restart whenever you wish to enter multiplayer or SnapMap. Which means if you want to engage in some multiplayer you need watch the logo screens twice, and let the main menu load twice. This is confounding. I can believe that there’s some under-the-hood reason as to why it needs to happen, but why not give us a launcher or something so we don’t have to go through two loading screens? The same aggravation applies to SnapMap as well, so if you want to play some community created content, have fun watching double loading screens. There’s also the usual PC day one drama of driver issues, and some people have reported inexplicable frame drops when there’s a lot of smoke effect on the screen. None of it is horrible at the time of writing, but it is still there.
Finally, there’s multiplayer. This is a very polarizing issue on the PC. You either love it or hate it. The selection of game modes are…okay. Nothing special. Though for some reason free-for-all death match is not an option. If you want that, you have to seek it out via SnapMap levels. The moment to moment game play is still there of course, so running, jumping and shooting still feel good. But the balance…oh the humanity the balance. It’s just as messed up as it was in the beta. Now granted I am not MLG material, but I’m not a poor player either and there are some serious weapon balancing issues at play here. The sound design here is still also quite lacking. I’d like to be able to hear it when someone fires a shotgun into my back, thank you very much. But this isn’t possible without very high-quality headphones at high volume.
One final thing needs to be addressed in this review, and that is SnapMap and modding. SnapMap is both brilliant and disheartening at the same time. Disheartening because of the inherent limitations it places on the mods. Unless the PC crowd figure out how to crack it open, we will not see total conversions, new models, or even texture replacements. I will never see the Chook mod reborn in DOOM. This makes me very sad. On the other hand there are some gains to be had here. Already the SnapMap repository is loaded with maps and new game modes, and some of them quite goo. And, more importantly, all versions can play them. I’ve already had a guild-mate play my map on a PS4, and I created it on a PC. That is just awesome and amplifies the community’s ability to create content for each other. This is all refreshing because historically, Doom modding tools have been arduous to deal with. So have we lost something? Yes. But I think what we gained is well worth it and bodes well going forward.
In conclusion, DOOM is a fun, fast-paced arcadey shooter. As long as you’re not looking for a deep, serious story that reflects upon the nature of humanity and hubris, and you love fast paced games with engaging gameplay, you will really enjoy DOOM’s single player campaign. If your only interest is multiplayer, then I would recommend exploring the mode through videos before committing, as the experience can be uneven from person to person.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to killing demons. By beating them to death. With their own arms.