Skepticism surrounded DOOM before it released. The beta was an underwhelming experience that combined the contemporary with the established while failing to evoke the spirit of either. In better news, the full release kicks down the door and grabs you by the throat, all while an in-your-face version of the DOOM theme plays on repeat. It’s ballsy, it never lets up and, my God, is it all the better for it.
Through a smart set of decisions, DOOM retains all that made the first game great with very little compromise. Immediately evident as you break free from the sarcophagus that begins the game is the speed. DOOMGuy still moves a brisk pace, permanently running around each level in bloody gay abandon. After years of dedicated sprint buttons, DOOM feels as though you’re moving at warp speed constantly but this is a definite Good Thing™. It’s but one puzzle piece that makes up the visual and aural onslaught.
Of course, running about the place wouldn’t be the same without the litany of demonic beasts soon to become pulp. Pretty much every enemy from the original game is given a detailed makeover, still as unnerving as their initial sprite representations. It’s their movement patterns that bring the fun - the lithe imps skitter about the level while gaunt revenants hover precariously as they unload explosive cargo from shoulder-mounted launchers. Every enemy has a behaviour, a moveset and arsenal to learn because, as the game is happy to tell you, staying still will see you dead. Even on lower difficulties, DOOM’s multi-tiered killzones and waves of cannon fodder can prove overwhelming; so it is that you’ll need to keep on your toes, running at that blistering pace while thinking three steps ahead of your current action.
Expansive, secret-filled levels are a franchise staple (well, maybe not you, Doom 3) and DOOM continues the trend with some of the best designed to date. Searing furnaces, corpse-strewn Hellscapes worthy of Bosch and the expected Mars colony are all present and correct, funneling you into arenas before sending wave after wave of enemies for your disposal. Once you’ve got the double jump they offer a multitude of routes to weave through as you dispatch beasties. The level design is purely focused on playing the game - while there is a smattering of environmental storytelling, this is purely second fiddle to allowing the player as many escape routes as possible.
Stitching together the fluidity of movement and the brutality of mowing down the demons are the new glory kills. Hit an enemy enough and they’ll start to glow, indicating that you can initiate a glory kill if in close proximity. These eye-opening (occasionally literally) moves are contextual dependent on how you approach each enemy and always horrific in their violence. In any other game they’d feel gratuitous - in DOOM they just add to the hyper-fast barrage of action. They are indeed glorious. Add in power-ups familiar to franchise veterans - Invulnerability, (even) Faster Movement and more - and you can now see how each fight is less about shooting everything until it stops moving (although there is that) and more a careful on-the-fly plan of action.
Then there are the weapons. Aside from a pistol that feels weak and ineffective, each weapon has heft, power and their own strengths and weaknesses against certain enemies. Add in unlockable upgrades (often two types for a given weapon) and another layer of tactics is created. Of course, these upgrades are part of a wider subset of secrets and unlockables, hidden away in corners of each level to be found when the bullets stop flying.
Mini-DOOMGuy figurines, suit upgrades and glowing runes are but some of the many things to find in each level. The runes even unlock mini-challenge levels to be tackled, imposing neat quirks on the standard gameplay such as limited ammo or the ability to move for only a few seconds after killing an enemy. They’re another perfect addition that serve as a palate cleanser - a much needed breather between battles, even if they’re mostly about blowing shit up as well.
The thin layer on top of all of this orchestrated chaos is DOOM’s story - a tale that’s so easy to skip that even your character can’t be arsed following the twists and turns of the plot. Sure, there are logs to be found and read if you want, but like DOOMGuy you’ll consider the brief moments of exposition to be mere precursors to more killing. There’s a gleeful irreverence though, as your space marine disregards any consequences of the chaos that might come between him and Hell’s minions. It’s a smart move, keeping plot to a minimum - Doom 3 was widely derided for attempting to draw a cohesive plot out of the setup. DOOM throws this to the side but admirably doesn’t ignore it - it just leaves it for the curious.
While the single-player is the equivalent of Mad Max: Fury Road in pure, unstoppable astoundment, the multiplayer is still a bit of a damp squib. Like the beta, its mix of the contemporary and classic doesn’t gel - loadouts don’t really feel like they belong in a game where you usually carry every weapon at once. Matches lack the bite and visceral nature of the single-player, acting more as a passable timewaster than something vital and entertaining. When stacked up against other offerings - COD, Battlefield and the like - the down-to-earth simplicity just isn’t compelling, even if you can become a demon during the rounds. Developed externally, it feels off - something that should be looked at in future updates, but it’ll take a lot to make it feel necessary.
Luckily, the single-player is just brilliant, an adrenaline rush the like of which hasn’t been seen in a long time. There are better games out there for narrative and atmosphere but DOOM had an effect on my heart rate that I’ve not experienced before. Pure, constant excitement, soundtracked by Mick Gordon’s industrial score. It’s uncompromising, unequivocally unique and unmissable.