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DOOM (2016) Review

Does the newest iteration of the DOOM franchise live up to the legacy of its predecessors?

I?ve always loved DOOM. The original was one of the first proper PC games I played as a kid, after someone installed the shareware version on a computer at school and we all had a go. While I don?t believe I had the full version way back then I definitely played the shareware version (which contained the full first episode of the game) over and over again enthralled by the fast paced action and, for the time at least, graphic content. Looking back of course it all seems pretty tame by modern standards, but back then it was really something special. The original DOOM still holds up pretty well, while the ropey level design of the latter half of DOOM II holds it back a fair bit by comparison.

And then there was DOOM 3. It was highly anticipated but on release was found by many, myself included, to be a disappointment due to the slow paced terror feel that it had. It seemed even worse so to me, coming not long after the fantastic Serious Sam games had nailed everything that worked about DOOM, that DOOM 3 was so unlike the game I?d wanted and expected it to be. I?ve not yet tried the BFG Edition however, which apparently would be more my speed.

After a troubled development period that ran for over 5 years and included the entire game being scrapped and started again, I began to be cautiously optimistic after footage of a new DOOM was shown at last year?s E3 that looked to have the tone just right.

And so, that brings us to DOOM. In this wonderfully confusing world we live in, like so many other games these days DOOM shares its title with the original game with no number to signify if it?s a sequel or reboot or something else. In DOOM?s case, it?s considered to be a reboot of the franchise and deals with the demon invasion of Mars.

As with every DOOM game to date, DOOM casts you as the unnamed ?Doom Marine,? a silent green armour wearing soldier called into action to stop the demons and save humanity. You battle against the demons, taking the fight from Mars and back to Hell. It?s very much the original DOOM but through a filter of shooters as they are now; I got a very Halo vibe at a lot of points, though that?s likely exaggerated due to the physical similarity of both games? protagonists and seeing green armoured hands holding weapons all the time.

Unlike DOOM 3, this DOOM is all about fast paced, frantic action. The Doom Marine runs pretty quickly, and can catch onto and climb up most ledges to get around the levels. Speeding this up even more is a new feature of the combat called Glory Kills. After dealing enough damage to an enemy it will begin to glow signalling that it?s staggered and susceptible to a Glory Kill. Coming close to it causes it to change colour, and you can then press the melee attack button to perform a brutal kill that causes the enemy to drop extra health an ammo pickups. The Marine, will rush in on an enemy to perform a Glory Kill, and an upgrade available later in the game increases the distance you can do it at so killing enemies this way becomes a pretty efficient way of travelling around a battle.

I was very happy when I first saw the games? weapon wheel as it meant that, unlike most modern shooters that limit you to two or three at a time, you can carry the entire selection of weapons and switch between them at will as used to be common with shooters back in the 90s. And it?s a pretty decent selection of weapons too, with only a couple that I barely used and they all have a selection of upgrades to make them even more powerful. Opening the weapon wheel massively slows down the action around you, so you can usually change to a different gun without getting killed by any demons nearby but it doesn?t stop them completely so spending too long in the wheel can be dangerous. The iconic chainsaw and BFG 9000 also return, both with dedicated buttons to switch to them instead of being found on the weapon wheel. The BFG of course deals massive damage, while the chainsaw is an instant kill on the enemy being targeted and causes them to drop tons of ammo pickups.

There are tons of collectables, references and in-jokes hidden through each of the game?s levels, from simple upgrade points to miniature Doomguy figures to a hidden level from a classic DOOM game. To make tracking all of these down, the game features a handy 3D map that highlights any collected items so you can easily tell whatever you?ve missed should you want to go back and collect them all. Bonus points are given for several references to the truly, truly awful (yet somehow I?ve reread it a few times) DOOM comic from the 90?s.

Controls are tight and precise, as I?d expect from an id game. Aiming, shooting and movement are all spot on. There?s a surprising amount of platforming on most levels, but it?s handled very well and is quite forgiving and I never felt I?d made a jump that the game decided I?d missed.

DOOM is the first title to use the new id Tech 6 engine, and does so to fantastic effect. It?s an absolutely gorgeous game, that even with a far from top end system can run on decent settings with good performance.

I?m a little late to DOOM (due to a slight addiction to Marvel Heroes that began a couple of months ago) which means that I was still playing the campaign when the recent update that added support for the Vulkan API came out. Switching to it I noticed an immediate increase in performance, in 1080p with a mix of medium to high settings I now get a solid 60FPS on my GTX 960 after averaging around 45 on OpenGL. I was even able to bump some settings up a little without any loss in framerate.

The art design in the game is also incredibly important in its good looks. All of the UAC technology has this great chunky, almost cartoonish look about it while the demons are mostly based off the designs from the original DOOM and look suitably monstrous with a great amount of detail. Many of the levels are absolutely stunning, from windswept Martian dunes to hellish ruins and thankfully the overwhelming orange hue of the first couple of levels doesn?t dominate the entire game.

I did get a couple of crashes towards the end of the game but they didn?t seem to be anything particularly repeatable and I?ve since been back through the levels clearing out weapon challenges without a repeat so they do appear to be random. My biggest complaint is the loading times, fairly long already they became ridiculous after switching to the Vulkan API with the game taking a couple of minutes to actually launch and load, and then fairly substantial load times afterwards. Irritatingly, the game also needs to restart itself to switch between the campaign, multiplayer and SnapMap modes, with a lengthy load at each point.

The soundtrack by composer Mick Gordon also stood out for delivering a fantastic mixture of themes. There are musical cues from the original DOOM, tons of rock and metal influence and even some darker pieces that somewhat remind me of Trent Reznor?s work on the original Quake all come together to make a really atmospheric score that will likely end up on my playlist.

Aside from the single player campaign, DOOM has a comprehensive multiplayer portion as you?d expect from an id game. Developed separately by Certain Affinity, the multiplayer similarly applies some of the modern trappings to the more traditional gametypes typically found in id?s games.

Your multiplayer Marine is customisable with a range of different armour styles, and new colours and pieces are unlocked through levelling up in in matches, much like the system found in the last couple of Halo games. You can even customise the colours of your weapons, which I thought was a nice touch.

Confusingly, the multiplayer and SnapMap portions of DOOM have a slightly different control method, and no longer allow you to carry the full arsenal of weapons just the Halo-standard two that you select from loadouts that you can create and customise, with further slots unlocked through progression. Aside from these changes it does play fundamentally the same as the single player, and is just as fast and fluid.

The multiplayer gametypes are themselves fairly standard fare, with your usual selection of cooperative and competitive modes, deathmatch, capture the flag etc. The only thing that really stood out as different were the demon runes that spawn around the map, allowing players to transform into various demon forms with powered up attacks to give them an edge against the enemy players.

Multiplayer servers worryingly already seem a little empty, but whether that?s a sign of lack of interest in it or just the fact that it?s summer and everyone?s outside playing Pokemon GO is hard to say. Whenever I have been able to get a game, the netcode seems stable and I?ve never had any connection problems and rather enjoyed myself.

The final mode of the game is SnapMap, a fairly in depth level editor that allows you to create your own single and multiplayer maps. It rather reminds me of the level editor from TimeSplitters 2, and lets you use various premade chunks of level geometry to add them together however you like then put in weapons, monsters and even some surprisingly robust scripting options.

As with any mode based around community creations, there are some genuinely interesting levels and some absolute garbage. There is thankfully some curated sections that filter out most of the nonsense though.

SnapMap also allows you to customise your Doom Marine and weapons, though annoyingly uses its own separate unlocks and settings without copying over your multiplayer setup (or vice versa) meaning you have to set up your character independently on each.

After quite a few years of pretty serious ?realistic? shooters, DOOM is a breath of fresh air that the genre really needed. It?s unashamedly fun gore soaked visuals both impress and harken back to the good old days of the 90s and it all comes together perfectly to make something really pretty special and I?d love to see a sequel or Quake reboot from the same team ? I?d buy either in a heartbeat.

DOOM is available now on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.