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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Bethesda
Developer: id Software
Release Date: May 13, 2016


PS4 Review - 'Doom'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 2, 2016 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

DOOM returns as a brutally fun and challenging modern-day shooter experience.

Buy Doom

As technology developed and mechanics changed over the years, a lot of different trends popped up in shooters. Regenerating health, cover mechanics, cut scenes and heavy focuses on story and a slower pace have become the norm. There are plenty of games that use of these ideas, of course, but it's a far cry from Wolfenstein 3D and the classic Doom. Perhaps that is what makes the sequel, also titled Doom, stand out. It doesn't reinvent the wheel but takes a few steps backward to a simpler era, which is exactly what Doom needs to thrive. It's a game about using increasingly large guns to shoot monsters, and sometimes, that is all a shooter needs to be.

You're a Space Marine who wakes up on Mars. Demons have invaded, you have a gun and a suit of iconic armor, and your goal is to kill everything. It's an intentional throwback, and it works. The entire game has a tongue-in-cheek feel, your only allies are hilariously corrupt cyborgs, and your enemies are demons from hell. There's very little in the way of plot twists, and rarely does the game bother with a cut scene. The Doom Marine is a nonentity who only speaks in the language of violence. His response to an untrustworthy voice popping up over an in-game radio is to smash it repeatedly with his fist.

Doom is a shooter at its most basic, so the only controls you need to know are move and shoot. It is incredibly fast-paced for a modern shooter. If you're not moving, you're probably dying. Don't expect to dive behind cover for your health to regenerate because you're shooting enemies until one side is dead: you or them. The title even brings back classic mechanics like temporary power-ups that you can find scattered throughout levels to bestow abilities like quad damage, invulnerability or super speed. Fortunately, mobility is on your side. Not only are you fast, but you also have the ability to jump, scramble up ledges and more. It may sound simple, but the fast animations and overall speed mean that you're searching for new ways to get away from enemies or avoid their fire.

The weapons hearken back to the days of the original, when weapons were brutally powerful. Each weapon is an absolute powerhouse in its own way. The shotgun can delete most minor enemies in a single shot, the heavy rifle is like an anti-tank cannon, and the rocket launcher is something to use in regular combat rather than saving it for the big guys. You don't even reload your guns, so either you have ammo or you don't. It's a delight to have an entire arsenal that feels meaningful. Even the light-hitting plasma rifle is basically a handheld laser gun that melts through enemies.

The coolest thing about weapons is that they're customizable. Scattered through the game are tiny field robots who give weapon mods. Most weapons have two mods that change how they function. For example, the aforementioned plasma rifle can be upgraded to have a stun grenade or shoot a wave of energy. You can get both upgrades for a gun, but they have to be swapped out. All weapon mods can also be upgraded. The stun grenade can have a huge AoE and cause killed enemies to stun everyone around them. You unlock these weapon upgrade points by completing optional challenges or by killing every enemy you come across.

Customization is the name of the game. In addition to upgrading weapons, you can also upgrade your character. Argent energy canisters allow you to upgrade your health capacity, your armor capacity or how much ammo you can hold. Upgrades to your suit allow you to modify your armor to be immune to explosives, have stronger power-ups or near-instant weapon swapping. Perhaps the most fun are runes, which are obtained by completing combat challenges. Once equipped, the rune can grant your character a special bonus, ranging from buffs to an extra life when you die. Runes can be further upgraded by completing challenges while they're equipped. You can only equip a few at a time, so it helps to emphasize what you want your character to do.

The way Doom handles health pick-ups is probably the most controversial part of the package. There's no regenerating health, so you regain health through health pick-ups scattered throughout the levels. That might not be enough for most players, and that is where the chainsaw and the new Glory Kill system come in. The chainsaw, which you get early on, instantly kills an enemy. The chainsaw has limited fuel, and the larger an enemy, the more fuel it takes. Any enemy killed with the chainsaw basically explodes like a piƱata filled with ammunition for you to pick up. Glory Kills are finisher animations that can be performed on demons that are low on health. It's fast, brutal and more importantly, the demon always drops health. Stronger demons drop more health, so it's worth trying to finish them off with your fists instead of a rocket launcher.

I thought the Glory Kill was an interesting risk-reward feature that helps with the pacing. You shouldn't play timidly because you're low on health and don't want to die. Instead, you get to join the fray and punch demons in the face. I rarely used the chainsaw because I wanted to save it for when I really needed it, and I preferred to use all my charges to fill up my rocket launcher. Unlike Glory Kills, which are naturally integrated into combat, the chainsaw felt too gimmicky. There are a few times it felt worthwhile to delete a powerful demon from the map, but mostly, it was for refilling my precious guns. The animations are quick and to the point, usually complete in a second or so, and don't mess with the game pace.

The level design is quite solid. It's not entirely the mazelike structures of the original, but they're not linear, either. The stages are relatively large and open, and have multiple paths through them. They're also packed to the gills with secrets. You can find hidden items, power-ups, weapons and even trips to classic Doom stages. The key is that the levels are extremely well designed. They feel open and explorable while making sure to keep you relatively guided, so the pacing doesn't get too slow. There are jumping puzzles, but they're simple and easy to control. Most of the time, if you're doing something complex, it's because you're able to discover a secret, not because it is necessary to progress. It's an utter delight to find a niche, go inside and discover a chaingun far earlier than expected. In an era where weapon upgrades are carefully curated, it's fantastic to be able to upgrade earlier through careful exploration.

The honest truth is that Doom is just plain fun. It's fast, it's brutal, and the basic moment-to-moment play is some of the best on the market. Combat never gets dull or boring, and the game is great about avoiding dragging down its pacing. It hits all the right nostalgia buttons while maintaining strong basic gameplay. The speed and pace of combat is unlike anything else on the market and gives it its own feel. The Glory Kill mechanic is a great addition because it keeps the player in combat instead of having them look for health kits. Even the boss fights are fun, which is a rarity for the FPS genre, and the overall monster design is quite good. Some of the various monster types look a little too similar to me, but the game does a good job of giving most of them distinctive silhouettes that stand out in the middle of a frantic fight.

Less interesting is the multiplayer, which feels uninspired. It tries to bridge the gap between modern, slower-paced shooters and the frantic, fast-paced days of Quake or classic Doom and in the end, it doesn't accomplish either. The game feels much slower in multiplayer, the weapons lose their punch, and the customization of single-player fades in favor of traditional modern shooter loadouts and limits. There are some exclusive weapons, but they're far less interesting, and meaty, than the single-player loadout. The multiplayer segment feels like a tacked-on extra that exists because Doom needs to have multiplayer. It stands out even more harshly when compared to the single-player, which is a master class in fun and frantic gameplay. There are some faint attempts at fun, like a few interesting gameplay modes. Freeze Tag turns the game into a literal game of freeze tag, where you aim to freeze opponents while thawing out your allies. It's a fun diversion, but the gameplay isn't strong enough to hold it down. Even now, so close to launch, the multiplayer community feels pretty anemic, and it's hard to see it thriving without help.

Fortunately, there is some possibility for help. Probably the most interesting part of the package is Snap Map, which is a very versatile creation tool that allows you to "snap" together parts to create stages and game modes. It's probably the coolest part of the package. It isn't exclusive to multiplayer, but the strongest offerings are for multiplayer, allowing the creation of everything from horde modes to farming simulators, which can be shared across every platform that supports Doom. The tools are reminiscent of Little Big Planet or Mario Maker in that they're designed to be simple to use. If there's a saving grace to Doom's multiplayer, it's that Snap Map has a ton of potential. It'll be hard to see how it shapes up without a few weeks to see people getting used to it, but it's a strong addition.

Doom is overall a solid-looking game. The graphics are excellent, and the game just pops. The environments can be a little boring early on but get some more distinctive and interesting designs later on. The frame rate is largely smooth, but I did notice it dropping during some of the game's more intense sequences. The music is intense and fast-paced, but unfortunately, it's not quite as memorable as the classic Doom's.

Doom is a fantastic single-player experience bundled with a weak multiplayer component. If you're looking for a fast, intense and fun shooter, you'll have a hard time finding anything better on the market than Doom. If you're hoping for something that carries that same intensity over to multiplayer, you'll be disappointed. Snap Map adds some extra value to the package, but at the end of the day, the real fun is slaughtering the forces of Hell with your super shotgun. It's not quite a return to the days of old, but it's still one of the best shooters on the market.

Score: 8.0/10

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