I hated Doom 3. It wasn’t Doom so much as it was a first-person Resident Evil with Doom weapons and enemies. So I was apprehensive about id making yet another Doom that may very well not feel like the first two games (and Final Doom expansion pack) that defined so much of my childhood. Thankfully Doom feels like a return to form to the glory days of Ultimate Doom and Doom II but its sadly held back by a slim multiplayer.
Doom 2016 is set in the same continuity long after the events of the Resurrection of Evil expansion pack. The story knows exactly how ridiculous it is and doesn’t even try to take itself seriously. Unlike Doom 3, it’s never shoved into player’s faces and remains in the background. The plot is that a man and a half wakes up on Mars, grabs his weapons and begins trying to kill the mad scientist who let loose demons on Mars. That’s it. There are no more mandatory audio logs, fewer cutscenes and overall a lot less plot and fewer characters getting in the way of me shooting demons. Doom shouldn’t be about characters or storytelling as much as it should be about pure gameplay and the new title thankfully knows what a Doom game should be and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. This is what Doom should be, revised and updated for 2016.
The game plays more like Doom than Doom 3 did. It’s back to the fast-paced run and gun style of gameplay that defined Ultimate Doom, Doom II and Final Doom and that’s great. It’s good to see a shooter that doesn’t focus on taking cover, squad tactics or other things that slow the tempo of combat. I want to blow things up when I load up Doom, not stop and ponder about the meaning of life and thankfully Doom knows what it is and isn’t ashamed to be nearly plotless fun.
Glory Kills feel very influenced by the melee executions in Brutal Doom. When an enemy has low health, a single melee attack will cause instant death and give you 5 health on any difficulty compared to the 3 that most health pickups give on Ultra-Violence.
Encounters are designed around swarms of enemies who often fire attacks that the player is able to dodge but deal splash damage to force the player out of cover. The key to survival is to keep moving at all times. Standing still means being hit by enemy attacks and each blow deals crazy amounts of damage to you. Even bringing up the weapon wheel only slows the game rather than stops it which both makes the number keys a better option when using anything bound to 1-5 but also means that nowhere is safe. There’s no regenerating health or armor either which means that if you want to survive the tougher encounters, you should pick up health while shooting things.
The levels are a lot more open than Doom 3’s and feel more like mazes. Some levels even have keys again. Things like backtracking may have gone out of style in the early 2000s but Doom’s levels are often non-linear and reward exploration. It’s delightfully retro to the point where I fully expect Call of Duty players to hate it just for making them actually have to engage in emergent gameplay with switches, platforming and playing the game at your own pace.
While there are some points of no return where doors will permanently lock behind you, those are the exception rather than the rule and usually only appear towards the end of levels. It sucks when I can’t backtrack since I didn’t collect nearly enough items during my first playthrough and missing even a handful of items affects multiple achievements. Otherwise, the level design is some of the best that I’ve seen in a long, long time.
One problem that I have is the way that the difficulty scales. It feels like the game was originally balanced around Hurt Me Plenty with the higher difficulties scaling up from that and as a result, the enemies on higher difficulties just aren’t fun to fight. Ultra-Violence pits players against bullet sponge enemies with underpowered weapons and never enough health pickups. It becomes an exercise in using the new glory kill mechanic to finish off every single enemy you come across than actual gunplay as you glory kill everything to make up for all the health you lose as each enemy attack shaves off half your HP with former humans being deadly accurate and zombies and imps being bullet sponges. I lowered the difficulty not because the game was too hard but because I just wasn’t having fun. It felt more like a first person version of Final Fight than a shooter. Nightmare is even worse in this regard where it’s only for masochists who want the bragging rights to say that they did it. Ultra-Violence is still relatively easy if you glory kill everything bit Nightmare is truly challenging and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to play the shooter version of I Wanna Be The Guy. Ultra-Nightmare is Nightmare with perma-death and I wasn’t willing to even select it since I know that it’s just going to be a completely joyless chore.
Outside of difficulty issues, I have to say that my other main gripe with the singleplayer mode is that the soundtrack doesn’t sound how Doom should sound and often sounds like it’s trying too hard. I wasn’t expecting it to be good enough to justify burning cats but too much of it is dubstep despite that genre having all but died out two years ago. It’s a lame attempt at being hip and modern and it isn’t even good dubstep. Nothing would have been wrong with a combination of metal and ambient music but the electronic tunes just come across as an attempt to make Doom seem contemporary instead of timeless and it already comes across as dated.
Multiplayer is fun but the loadouts ruin it. It’s like Quake: Live but worse since you can’t pick up any weapons aside from slow-spawning power weapons, even from enemies you kill. There are no FFA modes which impacts the choice of gametypes I can play. Sometimes I just want to have a gametype that’s a cross between a bloodbath and a clusterfuck with ten players on a small map all killing each other. For a game that lets you customize your armor color in the options, it feels like a letdown to always be either a red guy or a blue guy. Loadouts work for games where you can customize your weapon with attachments but they really don’t in an arena shooter, particularly when I’d much rather swap for another player’s weapon than have to respawn to use any other weapon but the two that I spawned with.
I hope that I don’t have to rely on a mod to play a gametype that feels like a classic arena shooter where I can stockpile weapons, pick up additional weapons on the map and everyone spawns with the pistol. Hopefully id are considering adding this as an official update so I can get some classic 90s-style deeathmatch and not have to be stuck only with game modes that feel too watered down. That and I want to see some dedicated server support down the line so I can play game mods in game. I want something that feels like the first two Doom and first three Quake games where multiplayer is modifiable and there’s a good variety of 1v1, team and FFA gametypes. I don’t understand why Doom feels so limited compared to previous Id titles but it feels like a lesser version of Quake 3.
Snapmap is a great toolkit for beginners but ultimately the fact that the devs built the game using a different toolkit known as idStudio which allows for custom textures and scripting while Snapmap doesn’t is abhorrent. Id are a studio who allowed for some of the deepest mod tools ever with Doom 2 and Quake 3. It feels like a step back to make Snapmap so basic just to allow for cross-platform content. I would have rather seen Snapmap content be basic for cross-platform levels but allow there to be PC-exlusive content that would let players place custom level geometry.
Snapmap does add in some multiplayer gametypes that can’t be played in matchmaking as well as co-op campaign levels but it’s overall a much weaker proposition when your imagination is limited in what you can create. I love mods and I want to see move devs suppor them. I’m happy that Snapmap exists but it’s a half-measure compared to what developers should be doing. I really detest how I’m unable to recreate a 1999-era floorplan of Columbine High School for a two-player without a six-way hallway piece. I set my Snapmap user ID to rebldomakr just to prepare myself for the moral panic that I’d inevitably create but now can’t completely descend into the furthest realms of tastelessness.
Missing assets like the Summoner (a renamed Arch-Vile) and the Hell tileset are just insult to injury. Snapmap is incomplete and should be fleshed out in future updates, hopefully with complete game assets and a developer quality toolkit.
Difficulty issues and a limited multiplayer suite aside, Doom is a lot of fun, particularly in campaign mode. If only the multiplayer suite was anywhere near as robust. I recommend the game as a whole but cannot recommend the season pass as it is all multiplayer content.
Pros- Campaign mode plays like an actual Doom game again, RPG elements, brutal gore.
Cons – Multiplayer feels limited compared to what it should be, multiplayer loadouts limit player options, higher difficulty settings just aren’t fun, Snapmap is limited in scope, Weak soundtrack