FBT gets mad at DOOM. Not Doom, DOOM.
Doom changed my life. It turned me from a gaming fan into a gamer. It was the vanguard of grown up gaming and the games that followed it were something else too - the Tomb Raiders, Elder Scrolls, GTAs, MoH, Max Payne, CoD and so much more all sprung from Doom’s quantum leap of an experience; it didn’t invent FPS, but it was gaming’s Jaws.
Aside from the ill-judged Doom 3 in 2004, where the series became a Half-Life clone, Doom has been dead a long time - talked about only by aged, hardcore gamers as where they made their shooter bones, and ignored by pubescent brats who scurry about in CoD Online. But in 2011 amid stories of failed restarts, id’s new owners Bethesda announced ‘DOOM’, a sequel-reboot that would return to the classic FPS era. That era died for a reason, but if any franchise can breathe new death into FPS it’s Doom. Or can it? No.
Since Doom II’s ending, UAC has found a way to provide alternative energy for earth by syphoning power from Hell while bringing back various trinkets, including a mysterious sarcophagus. One scientist makes a deal with the demons and opens a portal letting them invade. The sarcophagus opens to reveal ‘Doom Slayer’ (Doomguy to you and me). And with the story crap out the way, let’s get knee deep in the dead.
I can see why this game required specific driver updates and the soul of your first-born to run. It looks utterly fantastic, practically photo-realistic; a real Doom? Bring it. It's one of the most grotesquely beautiful games I’ve even seen, like an Iron Maiden album cover come to life. The detail is extraordinary and it ‘feels’ solid to play (especially for a Bethesda game). There’s brutally quick fights, the demons are relentless and you don’t get a moment’s peace, but then - and I never thought I’d say this - DOOM gets boring. Not boring in the sighing, fed up kind of way, just so relentlessly repetitive and grinding that I start to see past the shouting and growling and realise there’s nothing here, just the same fight over and over and I kinda just … switch off to it. It's like a goth Serious Sam. It's seriously samey.
It’s certainly loud enough and busy enough to keep your attention; and while the creatures (including a few old buddies) are noisily aggressive, all their clowning about trying to be scary means the exact opposite happens. They not intimidating, they just get progressively bigger and the once hellish mixture of flesh and mechanics is now like a Halloween party at Cyberdog. On top of which, there is nowhere to hide, nowhere they can’t get you, nowhere to be tactical, no opportunity to actually be a badass Hellkiller and act heroic - I just hold down fire until it’s done.
Despite the sense that DOOM is trying to be a desperate struggle to survive, it’s novelty driven. You’re in the middle of a brutal fight only to be pulled out of the moment to trigger a ‘Glory Kill’ where you over-murder an Imp. They’re annoyingly insistent. The Imp crumples then flashes, demanding your attention. I don’t have time, I’ve got a hundred more of the screechy little divas to deal with, just die already. Knowing they’ll recover – especially the bigger ones – means the Glory Kills become your focus and you get cut to ribbons just to reach it and perform the kill. And doing so gains you health and ammo – both of which you sacrificed to reach the fecking half-dead undead in the first place; you’re just maintaining a status quo when this was supposed to be Iron Maiden. They are brutally cool once you get there but somehow they should be more automatic, like Indy making short work of the sword guy, not reliant on you reaching them in one piece; Bethesda’s Skyrim/Fallout managed wicked little animated kill shots, why can’t those happen mid-DOOM? Bethesda's games are incestuous enough as it is, they didn't think that moment would carry over? Doomguy kicked Hell’s ass twice already (I’m pretending 3 didn’t happen), why isn’t he cooler? If he can pause to fist-bump an original Doomguy toy he finds, why can’t he dispatch a downed Imp from a distance? And ... Collectables? In Doom? FFS.
Glory-Kills are not the only way DOOM distracts you; there’s transporters that send you to an Arena to do battle and unlock upgrades, while weapons can be upgraded by accepting challenges. Why the hell am I trying to kill 100 imps in a minute with a shotgun just to unlock faster shotgunning? Doomguy can unlock upgrades for his suit by pillaging the bodies of other Doomguys; Doomguy never got better, he was the best, I don’t want to piss about looking for inconveniently placed dead buddies. I thought this would be a brilliant, well-observed retro throwback not Call of Duty Zombie mode full of distraction fodder.
There’s the original weapons, including the BFG - which is hobbled by a lack of ammo – and some new toys but the biggest insult is the chainsaw is now a standard weapon you need gas for – using it gains a much higher yield of health and ammo; which you lost by equipping the Chainsaw and meleeing in the middle of a moshpit.
For those who argue FPS is a very narrow genre and you can’t expect more than point and shoot, I have one word; Bulletstorm. It may have been uneven, unoriginal, daft and had an idiot for a main villain, but it did this kind of frantic firefights right - and kept it fresh; if I can be completely overwhelmed and still trying to kick an opponent into a cactus, that’s a good shooter. And Bulletstorm had better glory-kills. It’s about balance; if you’re not going down the Bioshock route, a pure FPS should be traumatic but you come out the other side with boasts, with hard-won victory stories. DOOM is just a loud, overwrought arena fight. It’s not unfair, it’s just not fun; in Doom you had fun kicking ass. This is just endless ass.
After reaching another hellish location, and disinterestedly fighting my way through, I find a secret – much like Bethesda’s Wolfenstein Easter egg levels, the secret takes me all the way back to where it started; an original Doom level. I enjoyed playing the original level so much, going back to the reboot was too much to bare. It's a sign when a game pauses to remind you how much better it's 25 year old origin is. Rage Quit.
DOOM was the darling of the critics on release, who argued it recaptures FPS’s 1990’s glory days. No it doesn’t. It really doesn’t; FPS is the house that Doom built and this game is just squatting in it. You can’t recapture Doom, but this isn’t even Doom-era, it’s the kind of corporate nonsense that the original id would have pissed all over; it reeks of market research and focus groups - it’s as shiny as it is shallow – it doesn’t even have those jokey insults when you tried to quit. Quit? Yes, with added Rage.
2016 | Developer id Software | Publisher Bethesda Softworks.
Platforms; Win, PS4, XO