To hell and back.
Is there a more cathartic, viscous ballet of carnage than Doom? I don't think so. The first thing you do is crush a demented scientists head on a stone altar. And it's near enough the last thing you do, too -- though the scientist is a little bigger. In between, you'll be slaughtering your way through what seems like the entire population of hell.
Not that I really needed an excuse to annihilate every horned beast that crossed my path, but Doom gave me a pretty good one anyway. Earth has harnessed Hell's energy in a huge factory on Mars. What could go wrong? Well, everything. A rogue scientist is opening portals to the demonic realm and it's up to you to close them before Mars is destroyed. You can invest yourself in the story as much as you like. There are data logs all over the facility that go into more detail on exactly what went wrong on Mars. Whether you absorb the extra exposition or not, the story does a good job of driving you through the game's lengthy campaign.
The best defense is a good offense
The story is a sideshow and the combat demands your attention. In fact, it screams at you and grips your face, so you can't look way. The shooting revolves around speed and aggression. Hiding behind cover will do you no good. Constant movement is the key to avoiding the projectiles and claws of your demon adversaries. And cover isn't the only modern shooter trope to be jettisoned by developers id Software. Your health won't recharge. The only way to get it back is by performing executions.
Shoot something enough and it will start to flash blue. That's your cue to rip it to shreds with your bare hands, or crush its head with its own foot, or feed it its own internal organs, or... you get the idea. Executed demons drop the most health and bullets. Even on the brink of death the surest way to survive is to get up and close and personal with the best Hell has to offer.
It's not all hand-to-hand combat though; you have to shoot the demons first. You've got plenty of options when it comes to guns, and each one is a delight to shoot. Shotguns blast enemies into bloody chunks while the chaingun riddles demons with bullets, making them twitch like a movie gangster on the end of a tommy gun barrage. Even the biggest hellspawn know when they've been shot, and the enemy reactions do an excellent job of selling the power of your arsenal.
And you can slice anything in half with a chainsaw, which is as brilliant as it sounds.
Arena of death
As important as what you shoot is where you do it ,and the multi-tiered, cavernous combat spaces are made for the mobile marine. The Doom marine is agile. He can double jump, grip and pull himself onto platforms, and run so fast that it takes some getting used to. You're not the only one taking advantage of the spacious, varied arenas though; your enemies are acrobatic, too.
You'll start of fighting Imps. They claw at you and fire balls of energy, and they can also jump 60 feet and climb up walls. That's your basic enemy. Then they are soon joined by Hell Knights -- hulking beasts of demonic gristle, which charge and bash you until you're dead. There's no hiding from these creatures. Basically, everything in Doom pushes you to keep moving.
Whether I was fighting in Hell or Mars I was always impressed by the scale and flow of the combat arenas. Fights are long and you quickly learn which tunnels take you where and how the seemingly haphazard array of ruined pillars can actually take you to higher platforms.
When you're done mopping the floor with your hellish adversaries you can take the time to properly explore your surroundings. There is a lot to collect in Doom. Adorable statues of the Doom marine, hovering robots that unlock upgrades for your weapons ,and dead soldiers with armour upgrades are everywhere. Most levels have at least 15 different things to find and the bonuses they give are worth scouring the world for.
Who knew Hell was so pretty?
Both Hell and Mars -- both of which look a lot like Hell when you think about it -- look fantastic. The game pushes you along at a million miles a minute, but stopping to look at the industrial architecture on Mars and the charred bones and ruins in Hell reveals a fantastic level of detail. Glossy, icky blood pools on the floor, sparks fly from broken machinery and Martian sand blasts through the ruined factory. The game is a feast for the eyes.
The demons themselves are stereotypical, but no less impressive for it. They look dangerous, and like the architecture, they are finely detailed. The animation is excellent, too. Imps feel spritely while the movement of Barons and Hell Knights betray their hulking mass.
Odds are you'll hear a demon before you see it. Blood-curdling screams and guttural roars are the order of the day and they all inspire terror no matter how many times you hear them. Once the action really gets going those screams are drowned out by raucous metal. Distorted guitars and thumping drums are the perfect accompaniment to the brutal carnage on screen.
When you're done fighting demons...
You can fight other marines in multiplayer. The speed of Doom harkens back to arena shooters of old such as Quake and Unreal Tournament, but with a modern twist. Like Call of Duty, you have loadouts and you don't pick up weapons in the match. Further customization is provided by hack modules which give you temporary buffs in battle. You can pick up buffs like quad-damage and speed boost in the match too.
The cramped passages and wide open areas from the campaign work well in multiplayer. The speed sets Doom apart from other multiplayer shooters, but I can't help thinking it could've embraced Quake-like multiplayer wholeheartedly and left loadouts at the edit table. Having every marine start with a pistol and seek out more powerful weapons would have made Doom feel truly different. As an amalgamation of old and new, Doom's multiplayer finds itself not being as good as either.
The so-so multiplayer does nothing to detract from the whirlwind that is the campaign. Each encounter with hordes of demons is as exciting as the last. Even after many hours of slaughter, I welcomed that familiar thrum of electric guitars and hellish screams because I knew it was time to fight.
This game was reviewed with a retail copy of the game on Xbox One.
Images courtesy of Bethesda Softworks.