Doom (2016) Review

Rating: 3/5

“It’s a glorified arena shooter.”

This is a review of the single player campaign only. This review does not cover the multiplayer aspect. I played through this on Ultra Violence difficulty until I beat the game (about 12 hours), and played a couple more hours on Nightmare mode.

What qualifies me to review this?  I beat the game on Hurt-Me-Plenty mode, played a bit on Nightmare difficulty, and have played and beaten Doom I and II (the old 90s games).  I’m familiar with the franchise, and have my expectations set accordingly.  So, how does this new FPS game stack up to FPS games in general, and to the older Doom games?

Well the enemies are certainly more aggressive. In the older Doom games (I’m referring to Doom I and II here) had enemies that didn’t move all that fast (you could outrun anything and everything in 90s Doom). Here, you can’t outrun everything without getting fancy with your maneuvers, and enemies can and will flank you. For instance, the Imp doesn’t just walk towards you anymore, now it runs and leaps, and sticks to the walls and shoots fireballs at you from there. The Pinkies are more fearsome than ever. They can and will outrun you, charge you like a Rhino, and gore you. Cacodemons, well, they honestly seem the same. Summoners are upgraded in a fantastic manner, though I still think they are more terrifying in Doom I and II with how they can do near-insta-kill damage to you if you stay in the open for too long. Here, it’s a matter of dodging their attacks, and filling them with lead and plasma when they appear. Barons of Hell are also great, seeing as how they can rush at you and leap at you, being able to close the distance much faster than they could in the old games, never mind that they can still absorb a lot of damage and shoot green shit at you. Oh, and most important of all, the enemies look good with their graphic update. These effects should stand the test of time more than Doom 3’s graphics.

Many would say the level design is as fantastic as ever in this edition. In fact, that’s the reason I believe the 90s Doom games hold up as well as they do, the level design. And Duke Nukem 3D. The level designs. Those are what give games that old their replay value. That and their pacing. The rate at which new enemies are introduced, the level design tricks they can pull to give the enemies a (fair) advantage over you. And the rate at which you are given new weapons, and the ammo to keep blasting with them. In this 2016 game, that rate is as good as ever, but I’m not so sure I would go that far for the overall pacing and level design. Don’t get me wrong, the levels are very well made for what they are, where hidden items are placed and how they can be accessed, the multiple paths to maneuver when dealing with enemies in each area.

But that’s the problem I have with the game. The level design is well made for what it is, but I have a problem with what it is. When it comes down to it, it’s a glorified arena shooter. It’s a well-designed arena fighter, but it’s still just an arena fighter. In this game, all you really do is move from one area to the next, until you move to an arena where enemies spawn either at your very presence, or they spawn after you fist a Gore Nest. Either way, some nice adrenaline pumping heavy metal music starts playing when the action gets going, and goes silent momentarily each time you do a melee kill, which makes it seem as if your actions fit right in with the music. The action is awesome and all, but I preferred the pacing of the older Doom games in this regard.

I’m not a big fan of arena-based games. In the 90s Doom games, and even in Doom 3, the entire level didn’t seem to be composed up multiple arena sections. The enemies are all already on the map, they don’t spawn at different intervals in different locations. You just have to go through it to wipe them all out. Natural progression. In Doom 2016, they’re not all on the map, which probably explains why the game is so efficient;y made from a coding standpoint and is capable of running smoothly across different tiers of PC systems. The action doesn’t get heavy until you’re in an arena, and by then they can focus all the action in a near-secluded zone where enemies spawn left and right out of thin air. I prefer my games where the enemies are already on the map, just waiting for you. In this 2016 one, they can spawn in any which area of the arena to surprise you, which means you will very rarely have the element of surprise.

It’s just not natural, and that is why I don’t share the same enthusiasm for this game as other reviewers seem to have. The pattern got monotonous after a while.

Walking around. Walking around. There’s some health, there’s some armor, there’s some ammo, where’s the secret? There it is! Walking around. This looks like an arena. It is. Run/jump around and kill everything that pops up for the next few minutes. They’re all dead. Rinse and repeat for the rest of the game.

While as in the 90s games, sometimes you open a door and it would be a couple monsters. Other times it would be a whole legion of them. Sometimes you didn’t know which monsters you were going to get, or how many. Sometimes you would think you’re safe, until you get a key or other weapon, and then some walls would come down and a bunch of other monsters would come out that you would have to deal with. It showcased the brilliance of the level design, and always kept the player on edge even when they were looking for secrets (secrets can come with a price if you’re not careful). 2016 version, every arena tends to spawn the same quantity and type of monsters, with the numbers getting progressively larger and more varied as the game went on. For instance, here’s how the 90s games tend to go, which allow for nifty player tricks like speed runs:

As opposed to:

But the glorified arena shooter aspect is the only thing I disliked about the game. It’s big for me, but for everyone else who likes that style and likes to test their reflexes, maneuvering, and knowledge of the environment to their advantage, this is the game for them. While the game does have health packs and no regenerating health, you can recover health in another way that is brilliant. When you get a gory kill (meleeing a monster to death), they drop a certain amount of health (the lower your current health, the more they drop), thus encouraging you to stay aggressive the entire game. This may not be the first game to utilize this idea, but I suspect it will inspire other FPS games to follow suite in the near future.

There is a plot here, but like in 90s Doom, you’re not really going to care. Hell, in Doom 3, there was more emphasis on the plot, and I still didn’t care, so they went in the right direction here. Nicely placed boss fights, especially the last one. Still plenty of gore and violence to appease any fan of the genre. And it ends on a cliffhanger, like Doom I, and like Doom 3 before its expansion was released. Seems like tradition for Doom games to come out in pairs in one fashion or another.

As for the difficulty, quite challenging on Ultra-Violence when it gets to the later stages, but your skills are really tested on Nightmare difficulty. That difficulty level is pretty damn hard.  Haven’t bothered with the easier difficulty levels.  In ultra violence, I never found the need to use “equipment” which composes of frag grenades and holograms.  In Nightmare mode, you need everything at your disposal, no screwing around, and no mistakes to be made.  Kill everything as quickly as you can, or you will be overwhelmed.  You need to kill enemies quickly in Ultra Violence too, but it’s easier since you can take a few hits, while in Nightmare a few hits can kill you.  Enemies do a lot more damage on Nightmare difficulty.  That seems to be the main thing that changes with each difficulty, the amount of damage dealt.  Everything else remains the same.

All in all, it’s a good game, but it could’ve been better if it was less of an arena-shooter.

PS: Personally, I like to think of Duke Nukem 3D being in the same universe as Doom. Duke fought a bunch of monsters and did a lot of shit on Earth, then decided to become a space marine, when hell broke loose on Mars, so he gears up to fight monsters all over again, only this time without hot babes to save, which is why he’s so pissed off and bloodthirsty this time around.

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