When I was young, DOOM was a staple amongst computer gamers. Ranking right up there with Duke Nukem’s original foray into the first-person shooter arena, DOOM was one of those games that kept us up late, subsisting on Cokes and Doritos, as we fought back the forces of hell and hunted down those God-forsaken key cards, red, yellow, and blue.
Kudos to Trent Reznor for leaving permanently ingrained musical scores on my brain. Some of the most haunting music came out of that guy for the DOOM soundtrack, and little else has stuck with me as long.
When I say this, most people say I’m weird or some other such nonsense. But DOOM actually scared me a bit. It wasn’t so much the actual monsters themselves, but rather the fact that at any point in a given level, you could actually heard the demons through the walls, snarling and growling as you moved around. It was unsettling but, again, it left that mark that so few other titles could.
DOOM 3 then came out, and absolutely scared the life out of me. In a good way. It was claustrophobic, unsettling, and the new demons were scarier than all hell. But fans weren’t quite as impressed with the survival horror style DOOM that it had provided. Granted, there were the lovers of the game, but it just didn’t feel like the grand arenas and massive fights that DOOM had come to be known for. It did eliminate the key cards, and for that, I was thankful.
This new DOOM for 2016 has, in many ways, gone back to the beginning, giving us a taste of what DOOM should have been all along. Big rooms with several opportunities for traversal, hordes of demons of varying shapes and sizes, and the feeling that you’re more than “just a marine” as it’s felt for several games now.
(Minor Spoiler Alert) You start the game lying on a table in a room covered in runes, filled with zombies, and strange noises around you. Your armor is found embedded in a rock in the next room, garnering feelings that you weren’t exactly another staff member in the Mars labs. (End Spoilers) From there, the story advances with the rapid introduction of key characters and a little more storytelling, giving a reason to keep going.
But story isn’t really why we came, is it? We know it’s a battle against hell, we know that demons are invading and are probably going to chew off the pointy bits of our face and bite holes in our butts. We get that. But we’re fighting back.
DOOMs new combat system is extremely visceral, and ultimately, very satisfying to engage in. The guns have weight, and their shots do impressive damage. Explosions are tuned well and do both initial explosion damage, as well as shrapnel and concussive collateral. But where the game really gives you that “weeping and gnashing of teeth” feel is in the Glory Kills.
Do enough damage, and even the heaviest hitters in the demon army drop to a knee and give you pause. That’s your chance to run up, grab a horn, snap it off, and stab it through an eyeball. Rip an arm off, and beat its previous owner to death with it. Whip out your chainsaw and bore through a demons guts, where apparently there’s a pinata full of ammo and health.
No, I’m serious. Chainsaw kills are ammo resupplies.
All in all, the combat was enough to disturb my girlfriend. It was pretty hysterical. For a woman who actually loves to watch me play video games, she was horrified by DOOM. I love it.
Shifting gears a bit. In a previous post, I mentioned the key cards. I was never a fan of the key card bit, because it felt like padding and protraction for levels, drawing them out longer, and artificially lengthening the game. However, in the latest title, the key cards are back, and they are more than welcome. They afford a healthy exploratory element to the game, allowing players to not only see otherwise skipped portions of the levels, but also to find critical upgrades for weapons and armor that might turn the tide of the next big fight in their favor. Were I just hunting down keycards, I would have likely been far more bitter about the whole process. A marine with a dangling collection of three dozen key cards at the end of the game might have seemed a little asinine.
To vary the “access card” element of the game, sometimes it isn’t the card clipped to their side that you need, but rather their eyeballs or hand. Our marine friend isn’t the gentlest of warriors, and will usually slam a corpse face-first into an eye scanner, or tear a hand off its owner, carrying it halfway across a stage, flopping it on a hand reader, and letting it slide, disgustingly, down the slick surface of the reader. Those little moments of viscera add to the already rampant bloodbath that the rest of the game is, rounding out the experience and basically communicating the idea that everything has gone to hell, and when in Rome.
I have yet to finish DOOM, but after several levels and quite a bit of story, I can say that Bethesda has done a bang up job of recreating the original enthusiastic demon-murder experiences of my childhood. I have yet to really engage in the multi-player portion of DOOM, but I did play in the beta briefly, and I enjoyed what I experienced for those few days.
Overall, DOOM is an experience worth checking out this year. So few games get the ultra-violence genre done right, and if you’re looking to really scratch that blood-and-guts itch, you’d be hard-pressed to find it anywhere else.