(or Doom 2016 as it is sometimes called)
I will admit I am way late on this review but I figure with the 23rd anniversary of Doom's release being today, the holiday season coming up and the price of Doom dropping this is the perfect time to remind folks about what turned out to be a great game.
There are many things that define a generation. Many may point to inventions or music, art or any other paricularily groundbreaking moment. I will argue we have that in games as well. The Atari 2600 truly ushered in the home console. One could say Sierra ushered in PC gaming with titles such as Kings Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. The NES was such a leap forward at that time it reigned as the king of videogames for years. For me and my fellow Generation X gamers we can point to a game that was originally released as a demo and shareware on 3-1/2" floppies and online billboards December 10th, 1993. That game was Doom. Doom was not the first 3d shooter iD released nor was Doom first multiplayer game ever released but what it did was put amazing visuals, great levels, moments of pure fear and delight together. The multiplayer aspect of Doom was pure genius and fun. While multiplayer had been around since the 1980's nobody had really seen it done over modems before and if you had enough people who were willing to drag their beige boxes and CRT monitors around you could have a doom party. Alternatively if your BBS was cool they may have hosted a Doom night or two where you could play with total strangers from around your city! That seems somewhat quaint now but remember that was in the day of 9600 baud modems or if you were rich maybe even a 14.4k. The fact we could play "online" blew peoples minds! When ever you do that you bring the crazies out of the woodwork telling everyone who is within earshot how it will ruin society. Better yet, the fact Doom was supposedly set on Mars but with satanic markings and undertones throughout melted the ultra conservatives minds and the news made sure they got their 15 minutes of fame. This perfect storm did nothing but bolster the popularity of Doom and it wasn't long before it was a worldwide sensation. At one time Doom was loaded on somewhere near 20 million computers worldwide.
Of course this lead to sequels with Doom2 and iterations like Ultimate Doom hitting the shelves shortly thereafter. Then iD took a detour with the Quake franchise and it seemed like Doom was a forgotten property. That was until 2004 when Doom 3 was released. Excitement for the third iteration was at a fever pitch but I would argue that the enthusiasm was short lived after almost everyone got their hands on it. The main complaint I, and others had, was that it became too "Monster in the closet"-y quickly. After the first couple of levels you could predict when and where a monster would appear. The levels themselves, while gorgeous for the time, were too hallway focused and not varied enough overall. It was a fun game with great scare moments and game play but it was missing the magic the first two games had.
Won't get fooled again
Fast forward 12 years and we have the fourth iteration of Doom to play. Doom 4, or Doom 2016 as I have seen it called, is more a true successor of the original than of Doom 3. The levels are more varied, the monsters familiar enough and brutal to kill and the weapons are such a joy to wield that I had a smile on my face the entire time I played. That isn't to say there were no controller throwing moments for me...there were. Doom is not as hard as Dark Souls (although it can be) but it has moments that will test you...and test you...and test you until you finally manage to pull out a win. Your frustration will turn to elation briefly until you are off to the next fight.
The monsters behave so much like the originals but smarter and not overly predictable. The soldiers are mostly fodder with the exception of the shotgun soldiers. The imps are harder and more nimble. They climb up and down and jump from place to place to get a better position to throw their fireballs of death at you. The Revenants, Cyberdemons, Cacodemons and others I won't mention, take nerves of steel to go up against if you find yourself without the right weapon or ammo. The new monsters to fight only get harder and somewhat more disgusting when you defeat them. Killing the bigger, harder monsters took effort but the payoff, especially visually, is worth it.
Of course all the trademark difficulty levels from "I'm too young to die!" up to "Nightmare" (Ultra Nightmare if you are totally hardcore) are available to choose. I find that, for me at least, "Hurt me Plenty" gives me enough moments to catch my breath and recoup between the more difficult battles. The harder boss type battles have you learn some patterns to succeed but they never fell the same or predictable in that it isn't the exact same battle over and over again. During the main levels, Doom provides the player just enough visual and audio clues to help you understand what's coming...sometimes. Even then, it is just a clue and I never would fully know what was ahead of me. My goto phrase playing through Doom is "oh sssshhhhit!".
Doom slowly builds and becomes more difficult as any great game should but the game is so well balanced you don't even realize its doing it. Find the weapons and ammo scattered mostly in front of you and you can get through the level. Try to get past some of the later game with just a pistol or a shotgun and you won't get far. You need that rocket launcher and plasma rifle...trust me! As a hint, the folks at iD also added some weapon and armor customization that I didn't pay attention to early in the game but became critical later on.
One of the most fun parts of playing the original Doom was finding the secrets. I loved the sound of finding a secret door or stepping on a pad to open a door somewhere else. That metallic whoosh sound always got me excited. In this newest iteration not only are there secrets to find some are really special. From Doomguy figures hidden throughout to the best, and I do mean the absolute best, secrets of the retro levels hidden throughout. Find a lever and a door opens somewhere that transports the player between 1993 and 2016 through a doorway. The visuals are all original as soon as you walk through the door. The exception being your avatar and weapons. Those stay in 2016 but the rest are exact replicas of the original. I didn't find them all but the ones I did find I could not get over how far we have come. All the great memories I had playing in deathmatch against friends of mine and trash talking each other the next day came flooding back.
That is what this iteration of Doom does best. If, like me, you got to witness first hand the groundbreaking gameplay of the original you will feel that certain something weave it's way throughout the entire game.
That certain something is prevalent in the multiplayer games as well. The action is fast and furious and satisfying. Too bad that the skillz I had half my life ago are not as sharp as they were back then....and they weren't exactly Ginsu quality back then to begin with. The most fun is when you take the form of the Revenant and just start blasting the living crap out of everything.
Besides the obligatory Single and multiplayer modes iD added an odd mode where you not only make your own levels but upload them for everyone to play. People then play them and rate them. The more you play other levels the more coins you earn. The more people play yours the more coins you earn. I have to admit I never really found out what the coins were for. I played a number of levels and finished the level building tutorial which all earned me coins. I enjoyed the tutorials and it seemed really intuitive to make and design your own level. I just didn't have the time to put towards it.
Recently iD released a new arcade mode where you earn points through the levels you play. Replay-ability is a concern for every game developer as the game landscape isn't like it was 23 years ago. New games come out every week whereas back then it could be months before another game would come along in the same genre. When the original hit it was years before we started seeing good clones. We played one game for ages and now only a few can boast of an accomplishment like that. It's too bad really and the arcade mode I see as an attempt to keep the community's interest.
If you haven't played Doom you need to. I see most copies sell for just under $50 lately but I have seen it on sale for as low as $25 and for that price you get an amazing game you need to play.