DOOM harkens back to a time when the first person shooter genre was all about you running as fast as possible while murdering literally everything you see. It’s a refreshing breath of fresh air for e genre that has become far too bogged down in being realistic, and its port on the Nintendo Switch is hopefully a doorway for like-minded games to flock to the handheld console. But it mixes in enough modern updates for it to feel like more than a retreading of what has come before.
The opening of the game sets the stage perfectly. You wake up on a slab, naked and surrounded by zombies. However, you’re also ripped, and break free of the chains, grab a pistol, and tear said zombies a new one. After about five minutes, you don a powerful set of armor that lets you shrug off damage that would kill mere mortals. Then a man named Samuel Hayden contacts you, informing you that the two of you can work together to stop this infestation of demons from flooding further into Earth, but you then destroy the computer console he’s talking through mid-sentence.
It’s very clearly a play on the “omniscient helper” character that is so prevalent in games these days. So many games have you guided by a character who is almost entirely off screen through linear environments and set pieces. And while Doom does, in fact have a story, as well as some in game scenes of exposition that are annoyingly not optional, it clearly lets the player know that this game isn’t like other FPS’s on the market today.
This is immediately apparent through the character’s movement. You run at a pace that would put Sonic to shame, much like the original games in the series, as well as other FPS’s like Serious Sam and the criminally underrated Painkiller Black. And in this game, movement is not just encouraged, it’s absolutely necessary. This is a game about slaying thousands of demons, and the typical way a level is structured is “come to an arena like area with plenty of opportunity for vertical and horizontal movement”> “kill the hell out of a whole bunch of demons”> “rinse and repeat until the level is over.” It doesn’t deviate from that structure throughout the twelve hour campaign, but that’s because the gameplay is so satisfying that it doesn’t need to.
Everything about the game is fast. Fast movement, fast enemies, and fast killing. A fun feature of the game is the Glory Kill mechanic, which allows you to eliminate an enemy in any number of ways by using your melee attack on them after they’ve taken enough damage. Not only are Glory Kills just plain awesome, but they help keep the momentum of combat going. You are regularly bombarded by enemies from just about every angle imaginable, and as such will be taking a lot of damage. And there’s no pansy regenerating health in this game, either. You must find health pickups, and when enemies are Glory Killed, they spray out health like a glorious fountain.
But, like any shooter worth its salt, the main joy of the game comes from using the weapons at your disposal. The first pistol you get is honestly weak and not a lot of fun to use, but it isn’t long before you get a shotgun, and from there the game doles out new weapons at a steady pace. By about three quarters of the way through the game, you’ll have every weapon, and will have to learn how to use them in order to get through the ever tougher enemy swarms.
The game does a great job at making you want to use these weapons, too. Often in an FPS, you can stick with a handful of the arsenal thanks to plentiful ammo. Here, though, ammo is balanced in a way such that you rarely have enough to use one weapon exclusively during a fire fight. Thankfully, every weapon is a blast, pun fully intended. The main shotgun can get an attachment (more on those shortly) that fires three quick blasts in succession, allowing you to shred weaker foes and handicap tougher ones, as well as a built in grenade launcher if you’re more of an explosion person. But then there are guns like the Plasma Rifle, which fires at an alarmingly fast rate and has an attachment that builds up heat the more you fire it. Said heat can be released and deal a stupid amount of damage to surrounding enemies. Even the basic assault rifle is fun regardless of which attachment you’re using (one is a scope that increases the power of headshots and the other fires mini rockets). The arsenal in this game feels wonderful.
There are enough customization options for you to optimize your loadout, as well. Earn enough upgrade points for a given attachment and you can unlock a challenge for said weapon that will permanently give it an extremely useful buff. For instance, the aforementioned Plasma Rifle’s heat cell upgrade can eventually heat up on its own without being fired, making it great for crowd control. You earn said upgrade points by various means, mainly exploration and combat. There are secrets scattered throughout the sprawling levels. Sometimes they have extra ammo and other times they have hidden collectibles. Regardless, every few secrets you find earns you an upgrade point to be used on any gun you wish. You also earn upgrade points by eliminating every demon in a given level.
Exploration is rewarding, though, because it also allows you to augment your suit’s properties as well thanks to hidden Praetor tokens found on Elite Guards throughout the environments. You can also find upgrades that will permanently increase your health, shield capacity, or ammo. It’s up to you to decide the order. So while the levels aren’t entirely nonlinear, they are much more open ended than most modern FPS’s, a welcome approach that is complemented by your quick movement speed. It makes you want to take your time between skirmishes to seek out hidden paths or upgrades to make your already powerful character even more unstoppable.
Special mention should be paid to the game’s look and sounds. The environments are all well designed, if not a bit samey due to the industrial setting, but the real stand out visuals come from the monsters. Each monster fulfills a distinct purpose in combat- imps are small and relatively weak, but pepper you from afar with quick attacks, Hell Knights are big, lumbering beasts, etc. Since this is such a fast moving game, it’s important for the enemies to be distinct so that the player can instantly know what they’re up against at a glance, and it succeeds at communicating that information with flying colors. The sounds are also superb. Not only does every weapon have incredibly impactful sound effects, but the heavy metal soundtrack does a great job at getting you pumped up for more bloodshed. This is complemented by the satisfyingly squishy sounds that accompany, say, a demon being blown up by the Gauss Cannon (which is this game’s answer to a sniper rifle, except it’s a six foot long beast that fires gigantic shots of pure energy that turn enemies into goo).
The only real blemishes on this finely honed action experience would be the story and the glitches. On the subject of the former, it’s not awful and its mostly relegated to optional codex entries, making it mostly unobtrusive for players who just want to smash some demon skulls. But, as mentioned above, there are times where there are in engine scenes of exposition that can’t be skipped, which seems a bit baffling considering the game’s intro. On the subject of the latter, the glitches aren’t horrendous and are mostly relegated to audio ones. There were a handful of times where the audio would either get super quiet or would cut out entirely with no real rhyme or reason. It would usually go away after a minute or two, but in a game where audio is so crucial, it was a bit annoying.
Don’t let those stop you from playing this wonderful throwback, though. Every mechanic has been shined to a fine polish, making the simple act of playing the game a real treat. Everything from the enemies to the insanely great weapons to the cohesive and flexible upgrading to the open ended levels gives the game a sense of passion and purpose. It’s basically a giant, tattooed middle finger to modern FPS conventions (there isn’t even any reloading in the game; you just keep firing your weapon until you run out of ammo). If the ending is anything to go by, this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the franchise and if that’s true, it’s a very, very good thing indeed.
+ Every weapon is a joy to use
+ Great visuals and audio
+ Combat is fast paced and relentless, with a terrific sense of momentum
+ Open ended levels filled with ways to upgrade yourself and your arsenal
+ Glory Kills, man
- Story is sometimes obtrusive to the action
- The occasional glitch is annoying