Review: DOOM (2016)

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: M - Mature Audiences
My Rating: Adults - 18+
Genre: First Person Shooter
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2016
Review Published On: January 1st, 2020
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Gamer's Gate, Humble Store, Steam

Save System:

DOOM uses save slots. Within each slot, your progress through the story and the upgrades / equipment you've gathered are kept separate. The main benefit of this is that items you find are recorded as you play, and you can replay levels with new equipment whenever you want. Your progress through the story, however, is only saved at the end of a level.

To pause the game, bring up any of the submenus -- this is done by pressing TAB or ESC.

Summary of
Major Issues:

Per usual for this franchise, there's a LOT of blood and gore, as well as plenty of references to Hell and demons. The new Glory Kill system also makes the combat extremely brutal and violent.

Screenshots

[view screenshot]
A typical gore nest

[view screenshot]
Hell never looked nicer

[view screenshot]
Cyberdemon Mark III



Game Overview

The first Doom introduced us to the OSHA-disapproved UAC and their ill fated teleportation experiments. Doom II: Hell on Earth built on this, adding new content and continuing the marine's one man war against the forces of Hell. Doom 3 on the other hand, attempted to reboot the series and make it feel like a modern, story driven FPS. This severely hurt the game's reception, and it's clear that the developers heard the fandom's complaints.

Put simply, DOOM (aka Doom 4 or Doom 2016) is a sequel to Doom II, not Doom 3. Basically, the series is continuing on as if Doom 3 never happened, and everyone seems to be thrilled about that.

Now, the original games didn't focus on their story very much; the majority of their "storytelling" consisted of walls of text that appeared after the player cleared specific levels. DOOM is more in line with modern games in that it leaves bits and pieces of the lore scattered around for the player to find. It also features the occasional cutscene to further flesh out the game's canon. There are some small changes in the series' overall lore, but ultimately, it feels like it affirms the old games more than it retcons them. Most importantly, "Doomguy" has a canon name now: instead of being a nameless Marine, he's the Doom Slayer.

The story is simple enough: unlike the past games where Hell broke loose thanks to the UAC's teleportation experiments, the UAC is actually being somewhat careful with their experiments. This time around, the UAC is just attempting to extract a type of energy from Hell as a sort of alternative energy program. This apparently was working out quite well for the them until just recently, and once again, it's up to the Doom Slayer to clean up their mess.

Doom 4 also introduces several new mechanics that keep the gameplay from growing stale. The biggest change is the introduction of "glory kills"; special attacks that instantly kill the target demon. In addition, killing an enemy using a glory kill causes health restoring powerups to scatter around the victim's body. If you use the chainsaw to glory kill a demon, they'll also drop lots of ammunition for you to grab. This allows you to quickly turn the tide when a fight isn't going well or just simply remove specific targets from combat. Of course, it's very risky to try for a glory kill, as you'll need to be extremely close to the target and the window of opportunity can be rather short.

Ultimately, I'd say that DOOM lives up to the franchise's legacy quite well. It expands on the lore without intruding on the action, and unlike Doom 3, it feels like a game in the Doom series. However, I don't see myself replaying this one as often as the first two games; the intense combat rattles me a bit too much for my liking. But that's just personal preference; it's obvious that fans of the series are loving it.

Points of Interest

Lots of extra secrets
Every level has something hidden away for the players to find. Often, these secrets take the form of little collectible action figures. Once you have at least one of these toys, you'll have access to a gallery that allows you to view the high definition models of different monsters and items seen in the game. Each toy represents a specific model, so you'll need to find the entire set to view everything in the gallery.

Another secret found in each level is a hidden lever. Activating it reveals a hidden area based on a level from Doom or Doom II. Once unlocked, you can play through an updated version of the level by selecting it from the game's main menu.
New (and customizable) equipment
In universe, this game takes place a significant amount of time after the events of Doom II, and as a result, there's a lot of new technology available for the Doom Slayer to use in his fight against the demonic horde. Most of the equipment in this game can also be upgraded in some way, though the more significant upgrades are hidden throughout the levels.

The simplest way to upgrade a weapon is to just use it enough to gather weapon upgrade points. These unlock various tweaks that can improve the weapon's performance. A more difficult (and thus more rewarding) method of upgrading a weapon is to find a drone carrying weapon mods. These mods drastically change how a weapon functions, and you're free to equip or unequip them whenever you want. To give you an idea of how crazy these weapon mods get, one that you can get early one in the game effectively turns your shotgun into a grenade launcher.

On the other hand, upgrading your armor isn't so easy. Most of the time, you'll upgrade it by spending tokens acquired from fallen soldiers. These soldiers usually climbed someplace out of the way before they slumped against a wall and died, so expect to search for their bodies during early playthroughs.

Additionally, there are also powerful runes that can be discovered and equipped for a number of different effects. The catch here is that finding a rune isn't enough; you'll need to prove you're worthy of the rune's power by completing a special challenge.
Improved monsters
Your improved arsenal isn't going to make things that much easier for you as many of the monsters from the classic roster appear again in this installment with significant upgrades and new abilities, while several new monsters are also added to spice things up further.

If I had to pick an example of a demon that was changed for the better, I'd go with the Imps. Every game in the franchise has featured Imps, but until now, they've been something of a joke. In the original games, their ranged attack could be easily dodged, making them less of a threat than the former humans. Then Doom 3 came out, and they were made the focus of many laughable jump scares. In DOOM though? Imps still throw fireballs at you, but they are truly defined by the way they constantly scurry around the environment like very angry chimpanzees. It's still easy to kill them of course, but they are a lot harder to deal with in large numbers, and if something more dangerous is nearby, then they can become a real threat surprisingly quickly.
Replay levels to grow stronger
Miss something in a level? Rather than start an older save over again and lose all of the progress you made since then, you can simply replay the level. Your equipment and upgrades are stored on a per-save slot basis, so you are free to go back and search for any upgrades or items that you might have missed. This also means you can take late game weapons into earlier levels.
Expanded lore
Interested in knowing a little more about the world of DOOM? Keep an eye out for special runes. These don't give you an in-game bonus of any kind, but they do tell you Hell's perspective on the story. Additional lore can be unlocked via the Codex, a database of information that you collect as you kill monsters, explore areas, and collect items or datapads. Finding them all takes some effort, and it'll even earn you an achievement.
Multiple game modes
The primary game mode is the single player story campaign, where you trek from one level to another in your attempt to stop the demonic invasion and save humanity. The other single player option, known as Arcade mode, is based around clearing levels quickly in an attempt to earn a high score. Unlike the normal campaign, Arcade mode gives you all of your items and other goodies right off the bat, allowing you to focus on killing demons and heading for the goal. In addition to earning points, you can earn medals (a sort of in-game achievement) for completing various tasks in the arcade mode levels.

DOOM's multiplayer games also feature multiple game options, from the classic deathmatch to capture the flag games.
Custom levels via SnapMap
One of the things that made the first two games so engaging was their friendliness towards modders. DOOM continues the trend with the new SnapMap level editor, which is included as part of the base game. It also features the ability to publish your custom levels online, allowing other players to rip and tear their way through your creations.
Steam community features
To nobody's surprise, there's a set of nine Steam trading cards for you to collect. Each card features one of the monsters you'll be dispatching during this game. And of course, there's also a grab bag of achievements to earn -- 54 in all. Most of the achievements can be earned in single player, but if you really wanted to collect them all, you'll need to play against other players in the online multiplayer matches and try your hand at creating custom levels.

On an amusing side note, many of the achievements are named after famous memes and fandom references relating to the original Doom games.
Overstimulation
If you have issues with sensory input, then this game is gonna suck. The gameplay alone is based on rushing about confusing environments while dealing with enemies attacking you from all sides. The music and sound effects add to the disorienting atmosphere, making it very hard to follow what's going on in the game during the more intense firefights. It doesn't help that the majority of the environments and demons are all using a similar color palette.

Granted, this isn't going to be an issue for everyone. But it was certainly an issue for me, and I'm usually able to navigate my way around stuff like this.

Concerns and Issues

Blood and gore is everywhere
Doom games have always been pretty graphic, and DOOM continues this trend. Now, while the older games weren't clean by a large margin, things have clearly gotten worse this time around as the game takes full advantage of its newer high resolution graphics. Basically, there isn't really more blood or gore, it's just being depicted more clearly than ever before.

As with the other games in the series, most of the blood and gore is splattered around the environment, as it's what remains of the original UAC staff. Additional gore can be temporarily created by killing demons in various ways, with the worst-case scenarios being the remains of larger demons like a Mancubus or the Spider Mastermind. To be more specific, many demons (Imps in particular) can be dismembered by your standard attacks. However, since bodies quickly vanish, any remains created by killing a monster will disappear in a few moments. Set pieces on the other hand, are permanent fixtures in the level.

There is one last thing that needs to be mentioned under this heading. A new obstacle, called a "gore nest", is a large, somewhat spherical mound of tissue and bone. These act as anchors for the invading demonic forces, so you need to remove them to continue. The Doom Slayer removes a gore nest by ripping a large nodule out of the side of the target nest, causing it to spray blood and shrivel up. Doing this also triggers a large battle as demons will rush in to defend the location.
Glory kills are extremely violent
Generally speaking, when we're discussing violence in modern games, we're talking about how games depict shooting people (or people shaped targets). This new glory kill mechanic is another can of worms entirely, as it's primarily about the Doom Slayer using his fists or chainsaw to dispatch a monster.

The basic idea behind glory kills is simple enough: you do something that makes the target stagger, and then before it recovers you rush over and finish it off. The catch here is that the methods Doom Slayer uses are quite brutal and range from snapping a demon's neck to beating a monster to death with one of its own limbs. The most extreme glory kill I witnessed while playing this game involved using the chainsaw to slice off a large demon's leg, and then decapitating the demon by sawing through the back of its mouth. In a word: yikes.
Satanic references
This has been an issue with the Doom series since the beginning, and it's somewhat justified because the games revolve around demons breaking out of Hell to cause widespread destruction in our world. Somewhat surprisingly, DOOM actually tones down the amount of satanic imagery compared to earlier games in the series. This time around, the pentacles don't have the trademark goat's face, nor are the "magic" inscriptions used in these designs actual runes or alchemical symbols. Of course, the player still visits Hell and fights a lot of demons, but it's not quite as covered in occult references as it used to be.
Demonic powerups in multiplayer and custom maps
DOOM features a new powerup called the Demon Rune. You'll only see this in custom levels or multiplayer games, but once a player collects it, that player is temporarily turned into a powerful demon. While in this new form, they have new combat abilities, but are unable to collect other items.

Obviously, playing these modes is optional, but this is the first time in the franchise where demons have been treated as a "good" thing in any context.
Promised everything, given nothing
This is both a small spoiler and something I found interesting about the way the story plays out. In this game, Dr. Olivia Pierce is lured into betraying humanity by an offer made by a powerful demon. At the end of the game, the player finds her deep within Hell, where she's left bitterly crying by herself. She lost everything she had, including her soul, in order to uphold her end of the deal, and ultimately, she received none of the things the demons had promised. This lines up surprisingly well with Christian doctrine, as it's taught that nothing good comes from interacting with the Devil or his angels.