Given its wafer-thin plot, gore-soaked action, and addictively twitchy gameplay, Doom could understandably be dismissed as dumb fun done right. But while id Software’s reboot of the nearly 25-year-old series certainly fits that bill, a peek beneath its demon-slaying surface reveals a much smarter game that you might expect.
For starters, this is one FPS that forgoes the hand-holding, health-regenerating, hide-behind-cover conventions of more recent titles for a return to the old-school approach, where the term run-and-gun was more literal. Your nameless space marine’s default walking speed is faster than most games’ sprint mode, his weapons auto-reload, and his ammo and health are only refilled when you grab a physical health pick-up.
You’ll most commonly gain said pick-ups by pulling off gruesome, up-close attacks dubbed “glory kills”. These ultra-violent executions might see you crush an enemy’s skull with your bare hands or beat one to death with its own severed limb. In addition to refilling your resource pools — and providing near endless amusement — they add a welcome layer of risk-and-reward to the fast-paced action.
Similarly thoughtful is Doom’s progression system, which encourages players to explore every nook and cranny of its expertly-crafted levels to discover weapon and armor upgrades. Whether outfitting your combat shotgun with a grenade launcher or pimping yout space suit to absorb more explosion damage, enhancing your gear soon becomes as addictive as introducing Hell Knights to the business end of a chainsaw.
A return to the old-school approach, where the term run-and-gun was more literal.
Speaking of opening bad guys from brain to belly button, Doom also earns points for not taking itself too seriously. The generic sci-fi narrative fails to engage, but a number of self-aware fourishes helpt to paper over the clunky story. Shortly after being reduced to meaty chunks by one of Hell’s minions, for example, we pass by a corporate hologram suggesting we visit “Jessica in HR” to fill out an “Accidental Death and Dismemberment” form. Skewering the genre’s obsession with collectibles — by littering the campaign with hidden toys that look like mini-me versions of the main character — displays a similar wit, especially when you raise its articulated arm for an affectionate fist-bump.
Doom comes bundled with competitive multiplayer modes that prove an enjoyably frantic affair, the sheer pace of it all testing the reflexes far more than Call Of Duty and its ilk. The surprisingly intuitive SnapMap feature also allows you to craft and share arenas online, much like the modding community of the original game did back in the day. But whether you’re looking to recapture the sense of carnage first experienced during nineties LAN parties or just after a shooter that won’t hold your hand or let you stop to catch your breath, Doom is a lengthy, highly re-playable romp for anyone craving a shooter that blisters the thumbs while engaging the brain.