No School Like the Old School
In a world of regenerating health, slow-moving AI, and scripted gameplay, DOOM comes in to save the day, proving that a AAA first person shooter can still be good.
I’m going to start off with my bold statement right off the bat…DOOM is the best FPS shooter since Half-Life 2. Really. It’s that good. And it all stems from the fact that DOOM understands what makes a FPS a FPS. I’m no fan of Call of Duty and it’s ilk because they don’t encourage gameplay. They work too hard on making a cinematic experience that players are stripped of control and forced to let the game almost play itself. Regenerating health encourages players to remove themselves from the action, the nearly endless supply of ammo reinforces singular weapon use, and ham-fisted narratives created a gray area of video game and movie.
DOOM, on the other hand, is a game that makes you play the game. It’s sad that I need to praise a game for wanting to be played, but that’s where the genre is. DOOM is a game that begs to be played, and you can’t progress unless you do so.
Health is gained through health packs, and while you will find packs after every battle, the only way to earn health is by going deep into the battle and performing a brutal glory kill on a demon. You need to, literally, fight for your survival. Ammo, likewise, isn’t plentiful. You’ll find yourself switching weapons in large fights and, as such, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with other types of weapons. You may love that shotgun, but when you run out of shells you’ll need to try something else. Alternatively, you can use your chainsaw on an enemy to get a plethora of ammunition, but you can only use your chainsaw a few times in a level, so is it worth it?
The variety of weapons and enemies force you to get creative with combat. You need to think on your feet and strategize well. If you panic, the demons will kill you. Demons are not passive enemies in DOOM. They don’t hide behind cover and fire off a few shots to keep you suppressed. They will hunt for you and they will kill you. It’s the most aggressive AI I’ve seen in years and it works perfectly.
The main draw of this game is the gameplay of course. Intricate level design and excellent combat make for the most fun you’ll have in any modern FPS. The beautifully rendered environments, haunting sound design, and graphic kills make for an excessive and gloriously violent experience. This violence, while over the top in every way, is almost tongue in cheek, giving an undercurrent of black comedy to the whole affair. The game literally casts aside a common gaming trope in the first thirty seconds of game.
DOOM isn’t interested in lofty pseudo-stories and faux-cinematic cut scenes. DOOM is interested in giving you the gameplay experience you’ve been so desperately starved for. DOOM is a diamond in the proverbial FPS rough.
I must, unfortunately, bring up one minor complaint, which was the buggy version of the PC copy of the game. Part of the reason this review took so long to publish was that I encountered three bugs that ruined my save files several times. The first time my file became corrupted, forcing me restart, the second time the game opened in developer mode and couldn’t get out, rendering my file a “cheat save,” and the third time my save just…disappeared. After browsing a few boards I saw that my bug was common and that there were no patches available yet. While this didn’t ruin the experience, I do feel the need to point this out for transparency’s sake, though I will admit that I wasn’t completely heartbroken at the idea of…playing the game more.
All in all, DOOM is the FPS shooter experience I’ve so desperately craved. Without any of the superfluous filler that pervades so many games these days, it was a breath of fresh air to be given well-crafted combat, gorgeous level design, and a heart pounding experience that doesn’t talk down to players. DOOM is the pinnacle of modern FPS gaming and should serve as a model for modern games in the genre.
Alex Russo is probably playing DOOM right now. You can break him out of his trance on Twitter.