Review: Doom 2016 (PS4)
Posted on August 21, 2017
I loved this game so much. It’s not only my Game of the Year for 2016, it may well be my favourite game ever. There I said it.
I loved the original Doom back in the 90s: it was one of the very first shooters that combined a visceral first-person experience with loose narrative, a hardcore protagonist, lots of action and dynamic music. The developers of the reboot have not tried to exactly recreate it but rather distil the spirit of the original and develop a quality game on that basis. This means that it replicates the experience of the original Doom but with all the advances in technology and gameplay design of the last two decades.
The original Doom might look dated but in its time was a genre-defining entry for first-person shooters.
The story is fairly light and optional, accessed mostly through extra media. You play as the Doom Marine, who has apparently been brought back from Hell itself by a mega-corporation who has become wealthy through mining ‘argent energy’ (a kind of hell-energy) from Mars. But there has been some kind of breach and Mars has been overrun with demons: enter retribution.
First up, it is absolutely not a game for kids; it’s rated R18+ for good reason. Doom is a throwback and homage to its predecessor which was known as the first shooter to take onscreen action (some might say violence) to a new level. ‘Execution’ style kills involve very gory action, especially with the chainsaw, and the overall tone is very dark. Furthermore the game itself is pretty stressful to play, so that even some adults might not enjoy it.
But as long as a player is suited to it, this very gameplay can be incredibly fun. For example, when an enemy is shot a few times and close to death, it ‘staggers’ and flashes blue, allowing the player to approach for a hand-to-hand ‘execution’ kill which produces health to replenish the player’s chance of surviving. This means it is essential to ‘lean in’ to any challenge, and hiding around corners almost never works. Mobility is essential and works flawlessly, and the maps allow you to run rings around the demonic enemy.
Weapons are also very distinct to support unique gameplay styles: the shotgun encourages close-in combat, a rifle allow you to keep more of a distance, explosives work for groups, etc. The classic ‘BFG’ makes a reappearance and is characteristically overpowered but limited in ammo: sometimes it’s the only thing that gets you through the night, though.
Even the trailer is probably NSFW and not for kids, but it gives an idea of the experience.
All of this is supported by a spectacular music score from Aussie Mick Gordon: this is one of my favourite soundtracks ever and is on repeat play on my phone, constantly. It’s best described as industrial metal of Nine Inch Nails flavour with a very 90s vibe. It works superbly with the game and level design to give you just the extra edge to playing so that when the action starts, the music becomes a lot heavier to suit.
All this is to say that for me, Doom is not just a game, it is an experience. I have literally never had my heart beating so hard during the action sequences of a game; never felt the apprehensive dread of entering a large chamber for a boss battle, and never felt such exhilaration at making it through a hard section of a game. It’s easy to be sceptical about a reboot of a classic franchise that marketed itself so heavily on the violence of its chainsaw animations, but it is genuinely a great game. It’s certainly not for everyone (especially kids), but for older gamers who like what it has to offer, there is nothing better.
Update: there is now a Virtual Reality version of Doom in the wings – this is sure to get the heart pounding!