Awhile back I wrote about my feelings regarding the Doom multiplayer tests on both the PC and PS4. It felt so much like they had missed the mark, and it seemed very much like someone trying to recreate the experience of the original Doom… without realizing that certain parts of that experience were due to a limit in the ability of the technology at the time. The experience just was not fun, and that is the most scathing indictment you can honestly give any game. So as a result I had for the most part decided to ignore that there was ever a Doom 4… or in this case a weird reboot. Then yesterday I started seeing the first impressions of the single player campaign come in, and they were positive enough that I thought I would take a look for myself. Even though at this point I have only really played an hour and a half of the game, I am glad I wound up grabbing it. The impressions I had of the multiplayer were correct, in that this is an attempt to boil the game down to its original roots. While this doesn’t really work for a multiplayer experience, it does work really well for single player. The game functions in a way that you don’t really see games function in recent years, in that the game is not open world. It is a series of closed loop levels that are designed to be approached as a single map. The first one is quite literally E1M1 as the title of this blog post suggests, borrowing the same naming as the original Doom. They are a closed puzzle that needs to be solved and involves opening a familiar series of Blue, Yellow and Red key card areas to progress through.
The combat itself is also really interested and reminds me of the way these games used to play, where you would have a truly frenetic amount of enemies spawn in on you and have to deal with them rapidly. However once you dealt with that room you were granted time to roam around the area freely before moving ahead and engaging the next set. In many ways it reminds me of the way that the Painkiller games felt, where each room is this challenge to survive and then you restock your ammunition and health in an attempt to prepare for the next such room. What helps make this manageable is the games “Glory Kill” system. When mob is near death it will glow slightly and stagger around letting you know that you can sweep in and with the F key engage a sequence where you do an almost Mortal Kombat like fatality. Sometimes you rip the head off of the monster, other times you rip the arm off and beat it with it. Other than just being a carnal ballet, they serve the purpose of giving you life or ammunition back allowing you to keep up the killing streak a little longer. I found it very needed for getting through some of the later rooms. Often times the mobs will spawn in with such number that you have to keep running around the room to avoid getting wrecked. The imps are also more frustrating than they have ever been with their ability to hang off the edge of things and gun you down with their fireballs.
Nothing Will Save You
Unlike the original Doom, there is no “save game” that you can rely on. Instead there are a sequence of Checkpoints that unlock as you go through the level. When you die you either fall back to the last check point or restart the level in its entirety. These checkpoints generally coincide with the various lulls in the action that I talked about. The only frustrating thing is that they sometimes encompass several rooms worth of encounters. I ultimately stopped last night playing because I died and rolled back to a check point a few rooms back… and simply didn’t have the strength to deal with the shit storm I had just waded though to get there. Even on normal difficulty that game is really tough at times, and you find yourself having to keep glory killing just to maintain your health long enough to push through to the next room. Ammunition also feels like a constant problem with both the 20 round shotgun and the 50 round or so Heavy Machinegun. Similarly the Chainsaw this time around relies upon gas tanks that you find scattered throughout the levels. What was surprising is just how fast you get into the action, similar to the original doom you are planted in a room with mobs that you have to chew your way through with only a pistol. The secret areas that can be found feel every bit as meaningful as they used to in Doom, with them often granting access to a weapon before you would find it in the normal flow of the game.
One of the more interesting aspects of the gameplay is the weapon modification system. Each gun has an Unreal Tournament style alternate fire system but these are unlocked by finding weapon kiosks scattered through the levels. Each mod package changes the way your right mouse button interacts, and once you have unlocked multiple modes you can change between them with your R key. For example with the shotgun its two alternate fire modes allow you to choose from what is ultimately a grenade launcher and a three round burst that can both be accessed by holding the right button for a charged shot. I personally tend to favor the grenade launcher because it allows me to bounce a grenade between several different mobs taking out the entire pack. However for boss fights or tougher enemies I could see how the three round burst would be extremely beneficial. The problem there however is that when you only have 20 rounds in the weapon, chewing those up 3 rounds at a time means you empty the gun quickly. The big takeaway is that the game is very much a 90s shooter, with 90s shooter sensibilities… remastered for the 1080p and beyond world. Some of these work amazingly well in single player, but not in multiplayer. However I might change my tune once I see how the snap map system works. In any case I am definitely enjoying the single player campaign, and it has just enough story and intrigue to keep the game moving forward…. but not so much that you get bogged down in character development. This is in no way the rich narrative environment that Doom 3 was for me at least, but it has enough atmosphere to keep my interested. If you want a good shooter, give it a shot… but if you are looking for a deep storyline… this is not the game for you.