Friday, July 1, 2016

The Esteemed Critic Reviews Doom

That's a nasty-looking fellow.

Ah, the Critic is not old enough to have properly appreciated the original Doom. Controversial for its unrepentant violence, as well as its Satanic imagery, Id Software's classic is held in high regard today as perhaps the definitive first person shooter, its gameplay tenets being movement (always keep moving) and ballistic slaughter (always keep shooting). Doom 2016 (just Doom from here on out) is very loyal to those ethos while being in many ways a different game.

Circumventing the story-focus of many post Half-Life shooters (man, that game came out eons ago), Doom rejects its basic plot. Early in the game, a terminal begins barking orders at you, and Doom guy can't stand it, so he just punches it until it explodes. There are a handful of characters, though none are given much screen time or development, and that's fine: this is a game that is very confident in what it is, and what it is the first-person shooter. You are given an arsenal of Doom classics: the shotgun, the supershotgun, the minigun, the rocket launcher, the plasma rifle, the BFG, etc...all of which are upgradeable with alternative firing modes. You can turn the basic shotgun into a grenade launcher, while the plasma rifle has a mode that fires a stun bomb (very handy for paralyzing Doom's frantic bestiary). In order to not turn into demon food, you must keep moving and be ready to utilize the glory kills system, a melee finisher you can activate when you're close to a staggered demon. Performing a glory kill will cause the monster's carcass to explode like pinata with ammunition and health packs. It's cheesy, but a welcomed addition to Doom, though the glory kills are a little repetitive.

After 2004's Doom 3, a dull reboot that added a horror theme that was never really present in the original titles, Doom is a return to form. It's fun, it's violent, and it's the most addictive first-person shooter I've played in years. It's not without problems, though. First off, it could've used a bit more variation in its environments. We get space stations and hell, and hell isn't particularly inventive, being an amalgam of 80's heavy-metal album cover tropes: skulls, pentagrams, rocky terrain not terribly different from Mars, where much of the game takes place. The new tech powering this iteration is impressive, though not a huge upgrade from Wolfenstein: New Order. Why first-person shooters are always on the forefront of graphical sophistication I'll never know; the action is usually so fast that you can't appreciate all the details. My other main complaint is that Doom often corners you in a arena and locks the doors, and you can't escape until you've slaughtered all of hell's denizens. I'd much rather explore and encounter demons wandering about the Mars base rather than having them teleport in by the dozen. Minor quibbles, however. If you're a fan of old-school first-person shooters (basically, anything that Id and Epic made back in the day), then definitely give Doom a try. Its campaign is pretty long, and filled with secrets and optional challenges that make it ripe for a replay.

Welcome to hell. It's not too bad a place, after you get used to it.

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