Well, well, well. Of all the things to pop back up out of the woodwork, who expected Doom? Nobody born after 1995, that’s for certain. I was surprised that anybody remembers what Doom is this far forward.
But yes, the new Doom game was revealed at E3, and it’s got all the subtlety and temperance of a suicide bombing, though I don’t think it’s without its charms, in a weird, homicidal way. It seems to have shrugged off the sludge of modern shooters pretty well, avoiding aspects like cover and regenerating health, whilst focusing more on psychotic murder sprees and beating a monster to death with its own leg.
I have to admit that I started grinning when the double-barrelled shotgun made a sound like a sledgehammer coming down on a bob-bomb, and all that was left of the victim was a couple of surprised legs that slumped to the floor a moment later. I’m even willing to ignore the fact that this was stolen from Bulletstorm, so happy was I to see something that was just so… Gleeful? Is that the right word? I hope it isn’t, but I suspect that it is.
You can’t help but be slightly stunned by how much Doom clearly delights in wretched amounts of gore. Gunshots leave visceral splatters, melee takedowns involve terrifying feats of brutality, and one puzzle is solved by watching a monster kill someone before finding the victim’s corpse, so that you can rip his arm off and slap it on a palm scanner. How about next time we just go with a keycard, yeah?
I will say that I hope that Doom doesn’t try to do horror at any point. The gameplay made it clear that the Marine is the most powerful thing since Superman on steroids, so any attempt to threaten him is going to seem silly when he’s just ripped out a demon’s intestines and garrotted it with them. You can’t say it’s not tonally consistent for there to be horror, but I’ll be honest – it would surprise me if any demon had a kill-count anywhere near that of the protagonist’s by the end of this game. Perhaps I’m getting the wrong impression, maybe this is the set-up for an Alien: Isolation style game in which you play a frightened Revenant, trying to avoid the evil, unstoppable Space Soldier who will think nothing of murdering you in the most awful way possible. Huh. Now I kinda want to play that too.
I do wonder if it’s in Bethesda’s interests to resurrect Doom from the grave this late. The old Doom titles have a great lineage and demand respect, and nothing pisses off a fanbase more than a company bastardising the memory of an old franchise so they can make some cash from name recognition. Thief, Syndicate, Prince Of Persia, XCOM, and the embarrassing mess that was Duke Nukem Forever, they’re all examples of this. The only way to get away with that is to make the best game you can, and I’ll be damned it if doesn’t look like they’ve done that.
Let me add that I much preferred the Doom presentation to the Fallout 4 one. That’s what I wanted to see, Bethesda, ten minutes of uninterrupted and varied core gameplay giving a good indication of what we’re going to be experiencing, not dialogue trees and the most boring combat scenes in the game. If village maintenance reared its ugly head in Doom, it would get a fist pushed so far into its face that it would be able to smell its own brain. And speaking of utter absurdity through violence, let’s look at the game properly.
As mentioned earlier, the guns look nice and cathartic, with two exceptions – the plasma rifle and the chainsaw. The former is easier to explain, it just looks boring, making generic pew-pew noises with no sense of weight or impact to it. But the chainsaw seems odd, almost a bit pointless. The game already established that we can kill an enemy if we’re close enough, and not only that, we can do it quicker than the chainsaw, which takes longer and runs the risk of breaking flow. Though that isn’t going to stop me from using it often – I mean, it’s a chainsaw for killing demons. Even if I had to break my fingers every time, I’d still do it, because IT’S A FUCKING CHAINSAW FOR KILLING DEMONS.
I’m also very much in favour of how the game keeps a fast pace by having enemies drop health. Good action games like Saint’s Row 4 have remembered this, it’s a fantastic way of rewarding reflexes and going on the offensive, and of course Doom is nothing if not offensive. I like how you move really fast, I like that there were no directional icons when the puzzle bit came up, I like how you can hold more than two weapons, and I’m definitely going to find a place in my stony heart for the Heavy Assault Rifle, a gun that wouldn’t look out of place on top of an aircraft carrier and was so powerful looking I’m pretty sure you could bring down a planet with a couple of clips worth of ammo.
So at the end of the day, I guess Doom looks pretty good. I’ll be interested to see what kind of story there is – “Hell invades Mars” is all very well for the nineties, but I’d like to see a bit more thought put into it this time, just to contextualise it nicely. But if that hits the mark, then I’ll definitely be on board. Here’s hoping that E3 was actually honest today – because if not, then I’m going to be very disappointed.