The release trailer for Doom promised, at the very least, a campaign that would pit the player against an army of increasingly daunting demons as they made their way out of the depths of hell and into an energy facility and its surroundings on the surface of Mars. It also promised a multiplayer aspect that seemed like a faster-paced version of the arena-shooter standard common to games in the vein of Call of Duty.
Having played both the online multiplayer and most of the campaign, my impressions aren’t all that different from critics who panned it for having too much in common with just about every other multiplayer in the first-person shooter genre. You run around, shoot opponents, and try to avoid getting shot yourself. Power-ups are distributed on the map, including some that temporarily transform the player into a demon, giving them a clear edge for a short time.
The most impressive part of Doom is its campaign, and how hectic and ridiculously fun it is. Some games rely on the player being stealthy, slowly sneaking around corners and taking out enemies in succession. This is not at all what Doom is. As a matter of fact, Doom actively discourages players from being overly cautious or stealthy.
But its genius lies in its simplicity when it comes to how the campaign tackles gameplay.
Essentially, the player is locked in a room, which is then filled with demons. Some are fast, some are slow, some are stronger than others. To progress to the next room, the player has to kill every demon in the first one, as well as complete a goal to prevent more from spawning.
Every aspect of this type of gameplay leads the player to push forward. For example, although health pickups are available, more often than not health is regained by killing an enemy. So even when one’s health has dropped, your best strategy is to just kill a demon to regain health. Your best strategy is to push forward.
Doom basically approaches gameplay in the same way that Mad Max approaches driving: going forward at 100 miles an hour and only speeding up.
Moreover, Doom is generally pretty simple to play: you run and shoot, and if you run out of ammunition, there’s a chainsaw which, depending on how much fuel you have (fuel is plentiful throughout), allows you to saw through just about any normal enemy. Along with their torn flesh they drop ammunition. Which you then use to keep fighting.
Because of this, Doom gives the player absolutely no breaks in terms of difficulty. And believe me, the game is ridiculously challenging when played on Nightmare, a difficulty that sees you wade through a maelstrom of fast-moving demons, trying not to fall down or die. And then once you’ve beat the game, there’s Ultra Nightmare, a difficulty wherein if you die once, that’s it. You’re done playing the game, and must start from the beginning once more. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Doom, then, is bloody, brutally fast-paced, and unrelenting. But it’s also ridiculously fun.