Believe it or not, it was only at the end of 2020 that I decided I should get stuck in with the contemporary DOOM games. Following 2016’s modernized DOOM release, DOOM Eternal pushed itself out onto the market in the middle of March, 2020, and at the point the ratings for it, from casuals and hardcore players alike, were through the roof, and I felt like I was missing out.
Fast forward to today, and I’ve finally completed the first of the two. It was an experience that was both completely new while simultaneously nostalgic of a time when fun gameplay and professional design were the staples a game’s utility on the market. And with that as preamble, I’m going to waste no time getting into the good, the bad, and the ugly of DOOM.
It’s good. It’s so good, in fact, that I’d argue this is the strongest point of the game by a huge margin. If you want to know what the standard for smooth and well developed gun mechanics are in AAA gaming, don’t look to COD, look to DOOM.
The game oozes smooth gameplay like Sekiro oozes difficulty. Weapons respond precisely how you’d expect them to when engaging with the myriad of demons who block your path. Aiming is precise and snappy, while the movement a player will engage in to avoid incoming fire (or steamrolling pinkies who do their damnedest to get close to you with speed) also compliments the gunplay to boot.
In a game that lacks any real sense of customization (though DOOM isn’t completely void of it), id Software had to hit the ball just right with what their IP can actually offer in terms of combat, and when it comes to weapons and a player’s control over them, I’d say they hit a grand slam.
AI and Level Design
Taking the aforementioned mechanics and throwing them into an arena design that’s complementary as apposed to an empty shell with enemies is what can make a standard shooter a cut above the rest. And DOOM delivers on this note almost perfectly. Enemies are intelligent and varied, while also designed to compliment each other while exposing their own weaknesses. Baron’s of Hell are mobile and tanky, but lack much range at all, while Hell Razers and imps are weak, but can use their numbers and range to overwhelm players who make one too many mistakes.
To couple this nicely, the level design for each map suitable enough to give the player an itch for exploration, while also being just linear enough to help players not get lost (though in my case, that did happen a couple times). Additionally, most levels function well enough with the player’s mobility to allow for interesting play making, with options to avoid enemies with vertical evasion as well as the standard horizontal movement one would expect from a first person shooter.
Finally, the levels are also done-up with old school-era powerups and teleports that bring the game into it’s own identity, if the mechanics and enemy design hadn’t already done that. I was surprised to see those colorful keycards, doors, teleporters, and powerups strung about in a game that looked so modern, but ultimately I felt like this aesthetic (and design) choice worked in the game’s favor. DOOM knows what it is, and although it takes what it does well seriously, it isn’t afraid to stick its neck out with campy mechanics and a protagonist with little to no character arch.
You’re a dude who shoots things and doesn’t like following orders, grab a powerup and start punching demons. Does that design work for other games? No, most likely not. But with DOOM it felt so intentional and well aimed that I couldn’t help but immerse myself into the aforementioned character. The game’s fun when you’re shooting things, so that’s all your character wants to do. In a way, the simplicity feels almost clever.
Before I move onto the negatives, I feel I should take a quick second to tip my hat to the boss fights. There weren’t many of them, but the one’s that were implemented were extraordinarily well designed. (Also, the customization is scarce, but there are some options you can unlock if you’re into exploring, so that’s a plus, I suppose.)
What I didn’t like
I didn’t like that the enemies, towards the end game, felt less like targets that are trying to overwhelm me and more like bullet sponges that I have to pour my ammo into before moving onto the next set-piece. Very rarely did I feel these tanky demons were aedctually posing a threat, but I almost always felt like I would rather be facing deadlier enemies with less health towards the latter stages of the game. The play cycle would throw me into an arena with demons hand-picked to provide a specific kind of challenge, but as the enemies being spawned began to include more and more fast and tanky demons, I felt compelled to adopt a ‘run around the map, jump, turn use ammo, repeat’ kind of gameplay tactic. It felt less like I was running and gunning and more like I was running then gunning for a moment before going after more ammo or busting out my ‘get out of jail free’ gun when in a tight spot. My reactions were less important than my patience, which was surely being tested.
To compound these frustrations, the level design, in some cases, can be extremely unclear in telling the player where they want to go or what their objective is. I probably spent 30 minutes in an effort to not google my way out when searching for a way to advance to the next stage just before finding the aforementioned ‘G.O.O.J.F.C. gun’. Admittedly, once finding my way through, I felt pretty dumb given how little thinking is required to move through this game, but I’d argue this only proves my point even more.
Because the way to advance through this game is usually just a matter of following a way point, any time the game asks you to search for a specific dead body for XYZ reasons (without actually telling you that’s what you’re supposed to do) you can end up finding extra exploration areas and think “Wait, is this the way out, or am I missing something?”
I feel that this point won’t always effect every player, and those that are effected might say it wasn’t that big of a headache, but I remember feeling a little let down when the fast gameplay became bogged down by Easter egg hunts for things other than colorful keycards, and because of that I had to mention it here.
I’d like to say that there was something that hung over this game like a terrible shadow preventing me from enjoying it, but I simply can’t. The issues were either not that big of a deal or simply too scarce to have a lasting effect on my enjoyment of the game. That said, the game also didn’t take any significant leaps in gameplay or story to push into the realm of incredible. It was an extremely well-crafted piece that kept itself comfortable, and with that…
7/10. It’s pretty good.