Welcome to Hell. Stay awhile.
Doom’s like this: you shoot the living fuck out of everything until it’s dead.
I’ve found it difficult to write this review because Doom burnt my eyes and hurt my hands. The insights I’d gathered throughout the campaign, flashes of wisdom about control systems and nods to the past, have gone, the words twisted and bloodied by endless killing. I had to stop at the final mission yesterday, and played only multiplayer last night. Saturday’s late start turned into Sunday then Monday and Tuesday morning and I still hadn’t beaten it. The area from which I finally staggered was bright red and fried green. I’m pretty sure I get it now.
Doom’s like this: you shoot the living fuck out of everything until it’s dead. While harping on about the past is noble enough, that’s all you need to know. It’s an exercise in power, power over your skills and power over your history as a gamer. This is the game you wanted, have always wanted, and Doom will break you. Bethesda, yet again, has proven that first-person shooting, single-player first-person shooting at that, is a living genre, having delivered a game mindful of its heritage and so technically advanced it’s a little like your first threesome: you can’t believe it’s happening. This is that game. It’s the first threesome game. It’s the ejaculatory frenzy of which you never seriously dreamed you would participate. It’s the experience too far. You’ll never want to forget it.
What stands out here is the level of care, of so much done right. Doom’s final stages are indicative of a lifetime’s experience in creating closed-arena shooters, an orgy of chainsaws and BFGs and rockets and viscera powered by glory kills and screaming next-generation graphics. Like, it has “gore nests”. You pull eyeballs out of them and they howl, signalling the demons’ arrival and the start of yet another round of extreme death. Your chainsaw rends each demon differently (it seems that way, at least), and the Summoners, so redolent of Bungie’s Wizards, manage to out-Destiny Destiny with their speed, behaviour and tactics. They don’t just dodge a bit. Let your attention drop and you’re dead. Again.
And again. You will die, even when the muscle-memory kicks in and your knowledge of the weapons becomes so complete you dream of their mechanics, you will die. You will be taken into huge rooms and informed of the need to remove the demonic threat to proceed, cool, collected gravel tones mocking death after death. You’ll drive to the edge of your ability and far beyond. After one major boss battle, a crew of UAC marines appears as echoes, apparitions of the survival of previous horror, to nod heads and put hands on hearts. It’s a sign of respect. You will have earned it.
Bethesda, yet again, has proven that first-person shooting, single-player first-person shooting at that, is a living genre, having delivered a game mindful of its heritage and so technically advanced it’s a little like your first threesome: you can’t believe it’s happening.
Some details, I suppose, for those who haven’t yet worked out this is a game everyone should own. Doom’s campaign is long and hard, playing out over large levels (the design of which is occasionally infuriating, one of Doom’s few negatives). Progression takes place over a number of different systems. Your suit, for one, can be upgraded with keys pilfered from Elite Guards lying around the map. It’s also customisable with runes, of which there are 12. They’re won through rune trials, set stages based on strict parameters. Armored Offensive, for example, is winnable through a level in which you have one point of health. If you take any damage before you pick up armour shards, you die, and if you don’t kill the eight enemies before the timer runs out, you die. Another, In-Flight Mobility, is earned by collecting spheres over a running course before the timer expires. It took me ten attempts. I screamed when I did it. The runes fit into your suit, into slots you open by completing the trials, trials you can only find by scouring the levels for secrets. So there’s that.
The weapons themselves upgrade. Most have two mods unlockable by finding special drones. Each mod itself is then upgradable with points awarded for smashing demons, finding secrets and so on. The Heavy Auto Rifle, to pick one at random, is moddable with Micro Missiles. Upgrade them once and their ammo cost is diminished. Do it again and their reload time evaporates. At the end of each queue of upgrades is a challenge, to kill a certain demon-type in a certain way, and in the case of the Micro Missiles winning means you can fire them constantly without ever having to reload. This transforms your Heavy Assault Rifle from a chunky AK47 into something capable of vaporising a large house. Believe me, you’ll need it.
The upgrade system adds complexity and caters to any preferred shooter style, but while it’s a necessary, welcome adjunct, an adjunct it remains. There are collectibles to horde and secrets to uncover, and you can tinker with your abilities and weapons all you like, but Doom is about nothing other than putting the dot on the dude. The dudes vary in size and tactic, and the dots either pierce or cook, but that is what Doom is. There’s a story of sorts, but vastly more important is the ambiance, the sinister monologue delivery, the soundscape, the enemy movements, the rush of the Hell Knight. Doom excels in the moment, the pulling of the trigger. The sound of the guns, bassified to obesity, is relentless, an overwhelming concoction of rocket thump and plasma whine. Doom is one of those games in which you live, albeit for a few hours, as if to be there, facing repetitive death, is preordained. Doom’s world fits like sized-down jeans after two months in the gym. It feels amazing.
There’s multiplayer, of course, a neon blend of old skool Quake and nu-metal Call of Duty. The taunts, the ridiculous customisation, the weapons honed over decades of heritage, comprise something I’ve barely managed to take in. I’m only level 11, but we were playing last night with people who’ve already hit the cap. It comes with a list of modes I’ve only glanced at beyond Team Deathmatch, and I’m pleased to know it’s there.
But there’s time enough to get involved in competitive play. Right now, I can’t even think about online. Doom’s campaign is incredible, a pure shooter made by people who live to make pure shooters. This is a game whose sole purpose is to describe hardcore, gun-based combat between you and the worst Hell has to offer. It’s heavy, dirty, beautiful, thrilling. You will finish encounters and realise you haven’t breathed for thirty seconds. You wanted brutal, and here it is. I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to beat it.