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DOOM Review: Scuffing the luster of a franchise

So, what happens when the lead scientist of a paranormal research facility turns cult leader, you ask? Only humanity facing the brink of total annihilation, or dare I say DOOM. Realizing that an attempt to merge the underworld with our universe was made by a crazed scientist, it is up to the Doom Marine, a mech scientist, and the facility’s AI to save humanity before Hell takes over. Smashing, blasting, and weaving through the demons of the ether, Doom Marine stops at nothing, even if that means having to lay waste to the entire population of the underworld. Or, at least that is what it feels like.

While the game has been reviewed with high praise by Synzer of GameSkinny, there were quite a few things that left me disappointed. In Synzer's review, he really punctuates on what it is about DOOM that gives us the classic take on first person shooters. I feel that while there is nostalgia to be reached, this is the game's biggest error. An acute storyline followed by a campaign that overstayed it’s welcome, exhaustingly intense and redundant gameplay, dry environments, and just an overall lack of depth, may have actually scuffed the luster on the franchise. Or, at least dimmed the excitement of this highly anticipated reboot.

The most notoriously popular, violent, gory, and archaically controversial first person shooter is back and boy is it toting all of those things. Excessive brutality and fast paced non-stop combat definitely has DOOM written all over it, and it's good, for a while. In the campaign, you immediately begin the trek of carnage. In a short time you are introduced to the glory kill, a feature that allows you to execute a finishing move on demons. While it’s flashy and fun to watch, it also offers more health pick-ups in return. As you progress through the campaign, you encounter a variety of demon enemies. Each demon carries diverse abilities and damage thresholds while defined by grotesque and unique character designs. There are multiple waves of these enemies that are practically small army assaults that are so tightly knit together it makes the campaign an adrenaline fueled nightmare. Thus making the gameplay difficult to take, if not in small doses.

Expect a sore butt and stiff arms as you are constantly on the edge of your seat through every combat encounter. The combat is designed for the player to be constantly on the move as you weave through enemy projectiles and jump out of the way of charging enemies. The waves are often painstakingly long as you have to be in constant awareness of your surroundings when 20 enemies are gunning for you. Nonetheless, you can execute some really cool action sequences with the action being so fast paced. The campaign lasts roughly between 15 and 20 hours and by about the 10th hour of gameplay, a fatigue of the overly demanding combat rush may settle in and kill your motivation to move forward, but you can’t stop because humanity needs you.

Upgrading, while not being a crucial part of the gameplay, serves it’s purpose in the single-player campaign. Obtaining a wide selection of weapons, each one carrying two special modifiers, can widen your approach of gameplay. With there being more than one mod, the modifiers are easily interchangeable using a “hot-swap” button. Each weapon is upgradable by points that are acquired by your combat ranking. The more you engage in combat and level challenges, the higher your combat ranking. The Doom armor is also upgradable, giving the player passive abilities and perks. You can also acquire skills by engaging in rune challenges. The optional challenges are activated after finding Hellish Tablets that will transport you to a challenge area to complete a short objective under a time limit. After completing the objective you are rewarded with a rune that grants you a passive ability. 

Explained in a live stream a couple weeks before release, it wasn’t id Software’s intent to elaborate on a narrative for DOOM. In fact, it wasn’t even a priority. Instead, they were mostly focused on enticing players to explore the levels to find secrets; secrets being early-found weapons, upgrades, and sometimes the occasional story element. Although these things are worth looking for, the environments have a very weak call for exploration. The environments all virtually feel, navigate, and look the same as far as structure with somewhat flat and boring surroundings. There are a few exceptions where you actually perform some minor platformish puzzle solving to reach your destination. While these instances are ambitious, it generally feels forced and out of place as they are few and far between.

While the campaign is intense and a non-stop fire fight, the multiplayer is a lot more forgiving. The more you play and the better you do in the multiplayer, you level up and gain access to an arsenal and customizable aesthetics for your marine. That’s about it. While there are still non-stop firefights and other modes to take part in, there is definitely a noticeable shift in pace, which could serve as the perfect exhale after a long duration in the campaign. Even though the multiplayer is one third of game, it doesn't make a substantial presence. It lacks weight as it feel much like any multiplayer arena shooter.

Let’s not forget the sandboxy DOOM Community mode, SnapMap. A fun and very deep but easy to use mapmaker that allows the user to create or participate in maps that can virtually do almost anything you want it to do. Standard CO-OP survival mode? Sure! What about a music-making tool? There’s that too! There are basic and advance tutorials that will teach you how to program a map.

When announced at 2015’s E3, among the excitement of the juggernaut’s reboot, there was a question of what DOOM would serve in this generation of gaming. It feels as though this game in the franchise served better to a generation prior. While the fast paced survivalist last man standing gameplay definitely scratches the nostalgic itch that is DOOM, it leaves a lot to be desired in the sense that it’s depth goes no more than a flashy shooter. One can only hope that in the suggested sequel there will be room for DOOM to grow.

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