DOOM (Xbox One) | Review

It goes without saying that DOOM is an immensely influential franchise. When it first released in 1993, it skyrocketed into popularity, spawning a genre called “Doom-likes,” which we now call a “first-person shooter.” DOOM is still an immensely popular title, with a modding community still continually adding new .WAD packs with plentiful amounts of levels. Naturally, a sequel would follow a year later, but it would take 10 years for the series to become a trilogy. 12 years after DOOM 3 released, we finally have the next title in the franchise. Now the question is: Does DOOM manage to stand on its own against the franchises that have succeeded it, or is it 10 years too late?

DOOM has you playing as the one and only Doom Slayer (AKA, Doomguy, Doom Marine), who wakes up during a demonic invasion at a facility on Mars. After killing the Possessed, he grabs his signature armor and swipes a nearby screen to get a status update on the facility. That’s when he gets a voice comm from the UAC facility director, Samuel Hayden, offering to help him. However, the Doom Slayer pushes the screen away to return to what he does best: killing.

Whatever story you can grab from the main game is surprisingly good, but the thing is that while all of this plot is happening, the Doom Slayer doesn’t care at all. He’s there to do one thing, and that is “kill a bunch of demons.” This is indicative throughout the game; for instance, when Samuel Hayden explains to Doomguy just how to disable the Argent Energy Filters safely, he instead offers a more direct approach by smashing them. The game does very well at filter-feeding you the most important parts of the story’s lore and plot when it needs to, but it never bogs you down by forcing you into a several-minutes long cutscene. The rest of the lore is hidden within the game through “codex entries.”

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That said, the total cast of characters you meet in the entire game are minimal at most. You have the Doom Slayer, naturally, Samuel Hayden, Olivia Pierce (who actually works against Hayden often and opens a gate to Hell), and VEGA (the artificial intelligence of the facility). That’s it, though, and that’s all they really needed as well. Story clearly wasn’t the focus of the game, but what’s here is enough to interest you; and that’s not to say the story is boring either, because as I said earlier, what’s there through regular gameplay is really good, and it’s only augmented through the codex entries.

The focus of DOOM was always quick movement, plenty of demons to kill, and a plentiful arsenal of guns to kill said demons with, and this time it’s no different. Movement is equal to a sprint in most other FPS titles, and isn’t slowed by jumping or having a heavy weapon equipped. You’ll obtain a double-jump, as well, and you can fall from several stories without taking fall damage. You can also clamber when near a raised platform if you jump towards it, which only makes moving around arenas much more fluid and dynamic.

Combat and weapons are also mostly unaltered. You never need to reload any weapon, except for the Super Shotgun, which always had a reload since DOOM II. With a simple click of a button, you can hot-swap between two weapons, and holding down this button also toggles a weapon wheel, slowing down time enough for you to pick your new massacre loadout. In time, you’ll be firing off shots with a rocket launcher and the Super Shotgun in a beautiful dance of death, with only the rhythm of the rockets and the blast of both barrels to tell you how to step. Combat is immensely rewarding and fluid, and this ties greatly into the game’s most important addition: Glory kills.

Glory kills are essentially a QTE that triggers when you weaken an enemy enough with bullets. Walk up, press the melee button, and watch as a swift animation deals an even swifter death to your foe. Every enemy has a set of unique animations, based on what angle you activate it from and where you’re aiming. You’ll be doling these out in droves very often in the game, because enemies always drop health when you glory kill them, and thankfully they don’t overstay their welcome. They’re very quick (no longer than two seconds), and you can savor it if you want, but the game doesn’t force you to stay and watch it pan out.

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Oh, sorry. Did you need that jaw?

Weapons in particular also stay pretty close to their original counterparts, while featuring a brand new design; there are some new toys in the mix, but they fit right in. The DOOM staples, however, have a new use. The chainsaw is now a limited-use instant kill on most enemies. Like a glory kill, these also have enemy-unique animations, but instead enemies drop a plethora of ammo, making the chainsaw a risky way to replenish your stock if you ever need it. The BFG-9000 is also limited-use, but the overall effect is unaltered; you shoot it and everything in the room dies. You can, of course, find ammo for these weapons in the level, but this too is also limited.

Throughout the game, you’ll find field drones, which you can activate to gain a weapon mod. These vary from burst-fire for your combat shotgun, to remote detonation for your rocket launcher. These mods can be used at any time, usually having a cooldown between uses. They add a whole new layer of speciality to every weapon, and this goes very well with finding that special pair of weapons you can’t go without. Gathering weapon upgrade points allows you to make these mods much better, like decreasing the cooldown or charge time. You can also find upgrade points for your suit, increasing your mobility or resistance to specific damages.

These two things are found within the levels, along with Argent Energy. Grabbing one of these things allows you to increase your max health, armor, or ammo capacity. By the end of the game, you’ll become a powerhouse, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be an unstoppable killing machine. The game always continues to present a commendable challenge, punishing poor aim and staying still with a swift death. To succeed, you will need to move and shoot with accuracy, and thankfully, the learning curve on that isn’t very steep. That doesn’t mean that the game will make things any easier; especially as the level design gets more complex and requires more precise platforming.

Progression is smooth, giving the player something new to try every mission. It also isn’t very stingy with ammo, offering a plentiful amount in every room. Which works wonderfully since you’ll never go longer than two minutes without being thrust into a firefight. Missions tend to have several “arena” rooms between open-ended sections with multiple paths. These paths lead to side-areas with extra pickups, or can lead to secrets. Just like old times, these secrets can have powerful pickups like Mega Health, or silly collectibles that can reference some of id Software’s older titles. The big secrets, though, are hidden levers that reveal a secret room, containing a key section from a classic DOOM level within. This isn’t just for fun, either; these unlock a fully playable version of those levels to play with the modern DOOM style. Overall, the game encourages taking your time when you aren’t busy killing waves of demons, and encourages speed and accuracy when you are. A blend of gameplay that is surprisingly easy to mess up, but is done beautifully here.

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I think I took a wrong turn somewhere…

Of course, the campaign is only one large chunk of the experience. For arena-shooter-savvy players out there, there’s a little something here for you in the Multiplayer. Typically, matches don’t last longer than 10 minutes at most. The levels themselves offer a decent amount of variety; some with tight corridors and others with open, vertical rooms. It does follow suit with the “loadout” style gameplay instead of going with the more traditional arena-pickups, ala Quake or Unreal Tournament. Also, firefights between players usually pans out to what weapon and who shot first. The gametypes are also rather vanilla, with Freeze Tag being the outlier. It’ll keep you entertained in small chunks, but I wouldn’t peg it as a be-all-end-all experience.

The other experience is SnapMap: DOOM’s map creation toolset. Here, players can build maps using prefab rooms, and snapping them together like a puzzle. Within minutes, you can have a map built and ready to go, but the meat is through learning how to use the built-in logic system to create drastically different maps. Want to make your map use a wave-based survival mode? You can do that. Want to make it a deathmatch-style map? That too, is possible. What is here is enough to satisfy anyone with some imagination, but sadly it falls short of other map-creation tools, like Halo’s Forge mode. It’s simple, easy to use, and so far, the community behind it are making some really neat things; but that said, it needs more.

It’s also worth noting that any time you want to switch between these three modes, you have to load into them like a separate game. This, of course, takes some time to load, which is currently DOOM’s biggest flaw. The loading times are poor; taking between 35 seconds to a minute to initially load a level, and 15-25 seconds should you die in that level. SnapMap levels take much longer, depending on their scale and use of logic, but the Multiplayer maps overall don’t take as long. However, the amount of loading is pretty rough, especially if you play on some of the harder difficulties in Campaign mode.

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Some people carve ice with a chainsaw. I prefer demons.

What is intriguing, though, is that the game performs beautifully. Never once while playing the game did it, in any way, slow down noticeably. It maintained a consistent 60FPS throughout, although that’s because of the engine’s design. Hard-coded into the engine is a dynamic texture resolution, which lowers the texture quality based on performance. If it detects a framerate drop, it’ll decrease the quality until it stabilizes, then bring it right back up. This is noticeable at times, with textures of doors or screens becoming more crisp as an animation plays out, but it isn’t enough to break the experience. As a matter of fact, it’s downright impressive, since this is one of the games where performance needs to be the focus. The graphics themselves look very good, with believable lighting and level design helping in the matter. It all looks natural and clean; nothing seems out of place. The UI is clean and non-invasive, and you can toggle most of the UI elements off in the settings to disable anything you don’t want. There are also settings to change the FOV (which is defaulted to 90) and disable motion blur; both of which are basically unheard of for any console version.

Enemies have a fresh design, but still retain their original design enough to be easily compared to their classic designs. There are a few new faces amongst them, and only one is a complete redesign (being the Arch-Vile, which is now a Summoner).

The animations are also stellar. The Doom Slayer doesn’t speak a single word in the game, but the body language and use of camera speaks loudly for him. Through the subtleties of these animations, you can tell his entire thought process. The glory kills, as he tears limbs and breaks bones, are visceral and rewarding; the demons themselves looking almost terrified at what’s happening for a split second before they’re eviscerated. The weapons are all beautifully detailed, and the weapon mods themselves are subtly designed to be useful should the player decide to play with the UI turned off. Everything about the game’s presentation is top-notch for an FPS.

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The voice acting is minimal and slight; it does the job enough to tell the player what needs to be done, much like the cutscenes. There are only four characters with any semblance of voice acting, and two of them are robots. VEGA, the facility AI, is straight and to the point, telling the player objectively what is happening. Samuel Hayden, voices concern over the facility from a business standpoint, telling the player to keep everything intact so he can fix it later. Olivia Pierce, being easily manipulated by Hell’s demonic leader, has a self-righteous tone that over time becomes gradually insane. There is also an un-named “Demonic Voice” throughout the game, who also tells the lore of why the Doom Slayer came to be feared and put into his casket; he has a pretty generic “growling demon” voice going on, so not much going on there. Demons themselves all have distinct callouts when they spawn and attack. Weapons also have a nice bass to them, giving them a very strong bang when you fire them. The most important sound, though, is the “low health” warning; two beeps is all you really need. Simple, distinct, and surprisingly not annoying.

The music is a mix of two genres, not counting the ambient music that plays. During combat, it is a blend of Metal and Industrial Rock. While Metal music has been an often combined genre with DOOM, it’s the addition of the mechanical sounds from the Industrial Rock part of the music that makes the overall soundtrack unique. Listening to it by itself is nothing to write home about, but combined with the quick gameplay of DOOM, it’s the perfect soundtrack to murder droves of demons to. The ambient music, for the record, can sometimes have an unsettling tone to it, which works in the rather desolate and destroyed UAC facility. My favorite track, though, is the choir track when you first go to Hell; it’s pretty cheesy, but I love it.

So should you buy DOOM? For lack of a better term: Hell yes. The gameplay is incredibly rewarding and fast, making this addition to one of the most important gaming franchises a very welcome one to veterans. Glory kills still haven’t gotten old even into my second playthrough, and the amount of throwbacks and hidden secrets in the game is enough to satisfy anyone with a careful eye. The loading times are pretty bad, and for most people, the Multiplayer and SnapMap will probably need a little more to be worth your time, but the Campaign alone is worth the price of admission.

Written by: Tyler Busler

I'm an adept gamer with 15+ years of experience in the best and worst of gaming history. I've always believed that gameplay is the most important part of a video game in most instances. My favorite games are Super Mario 3D World, Journey, Yoshi's Island, Paper Mario, and Dust: An Elysian Tail.