This week like many gamers I was faced with a choice of games. Due to finances, I could only pick one. I have a pile of shame that isn’t ready for trading in, yet the allure of one shiny new game was too much. The picture will tell you the surprising choice I made.
Despite the universal praise and love for Uncharted 4, I decided to go with Doom for a few justified reasons. Uncharted may be taking plaudits as the first truly next-gen game of this generation, but something about the mass marketing engine behind it leaves me cold. in fact, all the Uncharted games have left me feeling a bit strange. The first was a brilliant take on Tomb Raider, with a male protagonist. I enjoyed it and was left satisfied by the end. Despite this, the second left me feeling cold. I could appreciate all the finer points and advancements in gaming it brought, yet something was missing from it. There was no sense of surprise when you put it in the Playstation. You were told this was one of the best games ever, so when it played brilliantly, you weren’t surprised. It simply did what it was expected to do. I have the worry that Uncharted 4 is doing exactly the same. We are being corralled into buying this game simply because it is Uncharted rather than for its merits. I will pick it up at some point when the hype dies down but for now, the choice between the week’s two releases was an easy one.
Doom is a name that has a certain pedigree in gaming. It heralded the mass adoption of the first person shooter and garnered more mass market appeal than it’s predecessor, Wolfenstein. Now in this generation, we seem to have the same scenario. Wolfenstein has been and gone to critical acclaim, leaving the way clear for Doom. It needn’t have bothered, Doom would have kicked the door down and danced in a fountain of blood. This game is the very definition of visceral.
From the earliest seconds of the game, you are thrust into an unflinching world full, off violence and oppression. You are handed a pistol, not unlike the covenant one in Halo, and have to fight off a few grunts in the first room. After marvelling at the graphics, you are thrust headlong into a rollercoaster ride of a campaign. It is such a departure from other shooters, that you really feel like it is an adrenaline shot in the arm. The closest feeling to this in recent years has been Bulletstorm. In it, you had to charge headlong at enemies to keep your combo meter going. In Doom, you need to kill enemies for health and ammo. In practice when you are low on health your natural instinct would be to turtle up and snipe at enemies from a distance. Here however the tactic is to go on the offensive, hit an enemy with a blast from your shotgun and they should be stunned enough to carry out a glory kill. The glory kill is the money shot of Doom, depending on the angle and size of the demon you are facing, you could rip their jaw off, pound their head into the ground, or rip off a limb to beat them to death with. It is shocking at first, but soon you realise it as the prominent mechanic of the game. Enemies killed like this drop more health and ammo than usual meaning it is the only way out in some circumstances. This repeating loop of fun is at the heart of Doom and it makes you feel alive.
The classic chainsaw has also been given a mechanical makeover. It acts as a heightened version of the glory kill. You have three fuel cells in the beginning for the chainsaw equating to three instakills on average enemies. Larger enemies require all three cells, but when you kill anyone with the saw they drop a fountain of health and ammo. The onus is on you as the player to balance this out and use it as you see fit. Soon you will be dancing a hellacious ballet between demons, blasting them with your weapons before clicking the right stick to smash them and recharge yourself. People watching will wonder how you are doing it, but after a few minutes, it is second nature.
There are a few things that break up the action. Being Doom, there is a healthy amount of exploring and backtracking. Opening one door means you can go back and open others to earn new weapons and upgrades. You can get explosive shells on your shotgun or a scope on the heavy assault rifle. Much like Wolfenstein, the exploration is genuinely challenging and the rewards make your progress easier. There are also level specific challenges and suit upgrades to add to the mix.
The one strange addition is grenades. Doom never had anything like them before and they do feel a bit out of place. They are undeniably useful when you see a group of enemies, yet with the rest of the game being such a faithful update, they are something that could maybe have been handled better.
The campaign should last a competent gamer around 10-12 hours depending on how many head-scratching moments they spend exploring the map. After that, you can either play it again on a harder level or dip into the multiplayer portion of the game. It is fast and frenetic if a little old fashioned. It feels like a stripped down version of Unreal tournament with all the violence and fast-paced action. There are also a host of customisation options for your character almost rivalling Halo, but ultimately like any online shooter, you will get out as much as you put in. It won’t trouble the big boys, but is a nice addition to the game.
So to answer the question about which game you should buy this week? It will really depend on your mood. Think of it like the Oscars. Do you want to see the 10/10 film that wins all the awards or do you want to see the latest film in a genre that genuinely interests you? They are both good, and you will see them in the end, but just for once trust your heart not your head and have some fun with Doom.