Id Software have been in a slump, with every game taking years and years to come out, without the same spark they were known for in the 90s. But this Doom gives me hope. They’re on the right track, as this is different from any other action game out there. They’re finally back trying to carve their own path in the FPS space, borrowing elements from every id game that has come before it.
This Doom isn’t just looking back at what made the old Doom games good. It’s borrowing bits and pieces from all the Quake games, and adding the obligatory RPG mechanics present in all shooters today. At a glance the game doesn’t look very exciting, as it looks very similar to Doom 3 and Dead Space. It’s a brand of sci-fi aesthetic that’s way too familiar at this point. But when you get a couple levels into the campaign you start coming across vertical arenas, where combat takes place on multiple levels, with enemies following you everywhere. This is where Doom starts to make sense. And once you get to the good bits, it just keeps getting better. This isn't simply an “old school” game that does the same things as the classics of the genre. It's taking their elements and moving forwards. Calling it old school almost does a disservice for what they've managed to do here.
The level design of Doom displays good variety, with some levels having multi-level vertical arenas that feel like they belong in a multiplayer game, while other levels have simple tight corridors. Not all the levels are great, but they have a high average level of quality, and the truly great levels more than make up for the ones that are just okay. Most importantly, it didn't feel repetitive. Anything good can outstay its welcome, and this game mixes things up enough over the course of the campaign to justify its length.
The biggest problem I had with the game is the audio. It’s primitive and simplistic in a way that isn’t worthy of the quality of game design and animation. In first person shooters, the audio is critical in communicating where enemies are, what weapons they’re using, and how they’re moving. In all games, audio expands your field of view beyond the borders of the screen. In Doom, enemies are too silent, and don’t have enough character. By listening, it’s hard to tell which enemies are in the arena with you, or where they are. This led to me being blindsided by enemies hitting me from behind. It added an unpleasant element of random chance. If you can’t use the sound as a weapon against the enemy, there’s a limit to how good you can get at the game. It creates a skill ceiling that you can never breach. It’s unfortunate, because in so many ways Doom is state of the art, or breaks new ground. It isn’t all bad, as the music is very fitting, with neat touches like guitar riffs that match the pace of your weapon as its firing. But I still found the audio to be a letdown.
Overall, my impression of Doom is overwhelmingly positive. The first two levels were mediocre, and the audio disappointed me. But once the game got going, it won me over. It’s more than good enough to conquer its deficiencies and convince me that it’s a game I should be recommending to people. It proves that id Software know what they’re doing, and makes me excited to see what they do next. It’s easily my favorite FPS released in ages. It reminded me why I like the genre in the first place. It’s easy to forget when all you get every year is co-op RPG hybrids or military shooters. This is the kind of shooter very few people bother to make anymore, and I want to celebrate how well they managed to pull it off. The multiplayer is terrible though, so don’t get the game for that. The developer’s focus was clearly on the singleplayer, and it’s for that the game will be remembered.