Game Review: DOOM [Best of 2016 ]

When I watched the first trailer for DOOM it reminded me of some of my favourite gaming memories. It reminded me the first time I saw Quake II at a friend’s house. I was a console gamer, so this was the first time I witness lightning fast railgun head shots from overseas gamers. When it was ported onto the original Playstation I couldn’t believe it as I sat down to play the first demo…

Minimal intro then…silence. Alone, on an alien world with only one direction to walk and only one outcome possible. Walk forward, and my favourite soundtrack of all time kicks in. Watching the DOOM marine sprinting, double jumping, strafing and shooting his way through a genuine horde, accentuated by snapping the incisor of the enemy and plunging it into the beast’s gaping maw…I felt fifteen again. Do not stare into the abyss, break its tooth off and stab it to death with it.

This is not a game review proper. I am not going to talk about light filters and resolution settings. This is about the art of the throwback, and what its success means to the ironic battleground for masculinity that videogame culture has become.

That this game proudly displays the new R18+ classification despite the restriction of potential commercial appeal, this rating is a reflection of just how marginalised old-school gaming culture has become in correlation with increasing mainstream acceptance – similar to the comic books of the post-WWII period. What was acceptable in the ‘90s is not dangerous and restricted. This cultural regression in the name of morality is known as virtue-signalling. The original game was part of the original drive to censor videogames. It’s reincarnation had on obligation to earn this rating or risk any subversive legitimacy.

I, and many others (such as Total_Biscuit) were concerned by the Beta test version. The multiplayer had no identity and felt too similar to other modern games like Call of Duty, the Candy Crush of FPS. Why resurrect Doom as Call of Duty: Hell? Other recent attempts at the throwback like Twisted Metal failed because they were watered down and had little relation to the feel of the originals. The multiplayer remains fairly standard, but the it didn’t matter because the single player campaign is the real deal. This game is HIGH ENERGY!

Game reviewers demand homogeneous, hamfisted  ‘variety’ in the form of repetitive puzzles or limited driving sections because referring to intangibles such as ‘feel’ or ‘atmosphere’ are inherently subjective. There is nothing wrong with subjective journalism if biases, tastes and conflicts of interest are disclosed in advance. In a New Journalism sense, these can actually be incorporated into the article, if done artfully. As a result, every FPS has ‘stealth elements’ and the Halo regenerating shield. These conditions promote hiding, sniping and stealth kills. DOOM gloriously eschews such nonsense in favour of momentum and intensity.

The first time you get in trouble in the game, conditioning will make you retreat and look for health. In DOOM there is only one way to get health. You must kill, the more theatrically the better. Frantic intense fury ensues and a few breathless minutes later, when all the demons are dead – that was awesome. No one else was in the room. No one else saw. You didn’t get a little medal. None of this matters.

To be a success a videogame, or a movie, or a song does not need to tick boxes in order to be a success. This is why criticism, especially pop-culture criticism, is so hard to quantify. A videogame like DOOM must honestly do what it sets out to do, and if this coalesces with what the audience expects, or surpasses it, the work is a success. DOOM is not watered down to appease corporate compromises and concerns. Such influences rob a game of innovation and identity.

DOOM is part of a cultural reclamation that began with Gamergate. This game takes a Black Metal approach – we don’t need you or want you. The speed, fluidity, hyper-realism and ultraviolence all scream ’90s. This is gaming taken to the source. The multiplayer is an afterthought for a reason. This game is made for 3 am singleplayer madness uncorrupted by squealing, foul-mouthed pre-teens to spoil any immersion and authenticity. This is the essence of old-school gaming – a lonesome but unapologetic fantasy world that has no interest in mainstream acceptance. This side of gaming was shamed into obscurity but the pendulum is swinging. DOOM allows us to crank the difficulty up to nightmare, cranky the music up to metal, turn off the lights and go to Hell!

Review:

Does DOOM creatively achieve what the designers intended it to creatively achieve? DOOM sets out to make gaming fun again, and it achieved that for me. This is the game that made me buy a PS4. The developers kept the game true to the spirit of the original but at the same time made an excellent showcase of cutting edge effects and gaming trends. 5/5

Did DOOM fulfil my expectations as a consumer? I wanted to DOOM to be a game I could play by myself, late at night, when everyone else was asleep. I wanted a game that would immerse me in flow, where I wouldn’t be stopped to look for a key or remember an intricate sequence of buttons to fire the grappling hook. This game is pick and play, but has deep potential to become elite level. 5/5

10/10