Saturday, March 6, 2021

Console Corner: Review of Doom (2016)

I am of the Doom generation. Italics and a capital letter going a long way, no, we have not condemned the Earth to become a nuclear wasteland, but certainly some “traditional people” (trying to be diplomatic here) would point a finger at violent video games whenever the latest psychologically ill shooter kills a dozen or so people. The most violent of its day, 1994’s Doom was a first-person blast ‘em, smash ‘em filled with violent demon and labyrinthine puzzles. Popular to this day, it is a game that proves quality + simplicity can be a magic formula. A handful of sequels have been released over the years, and in 2016 a version was released for the PS4 generation of consoles. If the Earth hadn’t gone to hell in the twenty+ years which transpired since the first Doom, Doom (2016) proved there was still hope.

Remaining 100% faithful to its 1994 roots while taking advantage of technical possibilities in the 21st century, Doom (2016) is wholly informed on both fronts. Anybody who played the original game will quickly recognize its core presence in Doom (2016), and thereafter play with joy seeing how it is updated and implemented for the PS4. The new details and nuances are only the icing on the cake. Weapon and armor upgrades, new guns, 3D maps, music, multi-player, and other features, alongside the amazing new graphics, are all part of the package. I imagine there a couple of purists in the world, but I can’t imagine the majority of original Doom players not at least respecting and having a blast (no pun intended) with the reboot.

Where Doom (1994) literally dropped players into an alien setting with only a pistol and turned them loose on the demons, Doom (2016) adds a degree of backstory that both enriches the Doom experience while taking a bit of its innocence. (A degree, kids, a degree. Don’t worry, you’re still spending most of your time blasting and exploring.) On one hand it’s nice to have a plot—the story of a Mars research base gone rogue and you trying to find out why while preventing it from getting worse (pasting demons to walls and chainsawing them to chunks along the way). The story indirectly pushes the player from level to level, providing momentum beyond What’s around the next corner?, or, Where’s the exit door to this level? On the other hand, the story eliminates some of the mystery of the original game. Who am I? What the hell am I doing here? What are these alien/demon things? Why are they attacking me? I don’t believe any of those questions are answered in the 1994 game. Having these questions partially answered in 2016 does, as stated, embed the player deeper in the gameplay, but upon reflection could likewise take them a little out of the experience when compared to the original Doom. Like lingerie, sometimes the imagination is better.

No review, and I mean no review of Doom (2016) is complete without mentioning the music. Industrial-techno-grind perfectly paired with gameplay, it is the soundtrack the player has in their mind blasting through the game regardless whether the volume is on or off, 1994 or 2016. It rocks. If Doom is violent, smashing chaos, then the static-infused bass lines, pounding drums, and distorted guitars are its animal spirit released in sound. I do often praise the music in video games; these days there are a lot of talented people spending significant time and money to ensure sound complements gameplay. But I can’t help but feel Doom’s music is a cut above, to the point I sometimes listen to the soundtrack on Youtube at work—in headphones, of course.

I am far, far from an expert on first-person shooters. Looking through my catalog, I believe there are only three or four I’ve played. And while I think I still prefer the Titanfall 2 FPS experience, there is nothing I can complain about with Doom (2016). It is an extremely tight, focused experience that pays full homage to the original while fully utilizing the best of what the PS4 offers. Gameplay is smooth as can be. Graphics are great. In terms of mechanics, movements, weapons, etc.—the core game elements, I don’t think a game could be more intuitive. And the music pushes the experience to a new level. I wouldn’t recommend filling one’s life with violent, gory video games, but for anyone of the Doom generation looking for its nostalgia in a modern package, Doom (2016) delivers in buckets of industrial metal. I will call it Doom perfected until a better version comes out. Now, excuse while I go on a killing spree—in Doom, silly. What were you thinking? <wink?>

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