Shooters have certainly changed since Doom 3 landed on Xbox and PC over a decade ago, so it comes as a relief to discover that the new Doom embodies the spirit that I loved about its predecessors. Sure, it’s laced with modern touches–Glory Kills get a lot of attention–but after a handful of hours with the campaign, the core experience is thus far familiar-feeling in the ways that truly matter. The demons are tough, the guns are fantastic, and the atmosphere is gnarly. So far, so good. Without early access to Doom, I haven’t been able to play enough to write a full review yet. Like anyone picking it up at launch, I will be knee-deep in virtual blood and ammo casings over the weekend, prepping for my full review early next week.
I can tell you this, however: after almost six hours in the campaign, I do not want to stop playing Doom. It’s rare that I get to play a game where I don’t feel–at least occasionally–confronted by convoluted dialogue or overwrought systems; even the best games are guilty of this from time to time. Doom’s straightforward identity and focus on gunplay and haunting environments is a breath of pleasingly rotten air. I’m revelling in the challenge of combat as new demons are introduced to match my rapidly expanding roster of weapons. With collectible modifications that add the likes of missiles to my heavy assault rifle, or homing capabilities to my rocket launcher, there are 27 weapon variations to tinker with. I’ve got access to 13 thus far, and it’s a good sign that I have a hard time choosing my favorite loadout.
Melee is an integral part of combat thanks to the presence of Glory Kills. These contextual attacks show you violently dismembering enemies. But it’s for more than sheer spectacle. To activate a Glory Kill, you have to attack an enemy until they are in a staggered state–enemies glow orange and blue to indicate they are vulnerable. While it’s fair to say Glory Kills bring combat to a temporary halt, they are also a godsend as they cause enemies to drop health packs, and occasionally some ammo. I’ve learned to use Glory Kills to my advantage, either to get out of a hairy situation or to play aggressively, confident in the fact that I can get in close and recuperate some of the inevitable damage I’ll endure. Then again, Glory Kills aren’t required, and you may choose to ignore the option at your own discretion–you can even disable the visual effect that indicates when an enemy is staggered. I was skeptical of Glory Kills at first, but now I view them as an ace up my sleeve.
Likewise, a chainsaw you acquire early on proves to be an almost equal partner to Glory Kills, albeit with a different balance. Your chainsaw can kill most enemies immediately, and the reward for slicing a demon in twain is a deluge of ammunition. In my experience, predefined ammo caches are far more scarce than health packs, and when the going gets tough, I’m thankful for my chainsaw. Because it relies on fuel–which is even harder to find than typical ammo–it’s not as reliable as Glory Kills are, but it offers far more strategic depth due to the way it compensates for the game’s slow dole of ammo.
I’m currently playing Doom on PlayStation 4, and will spend a few hours between the Xbox One and PC versions of the game before writing my review. The PlayStation 4 version is fast and fluid, but it’s not without some issues. To accommodate what feels like 60 frames per second, it’s clear that Doom’s textures have been downgraded quite a bit from the PC version. This is par for the course when it comes to cross-platform games, but there’s an unusual amount of texture pop-in present in Doom, predominantly right when you boot up the game or enter a new stage. The mental impact of this is somewhat diminished by the strength of the environmental design, but watching objects shift from muddy hues to crisp details temporarily interrupts my immersion in Doom’s dark splendor nonetheless.
As much as I wish I was currently playing Doom on PC–both to experience the full extent of the work that went into the game’s art and effects and to wield the accuracy of a mouse–the PlayStation 4 version hasn’t really let me down. I don’t appreciate the texture issues, but they pass quickly enough that I can focus on what matters: shotgunning demons, point-blank. With numerous monstrosities and new weapons on the horizon, I’m ready to keep the train to hell rolling. Come back early next week to see if I make it out with my positivity intact on the other side.