The King is Back!
id Software pretty much invented the First Person Shooter (FPS) back in 1993 when the original Doom was launched and, as the years have passed, its DNA can still be seen in practically every shooter in the gaming universe. Followed in 1994 by Doom II and Doom 3 in 2004, the release of the new game earlier this month is the culmination of years of false starts, rumors, speculation, and hope. In fact, the Doom 4 project, as it was once known, was scrapped in 2013 and in the intervening years, short teaser trailers were released to calm our worried souls until eventually at E3 last year, 15 minutes of game footage was shown to an awe-struck audience and DOOM was back. Big time!
DOOM uses the new id Tech 6 game engine (with Vulkan support coming shortly) and straight out of the box it’s as smooth as butter and looks simply stunning. I run two gaming rigs and have some of the latest games installed, including Just Cause 3 and Rise of The Tomb Raider, and to run either of those to the max (ultra or very high video settings), puts an enormous load on the PC resulting in pretty mediocre frame rates. Not so with DOOM which is incredibly well optimized and this is what struck me on first loading up the game. What is also noticeable is the absence of an interminable opening cut scene so popular today in so many AAA games; DOOM simply throws you into the action within the first few seconds of hitting play and this initial and most welcome shock to the system is an indicator of what the game is really about– a visceral, violent and shameless over-the-top, non-stop killing fest and the beauty of it is, DOOM doesn’t pretend to be anything else.
If you’re not into violent, bloody games, Doom is probably not a game for you.
DOOM is an old-school FPS in the style of the first two Doom games. It’s nothing like its immediate predecessor Doom 3, which leaned much more towards survival horror and, indeed, was pretty scary for the most part, especially due to the dark corridors, dim lighting and ghoulish atmosphere. On the other hand, DOOM is very much an arena shooter in the style of Quake III where you find yourself in numerous open spaces surrounded by demons and the only way to exit and move forward in the game is by killing every single one of them by any means possible and therein lies the fun.
The game urges you to keep moving and if you don’t, you’re dead. Moving and killing also have their advantages, as every demon you splatter to pieces gives up health and ammo, encouraging you to, well, keep killing. There’s also a novel way to finish an enemy known as the Glory Kill which, when the Demon is stunned, it glows for a few seconds which gives you the opportunity to hit melee, so you can finish him off hand to hand by ripping his body parts to pieces. Sounds a tad unsavory, but it works and is surprisingly satisfying and rewarding in the form of weapons upgrades, so the better you fight, the more rewards you get.
Story in a game is like story in a porn movie; it’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important ~ John Carmack
Demonic invasion detected!
The story, such as it is, puts you in the boots of a Marine caught up in a demonic invasion of Mars. You’ve been volunteered to sort out the mess and that’s pretty much all you need to know, except that Doom Guy is pissed off and in no mood to negotiate. You progress through the game hitting switches, running down corridors, platform jumping and generally clearing out the demons using your formidable weapons which you pick up along the way, and those weapons become more powerful further into the game until you find the BFG (The Big F*****g Gun), which is a formidable plasma cannon capable of tremendous damage.
Your weapons arsenal is awesome and as your combat improves, most can be upgraded with mods for that extra kick.
- Pistol -infinite ammo
- Shotgun -fearsome
- Super Shotgun – even more fearsome
- Heavy Assault Rifle – with mini rockets
- Chaingun – it’ll rip you apart
- Plasma Rifle – bolts of plasma
- Gauss Cannon – lots of gauss
- Rocket Launcher – more than just an RPG
- Chainsaw – creates a bloody mess
- BFG 9000 – Demons fear the BFG, period
Particularly satisfying is the chainsaw which, up close, is blood-splatteringly lethal and dishes out utter carnage to demons who get too close.
Since I’m also a graphics whore, those details that are so important in games have been beautifully honed in DOOM, each weapon has been meticulously crafted and each and every one actually looks as if it’s been used multiple times already and this is enhanced by the sounds they make, none more so that the chainsaw, which is so absolutely spot on that you feel you’ve actually got it in your hands
Secrets, collectables and challenges
The game is nicely spiced up by numerous secrets and collectables, in the form of miniature figures, including Doom Guy, and a series of Rune Challenges, each of which adds a little to your arsenal of power and weapon capability. These diversions can come as a welcome break at times, especially with the combat being frenetic which, when calm prevails, you can wander off searching for stuff at your leisure thus giving the game more depth and re-playability.
Build your own map
Whilst multiplayer isn’t really my thing, the game includes SNAPMAP that lets you create your own maps that you can design yourself, adding the essential components where you wish and then submit your map for others to share throughout the DOOM community. You can even make a map and host a team Death Match and invite your buddies along. How cool is that?
Check your rig
Although I’ve mentioned that the game is very well optimized, you will still need a decent PC to get the best out of the game with a decent frame rate (ie, Frames per second). The minimum specs according to Steam are:
- OS: Windows 7/8.1/10 (64-bit only versions)
- Processor: Intel Core i5-2400/AMD FX-8320 or better
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 670 2GB/AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB or better
- Storage: 55 GB available space
Just to give you an idea of my performance for comparison purposes, my main rig is as above but with 18Gb RAM and a GTX 970 4Gb, installed and running off a Solid state Drive ( SSD). On ULTRA graphic settings, I’m getting around 75 Frames per second, which, when there’s a lot of action, drops to around 60 Frames per second. This is pretty much optimum, however, on my other rig running a Phenom 965 and a Radeon 7950 3Gb, ULTRA is too much and I have to drop to MEDIUM settings.
However, with a new Application Program Interface (API) called Vulkan, already available, which DOOM supports, and drivers for nVidia and AMD being already available, the picture will change dramatically. Vulkan is a cross platform API and seen as a successor to Open GL (DOOM runs on Open GL 4.5), but is much more efficient. In simple terms, Vulkan takes much of the work from the CPU and hands it to the GPU, resulting in smoother and more optimized game-play. id Software has already said that a game update for Vulkan implementation will be released ‘…shortly after the game releases‘, so, expect a performance hike in the best possible way pretty soon. For a more in-depth explanation of Vulkan, please go to Krhonos and nVidia.
The twelve year wait was definitely worth it and it’s clear that id Software was determined to stick to their guns and recreate DOOM in the classic FPS style but with a modern edge to it, and they’ve succeeded beyond all expectations. From the moment the game starts and you’re thrust into combat in the first few seconds, you know you’re playing a classic shooter that pulls no punches. Even on medium difficulty setting (which you can change at any time), known as Hurt Me Plenty, it’s a challenging experience, with Nightmare and Ultra Nightmare available if your nerves are up to it.
It’s worth pointing out that not even the developers have been able to beat Ultra Nightmare and they now have competitions in the office to see who can achieve it, which sounds like a lot of fun. So, if you’re looking for a Shooter in every sense of the word and you have a machine at least capable of running it, you shouldn’t miss DOOM– it really is that good.
Make no mistake, DOOM is an ultra-violent, bloody and frantic frag-fest from hell, yet its appeal is in the no-holds-barred and simplistic message– “you’re there to kill or die“, and die you most certainly will. But the essence of the DOOM legacy now lives on and it’s a breathtaking tour de force.
DOOM is back!