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Game Review #202: Doom (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B.

Developer: id Software Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Category: First Person, Action, Multiplayer Release Date: 11.10.17

Price (at time of review): $59.99 (Physical & Digital)

Buy Doom (digitally) from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Buy Doom (physically) from Amazon here.

There are only a few franchises that can be said to have truly, fundamentally changed the gaming industry forever. DOOM is one of those franchises. While it wasn’t the first first-person shooter, it certainly was the first blockbuster title in the genre’s history. In fact, before the phrase “first-person shooter” was coined, the whole genre was just called “DOOM clones.” The original game in the series was originally released as shareware, helping to popularize an early form of digital distribution, paving the way for the bevy of online storefronts we enjoy today... unless you’re a physical-only collector, I guess. My point is, when a game has the named DOOM emblazoned across its cover, the weight of expectations placed upon it can be pretty heavy to the point of being suffocating. Bethesda and id gave resurrecting the franchise a try in 2016, porting it to the Switch the next year. Does the game live up its legendary franchise’s reputation? Short answer? Yes. The long answer? Well, let’s get to that now.

Hell on Mars

Mars has been colonized by the Union Aerospace Corporation as part of an effort to solve Earth’s energy crisis. They use their facilities there to harvest Argent energy, which is then shipped back to earth. The problem? Argent energy comes from Hell. Like, the actual Hell with demons and everything. Shockingly, their plan sort of backfires when a UAC scientist, Olivia Pierce, opens a portal to hell and unleashes a demon army on the UAC facility. Luckily, director Samuel Hayden has an ace up his sleeve; a sarcophagus containing the Doomguy (or Doom Slayer, as he is referred to in-game. I prefer Doomguy). Hayden lets Doomguy go and reunites him with his Praetor Suit in order to murder his way through thousands of demons and possessed UAC employees to prevent Pierce from unleashing the full force of Hell on Mars.

The storyline is a little deeper than the MS-DOS-era entries in the series, but it’s still fairly thin; of course that doesn’t stop it from being satisfying or entertaining. The story basically unfolds following the same path as every DOOM before it; Hell is unleashed, murder demons, and close the portal to Hell. Doomguy is, as always, a silent protagonist, so there isn’t much room for character development there. Hayden and Pierce, the only two other named characters, are there mostly for exposition purposes, but you do get some insight into their backstories as the game moves along. Overall, you get enough story to keep you invested in the events surrounding your killing sprees, but don’t expect any grand narrative undertakings along the lines of Bethesda’s other major franchises like Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, or Dishonored.

Shoot First, Ask Questions Never

DOOM is a first-person shooter. It doesn’t have elements of other genres, it doesn’t have mini games, and it doesn’t have dialogue options. You see bad guys, you shoot them. It’s pretty simple, and, more importantly, the gameplay is smooth and well-designed. You move around with the left stick, aim with the right, and fire various weapons or abilities with the triggers. You can melee attack by pressing the right stick, and you can use “Glory Kills” by executing a melee attack on a stunned opponent. Glory Kills are extra-gory melee finishers that cause enemies to explode like a piñata, splashing extra health and ammo on the ground. You can jump with B and duck with A. The controls are all fairly standard, but the basic gameplay concepts are outstandingly well-implemented. The controls are responsive and consistent, making for a slick, polished gameplay experience that is satisfying and fun from start to finish, despite a relative lack of variety.

Building Your Arsenal

DOOM brings back some of the series’ signature weapons, most notably the chainsaw and my personal favorite (and probably everyone else’s too), the BFG-9000. In a departure from previous DOOMs, however, you can actually customize your weapons. Throughout the game’s levels you will encounter drones carrying weapon mods you can apply to one of your armaments. Most guns have two different mods to unlock, but only one can be active at a time. Once you unlock a mod, you can upgrade it using weapon points that are gained by completing challenges, finding secrets, and killing lots and lots of demons. You can also upgrade the Praetor Suit with armor mods hidden throughout each level. Doomguy can upgrade his health, armor, and ammo capacity by finding Argent Energy pods scattered around the game. Finally, you can unlock and equip ability runes by completing Rune Challenges offered by floating stone tablets you encounter.

Alternate Modes of Destruction

DOOM has some extra gameplay modes to enjoy, in addition to the main story. There’s an arcade mode, where you just play through the missions without the story stuff getting in the way. There’s a multiplayer mode where you can play local or online in various game modes… but let’s face it, it’s DOOM. Who wants to play anything but Deathmatch? It does have its own equipment progression system that allows you to unlock new runes and skins for your character and weapons, which is cool. If I didn’t suck so bad at FPS’s I might have even been able to get some. You can replay any level of the story if you want to go back and grab any of the secrets you may have missed. Finally, there is a collectibles screen where you can view models of the game’s different weapons, enemies, and characters, provided you have discovered the corresponding Doomguy figure in story mode.

Visions of Doom

Even two years in, DOOM remains one of the best-looking games on the Nintendo Switch. Character and enemy models are super-detailed and smoothly animated. The levels are similarly intricately built, creating an atmosphere that is equal parts unsettling to accentuate the game’s horror elements and open enough to accommodate the game’s action elements. Moreover, everything just looks awesome; the demons are intimidating and macabre, and the architecture is suitably soulless and foreboding. The soundtrack is made of slower, quieter songs that play during exploration segments that ratchet up into full-throated metal that screams greater tension into battle sequences. In short, DOOM’s art direction delivers everything you could want a DOOM to deliver.

The Apocalypse is Postponed Until the Sequel

DOOM is, from start to finish, an ideal DOOM experience. The action is fast, bloody, and well-crafted enough to be fun and challenging without driving players to frustration. The weapon customization options allow players to experiment with and develop a preferred play style; will you get close with shotguns and chainsaws or keep your distance with rifles and grenades? Ammo is plentiful enough that you should always be able to stick with your preferred strategy, which is nice. I’m not a fan of games that purport to let players choose how to play, and then try to funnel you into a predetermined path. The graphics are gorgeous and the music gets you in the mood to mow down wave after wave of demons. DOOM lives up to its legendary pedigree. I’d go to Hell anytime it wants me to.

Score: 10/10

Buy Doom (digitally) from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Buy Doom (physically) from Amazon here.

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