Sunday, November 12, 2017

Review: DOOM


DOOM is probably one of the best-known names and gaming and for good reason, it put the first-person shooter genre, and its developer id Software, on the map (and on a historical note it also showed the way for how shareware could be a successful business model). While over the years and through multiple iterations it has sometimes struggled it is rightfully lauded as one of the most viscerally-pleasing franchises in the business. With this latest entry id took a pretty big risk by incorporating a melee finisher component into the game, changing up its traditional formula, and it paid off with a very strong response. Now this experience has amazingly been brought to the Switch and, while it isn’t quite perfect, it is amazing how great it feels being able to play a AAA third-party title of this caliber anywhere.


While there is a somewhat trope-driven story here in DOOM the emphasis has always been on strapping into your Space Marine gear (which you’ll do within the first few minutes), amassing an arsenal of fearsome weaponry (including the iconic chainsaw), and mowing through hordes of increasingly-formidable enemies. In that regard this entry in the franchise delivers on all counts, bringing all of its classic weapons into the modern era with flair and fury. What will take getting used to at first is how the mechanics tied to the melee “glory kills” completely alter the flow you’ve come to expect from the genre. Where the action in traditional first-person shooters has tended to be to get into firefights and then go to hide and use the game’s method du jour of healing before going back to the fray, this new DOOM has changed the game for the better. Since glory kills reward you with health, instead of levels being a series of bursts of skirmishes the tendency is towards all-out aggression. You’ll still want and need to use cover in large-scale firefights but with the enticement of some healing you’ll likely want and need to finish off enemies up close and personal. It’s exhilarating, it’s satisfying, and it’s a game-changer.

That leads well into what I consider the best part of the DOOM experience on the Switch as well, and where it reminds me more of my beloved indies, the included Arcade Mode. The Campaign is a good way to get started with the core story and gradual progression, but once you move over to Arcade Mode you’ll be looking to take what you learned in the campaign and to perfect it. The maps are generally the same, though some new power-ups and opportunities are included, but on top of finding ways to work your glory kills in to stay alive you’ll have a score multiplier to keep an eye on that will slowly go down for every moment you’re not slaughtering demons. For me this takes the new DOOM experience to the furthest extent of aggression that it deserves and is a mode I’ll be returning to for quite some time in search of some thrills.


Multiplayer will be what many other gamers will gravitate to the title for, though for me the Deathmatch-y roots it is carrying as a whole (though possibly only for the moment) limit the appeal a bit. That isn’t to say that the included multiplayer isn’t legitimate, this is absolutely the first title that delivers the hardcore online FPS experience to the Switch. As you progress and gain levels you’ll have unlocks that will allow you to change your load out, your appearance, some appealing gameplay modifiers, and of course your victory taunts as well. Finding a match from the lobby was pretty quick and painless, and there are straight Deathmatch options as well as more objective and team-based modes to try to put something out there for everyone. I did run into some wonky issues every once in awhile but I also don’t think of them as being any different or worse than those I’ve had in any online multiplayer game. I think my main issue with multiplayer isn’t so much the variety in play, from the standpoint of the options the game provides for, but perhaps the mentality of the people I found myself playing with. Every mode I played in felt like it was devolving into people just trying to rack up kills somewhat aimlessly rather than working towards the intended goals. This problem may recede over time as people understand the modes better, but for the moment as someone who enjoys the strong and dynamic cooperation of a team of people to win based on the objectives at hand I found it a bit disappointing.

You’ll notice that over the course of the review thus far the focus hasn’t been on how the game performs on the Switch, and moreso just generally on what it offers, and there’s a good reason for that. DOOM has done something I think most people would have considered impossible a year ago, bringing a full-featured AAA gaming experience to a device that you can take anywhere. That isn’t to say that it didn’t need to make compromises to work on the hardware and to avoid filling your SD card, but having played this on a high-end PC I am in awe of how few concessions you are able to perceive on the Switch. Visually it isn’t quite as jaw-dropping but the flow of the game is as smooth and solid as it is anywhere aside from a very limited number of hitches I ran into over hours of play. DOOM has come to the Switch not as a hamstrung and watered-down port but as a top-of-the-line experience that can be taken anywhere, and it is worthy of your attention.



Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • The granddaddy of the FPS genre has some terrific, and hopefully genre-changing, tricks up its sleeve encouraging and rewarding aggression
  • Looks and feels amazing in handheld mode in particular while looking very respectable even blown up in docked mode
  • I consider Arcade Mode an absolute revelation and it will likely be a go-to for returning quick plays when I just need to get my mad on!

Cons:
  • The Deathmatch roots of multiplayer are still present in spirit even if not in intent, but if that’s your jam it would probably instead be a plus
  • As reported there are some instances of audio problems that crop up once in awhile and slowdown does creep up in limited cases as well on occasion


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