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doom review xb1

When Bethesda was revamping the Wolfenstein series for this current generation, the gaming population, including myself, collectively rolled its eyes and sighed. Then the game came out and absolutely stunned critics with a surprising level of awesomeness. Doom, created by none other than a rebuilt iD Software (minus legendary iD founder John Romero), is almost double the level of critical head scratching prior to its release followed by a wave of game reviewers losing their minds on how good the game is. Especially given the fact that Bethesda sent ZERO review copies of Doom out ahead of time to press outlets, a move done by publishers when they’re trying to hide the fact that they are not confident of their game reviewing well.

The reviewers are not wrong; Doom is pretty damn amazing. I grabbed a copy of Doom from my local Redbox rental kiosk, expecting to have it back within 24 hours. Not so much. But before I lavish too much praise on the game, let’s start off with some of the things it stumbles with.

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You’re not coming to a Doom for the story, and while it tries to revamp the original Doom storyline of a Martian base set in the future that finds and accidentally opens a portal to Hell, the story feels completely unnecessary to progress despite it trying desperately to make you care about it. The latest Doom storyline taps into some of the headlines from 2016 and instead turns the Martian base into an operation by the original Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) to create a new renewable energy source by channeling a power called “Argent energy”….which just so happens to also be a portal into Hell. Lead by the cybernetic research chief, Samuel Hayden, you find out that UAC’s weird mix of science and cultish religion worshipers has (surprise) backfired on them and created a rift which has opened up Hell on Mars. You awaken as a “Doom Marine”, found in a bizarre sarcophagus in Hell, and whose goal is simply to close down the rift into Hell with the help of Dr. Hayden. While the game gives you the option to dig deeper into UAC methods and motives through series of collectibles in a fairly complex encyclopedia in the pause menu, who are they trying to fool here? Even myself, a lover of lore and storyline in game, was like, “HNNGNGGG SHOOT GUYS MOVE FAST!” To be fair, the finale of the game is definitely a nice cherry on top and sets the stage for an extremely interesting Doom 2 sequel (or Doom 5 if you’re keeping count).

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Another extremely annoying piece of Doom is the first person platforming. While being extremely forgiving with long falls thanks to your marine combat suit and ability to scramble up sides of walls and eventually double jump, unless the name of your game is Mirror’s Edge, first person platforming is fairly painful. There is a level in Doom where you are literally moving vertically up a giant rotating shaft for what seems like forever. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Really?”

Okay, now that the bad vibes are out of the way, phew, what a shooter Doom turned out to be! Standing on the sidelines and watching Call of Duty and Battlefield take pot shots at one another about how their military first person shooter is the best, best, best thing ever, and then a game like Doom comes in and reminds everyone, “Hey, remember when video games were just about having fun?” You start at the beginning of a level, you have your arsenal of guns and toys at your disposal, you walk into a verified multi-level combat arena, whether in sterile yet destroyed Martian UAC facility or craggy Hellscape, and you lay waste to everything in front of you.

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It’s all about moving. Even the tooltips remind you, “Hell punishes the indolent. Always keep moving” or something to that effect, and that is about the best advice you can get while playing Doom. Despite being in a giant suit of marine armor, you sprint at a speed that almost feels like you’ve got rocket boots on. Your marine glides along to floor at a dizzying speed, which actually is fairly necessary with how much damage your marine takes from even the simplest of demons. While I was playing on “ultra-violence” difficulty, by the end of the game, I was going in and really giving those demons a run for their money thanks to Doom’s upgrade system. There are a variety of in-game upgrades you collect throughout the game, whether weapon or armor modifications, or the runes you can slot into your armor, and it’s all these upgrade system which gives you a desire to search every nook and cranny for secret stashes. Where Doom used to be about hunting secrets for extra basic armor or ammo packs, now it’s all about finding upgrades that will turn your chaingun into a mobile turret or allow you to fire twice as many shotgun shells before you have to reload. In other words, new Doom gives you an extremely viable reason to keep looking at your wireframe map and look for secrets, which becomes a joy in and of itself.

Finally, we can’t stop talking about the major changes to Doom without the inclusion of the “Glory Kill” mechanic. Glory kills are simply glorified melee kills on stunned demons which then proceed to explode with health pick-ups. As there is no recharging health like many first person shooters, which rewards you for taking cover and staying hunkered down, the glory kill mechanic now makes it a worthwhile tactic to run up at full speed, shotgun a demon in the face until it is stunned, then rip its jaw off and beat it to death, healing you for any damage you may have taken while running up to the demon in the first place. It’s a hell of a great idea as a way of keeping gameplay flowing and active at all times, as opposed to waiting for the red lines around the outside of your screen to fade out after taking damage in most other games. While the glory kills get a little repetitive given the number of times you’re forced to do them, they are at least mercifully fast and give you a smidge of invulnerability while you’re doing them, giving you a second to recover your thoughts and think about how you’re going to off the next baddie before you.

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I could talk about the other parts of Doom like the multiplayer or the “SnapMap” level building ability to create your own Doom levels by “snapping” together pre-fabricated environments, but I’m not going to. They are simply icing on a surprisingly tasty Hellish carrot cake that is Doom, giving people a little more of a reason to not immediately beat the campaign in 8-12 hours and then instantly ship it off to their local GameStop.

Great work, iD Software and Bethesda, who could have easily gone down a more traditional current day first person shooter route, chasing after that Call of Duty money and likely failing miserably. Instead, they went back and asked what made Doom fun in the first place, and somehow managed to make a fresh and compelling reboot of Doom in 2016.

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