Status: Campaign complete
Most Intriguing Idea: Don’t stop can’t stop gotta go fast
Best Design Decision: Enemies drop health when you snap their necks
Worst Design Decision: Mistaking itself for Dark Souls in the boss fights
The fundamental effect of automatic health regeneration in a shooter is to encourage the player to turtle up. In these systems defensive play, centered around finding appropriate cover and only exposing one’s self judiciously to attack or move to new cover, becomes dominant. DOOM hearkens back to the shooters of the ’90s by using low-cover level design, non-regenerating health, dangerous melee-range enemy units, and slow bullets to encourage mobile, aggressive play. That last component is the real key to fostering the desired play style, but the “glory kills”, where the player staggers an enemy and then performs a melee finishing move, are also very important. That’s not because the moves are so ostentatiously gory they’re hilarious, though that’s certainly an attraction. The real benefit here is that these melee kills ensure the enemy will drop healing items, giving the player a strong incentive to set up these situations and also stay on the move even when injured.
The commitment to the ’90s shooter aesthetic extends to the weapon system, which allows the player to carry something like 10 different firearms, none of which ever need to be reloaded. The game’s palette of gun mods is also OK, though at most one of the two available mods is worth getting. Assuming one has chosen the appropriate mods, then each weapon has a context in which it is The Right Choice, although I found myself using the Combat Shotgun a good 60% of the time and never touching the pistol again after the first few minutes of the game.
DOOM does have its shortcomings. In particular, it shoots its wad (WAD?) too early: every “normal” enemy in the game shows up by about the halfway point and after that the encounters start to get a bit repetitive. This feels worst in some of the late levels set in Hell, in which open arenas connected directly or by small hallways force the game into a boring rhythm. As a misstep, this is exceeded only by the boss encounters, which drag on way too long and often rely on precision dodging and pattern recognition that feels totally out of place with respect to the rest of the game. The boss fight against the three hell guards is the greatest offender, but none of the bosses are praiseworthy or experiences I’d care to repeat.
Acknowledging those negatives, DOOM is still worth trying out for its commitment to fostering a style of FPS play that has really fallen out of vogue in the past decade or so. I circle-strafed a Hell Baron in 2016 and I fucking loved it, so there you are.