This article is part of DOOM Week on VICE Gaming, exploring the legendary 1993 title and its 2016 counterpart, out now, and the wider world of shooters. This content is made possible by Bethesda.
Mike Diver: Hey, Andi. You've been playing DOOM. I've been playing DOOM. So let's do this. DOOM this. Sorry.
Now, I've not been able to commit as much time as I'd have liked to the game just yet. But the six or so hours I have spent in its campaign have been awesome. And not completely because of any nostalgic kick I've got from not having to reload a weapon, and from seeing those classic enemies reimagined. The first time I met a Baron of Hell felt as big of a deal here as it did in the first DOOM.
It'd be cool to through some key aspects of the game with you. I'm thinking the vibe of it versus what DOOM is in your head; its relevance to modern audiences; the multiplayer side of it and the SnapMapping; and what this means for the franchise, going forwards. So let's talk atmosphere, feeling, the tingles that ran up your arms when you first grabbed hold of the super shotgun. You got the tingles, right? Just how DOOM-y is this DOOM?
Andi Hamilton: So, as a massive fan of (DOOM developer) id Software in general, I was a bit concerned about DOOM, what with all the "cancelling a near-completed version of the game because it was crap" and "John Carmack joining Oculus" things that happened during its development.
But here we are, and what we've ended up with is a game that stands alongside your modern FPS game, but also captures the essence of what made DOOM rad, rather than being some lazy nostalgia-wank. The speed, the focus on combat, varied enemies and weapons that allow for a surprising amount of strategy – all the stuff that keeps me going back to the classic DOOM these years on.
Mike Diver: So you came to the game with some scepticism then? How soon into the campaign were any fears of this not delivering subsiding? And how glad are you that id canned what would have been DOOM 4 and went for this revival, or reboot, instead?
Andi Hamilton: Oh, extremely glad! Reports indicated it had more to do with your cinematic shooters, like Call of Duty. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not someone who thinks they're too good for a Call of Duty campaign, but that wouldn't be DOOM.
I had faith in the new project pretty early. At Quakecon in 2014 they showed the game behind closed doors and somehow managed to keep the footage from leaking until E3 2015. I remember hearing reports from people who had seen it, describing the speed, OTT violence and the fact that it did, indeed, look like DOOM. From that point on I was very excited to get my hands on it.
Mike Diver: So, as far as you're concerned, this DOOM is about as DOOM-like as any DOOM in 2016 has any right to be? I've been tickled by comments declaring it a Halo clone. I mean, I guess I can see why someone would think that… if they'd never played either game.
The old me is happy, basically. But what about the new school, Andi? What will the kids of today make of DOOM? The shock factor's gone now; do you think there's enough to the game beyond the exploding nasties and amazing hellscapes to keep the modern shooter satisfied?
Andi Hamilton: Yes, I think it does a good job of hitting most of those things a fan of current FPS games kind of needs in 2016. It has a bit of a levelling system, an upgrade path and the obligatory story told through audio logs, which I have so far ignored almost entirely. None of these detract from that core DOOM-ness of it all.
I think it's a good gateway to this style of FPS, when they were about first person shooting above everything else. I don't expect your average gamer to go nuts for Quake II or something overnight, but I do think this could open the door for more games of that ilk. For something built around capturing the feel of such old-school principles, it is a surprisingly fresh-feeling FPS in 2016.
Have you sunk any time into the multiplayer yet? I've actually spent more time on that than the campaign, so far.
Mike Diver: I haven't deliberately listened to a single audio log. But then I'm not playing it with a completist or collector hat on – if something is nearby I'll grab it, like those dolls scattered all around the place. But otherwise, fuck all that noise.
Multiplayer I haven't yet touched, but I'm glad you have. Tell me about multiplayer, Andi.
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Andi Hamilton: I reckon I might seek out the secrets. There was always that whole thing in the classic games, so I don't mind exploring. Stopping to listen to an audio log though? Please. Not happening.
The multiplayer, though, is brilliant. I've been banging its drum since the beta test, where it won me over by being the closest thing we have to a new Quake III. There's these things in it called "Hack Modules" that are basically time limited perks that give you a little bonus. One allows you to see the health bars of your enemies, so you know what your chances are against them. Me and a pal were put in a match where it was the two of us versus five others and we absolutely bodied them, and this was because we noticed that they weren't collecting health and weren't running the map. They were trying to play it like a CoD deathmatch and getting absolutely punished for it. They didn't expect two old men showing up and ruining their fun. That was the moment I was like, "Yes, I'm into this."
Again, it's not exactly like Quake III, because Quake III with a control pad would be utterly unplayable. It's too fast, too reliant on ridiculous twitch skills with the railgun. But like the single-player campaign, it captures the feel of that kind of multiplayer shooter and again, it feels pretty fresh in 2016 just because there's not much else doing this any more. After all, this type of shooter didn't go away because it was bad or anything, just Modern Warfare came along and was so good and influential that everyone else started doing that instead.
Mike Diver: When I spoke to Dan Pinchbeck about the first DOOM, he said that it wasn't exactly about which other players you killed, but how. The style was important, and that led to bragging, some fun trash talking, and memories, most importantly. You'd say that side of multiplayer is in there?
Andi Hamilton: Yeah, I can see that. The (close-quarter, gory-as-fuck) glory kills are in multiplayer too and, because it has – heaven forbid – weapon loadouts, you can experiment with combinations of guns and equipment and cause some entertaining kills. Rocket launcher to the face from a room away and a super shotgun to polish them off when they charge at you? Yes.
Mike Diver: I've got to ask, too: what's your favourite gun? It's the super shotgun isn't it? Obviously.
Andi Hamilton: It isn't the super shotgun, believe it or not. I'm a Vortex Rifle, which is essentially the railgun from Quake, and rocket launcher man. Rails and rockets. Grab a Quad Damage Rune with that setup and you're hilariously overpowered. It's brilliant.
The map design is really smart, too. They've all got a nice "flow" to them and there's no truly advantageous position – there's always a way to flank your opposition or avoid a major choke point.
'DOOM', launch trailer
Mike Diver: Oh baby, that Quad Damage. Barons of Hell, in pieces in seconds. Beautiful. The jumping though. Where do you stand – haw haw – on the jumping?
Andi Hamilton: Err… it's alright? I've not really put any thought to it. The game's got a fairly serviceable climbing system that's not really true free-running, but it is enough to keep you moving even when you jump straight into a wall. It's a lot better when you unlock the ability to change direction in the air, but I've not really got any strong opinions on the jumping. You couldn't do it in the original so I suppose there are people on the internet who think it is fucking blasphemy, I bet.
Mike Diver: I wondered as I have found the more precise leaping a bit of an arse. But perhaps I'm just useless at it. I think the game is better for the increased verticality, though – plus it adds some extra risk to in-combat movement when you're leaping across a drop that equals certain death if you fuck it up.
Let's talk SnapMap, the game's build-your-own-levels mode. Do you foresee a strong community, delivering great player-generated levels?
Andi Hamilton: SnapMap appears to be pretty deep. I was extremely hungover yesterday and the campaign was a bit too much for my head, so I spent a few hours in SnapMap and got pretty hooked. There's a decent set of tutorials – beginner and advanced – and after doing the beginner stuff I pieced together a pretty devious little map.
There's potential for some really interesting stuff. There are some basic scripting tools included, so you can create custom events and more complex stuff than the basic editor allows for. If you have a look on the online library of levels, there's already a map that turns DOOM into a survival/Harvest Moon type thing where you're raising demons and growing resources, and one which is a working piano and drum machine. Also, hidden away in one of the menus is the SnapMap Puzzle mode, which I've seen nobody talking about but it's pretty cool. It gives you an objective, like kill five lads with one explosive barrel, and you have to use SnapMap to solve this. I'm hoping they support it with extra "stuff" packs and that – like, right now there's no Hell or Mars textures, it's all indoor assets.
Related, on Motherboard: 1993's 'DOOM' Wasn't the 3D Game We Think It Was
Mike Diver: So there's a weirdly hellish Super Mario Maker vibe going on? Do you feel that this has cult potential? Sounds like it.
Andi Hamilton: Yeah, could do. It has a few of those modes like Super Mario Maker, where you can play through a series of user levels, one after the next, and there's all that rating and reviewing stuff, as well as some XP system just for SnapMap itself that I really haven't had a proper look at yet. id have said that some of the best multiplayer maps made in SnapMap will be dropped into rotation alongside their own, too.
Mike Diver: Which leads me to: is this the beginning of more to come, do you think? Sales will be a factor but this isn't a one-shot deal, is it? It feels bigger than that, like id want DOOM back for more than just a gory splash of the past made slicker for the present.
Andi Hamilton: If I'm being cynical, DOOM feels like a steadying of the ship rather than some massive leap forwards for the brand, but I think that is exactly what it needs to become "a thing" again in 2016. If you're a fan of shooters DOOM is a tough game to dislike. It's very instant, very easy to enjoy, and I think that'll set id up nicely for more in the future. Hopefully Quake. Give me more Quake.
Mike Diver: Wolfenstein, DOOM and Quake, all back on modern systems? Surely not, Andi. Surely not.
DOOM is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. More information at the game's official website.
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