As if downloading one gigantic game wasn’t enough, today also marks the release day – and the day we get review code for – DOOM. Or Doom 4: DOOM as I prefer to call it, thanks to our usual naming convention with this sort of thing.
This article is a bit later than I’d like because my internet has been on the fritz all day, so my terrible download speeds have been even more terrible than usual. Considering Doom weighs in at a hefty 43.8GB download, that was not good timing.
Nonetheless, I’ve got it down. I’ve played my way through the first two levels, I’ve dicked about with Snapmap, I’ve taken a lot of screenshots, and I haven’t touched multiplayer because my internet connection is fucked. Here, have some initial thoughts.
My first initial thought is that this seems like a rather decent PC port. Bethesda’s unhealthy addiction to mouse smoothing appears to still be in place, but I think this can be fixed (along with the intro movies) by adding “+com_skipIntroVideo 1” and “+set m_smooth 0” to the launch options, as with basically every other Bethesda game. I haven’t tested this extensively, but if I know Paul, he’ll probably write some sort of post on config tweaks before long.
That aside, there are lots of options. Here they are, in their gory glory:
I also haven’t messed around with these too extensively, because I clicked “Ultra” and everything ran at a constant 60FPS on my i7-3820 with a GTX 970, running the latest Nvidia drivers. Slick as buttered ice, basically.
I did turn off Motion Blur and dick around with the Field of View, though. Motion Blur is hell on screenshots, and finding an FOV that let me see like a human being rather than either someone looking through a pinhole (the low settings) or with massive fisheyes (the high settings) was important.
I’ll also draw your attention to the Rendering Mode option, which is brilliant. This has three options: Default, Gritty, and Cinematic. Default is… well, what you see in all of these screenshots. Gritty tones down the colours. Cinematic adds letterboxing. I have literally no idea why you would ever use Cinematic, but if you really want that option, it’s there.
I also have no idea what some of those options mean, and the game isn’t too helpful with that; highlighting the Directional Occlusion Quality setting tells you that it “Adjusts the directional occlusion quality.” Thanks, Doom!
Mouse smoothing aside, everything seems to control just fine on PC. Single-player and multiplayer appear to run different control configurations, which is a bit annoying, but nothing that a few minutes of determined fiddling shouldn’t solve. It does have various console-y bits and pieces like a weapon wheel, but the weapons are also bound to 1-8 for easy access (barring a few particular ones, like the Chainsaw, which is obviously bound to G).
All in all, I’m rather pleased with all the port stuff so far. That’s pretty much solely based on the Campaign, though; as mentioned, I’ve barely touched Snapmap and haven’t looked at multiplayer at all. If the multiplayer servers have been RIP AND TEAR’ed by launch, I won’t know about it.
So let’s talk about the game. I’ve done two levels, and so far… well, like with the port, I’m cautiously pleased.
If there are three things Doom gets right from the get-go, it’s the speed, the pace, and the shotgun.
Speed first. While I’d maybe like it to be slightly nippier, Doom moves fast, and it uses this speed for a lot more than just plain ol’ strafing. Right now, speed feels like the focus of the game. You run forward, you shoot, you tap the melee key to Glory Kill an enemy (causing them to explode in a shower of gore and health pickups), you repeat. You leap forward and clamber up a ledge and shoot some more and kill some more. Combat is fast and frenetic, and that’s exactly as it should be. This is not a Doom 3 horror shooter where you creep forward and shoot things and there’s a jump-scare, or a monster pops out behind you. It does “enemies spawning in around you”, but in the context of a really fast shooter, and that’s where it works.
This is where the shotgun comes in, too, because it’s satisfyingly weighty, and let’s face it: it’s not a Doom game without a decent shotgun. Combining the shotgun’s punch with your own speed means you dash from enemy to enemy, blasting them and then beating them to death with their own arms (which, yes, is actually one of the Glory Kills). I haven’t spent much time with the other weapons, but most of them seem to have their own uses, particularly with the weapon mods adding to their functionality.
The worst of the lot is easily the infinite ammo pistol, which probably isn’t a surprise, but it feels like it does basically nothing. On the flipside is the chainsaw which is capable of instantly killing anything (so far, at least) as long as you have the fuel for it, and anything murdered in half by this saw-toothed beast will explode into a shower of ammo. As such, this seems like the weapon to use when you quickly need an ammo restock.
The pace supports the speed, too. I’ve so far seen exactly one lengthy cutscene, and that wasn’t the intro. Hell, the intro is you waking up from a table and punching a zombie in the face. This is a game about running and gunning, not telling stories; most of the backstory and info appears to be locked away in the Datalog if you want to read up on it. Right now, though, I’m all about the sugar-sweet kiss of heavy ordinance, and the game’s combat arenas are more than happy to oblige. I’m even feeling a faint tang of disappointment when the music – industrial rock that sounds like the Doom soundtrack met up with Trent Reznor and his work on Quake – stops, indicating there’s nothing left to murder.
If there’s one thing I’m not happy about, it’s the colour scheme. Everything is brown. Enemies are brown and hunched over. The outdoors of Mars are brown. The indoors of Mars are brown. I’m going to place some money on most of Hell being brown. This doesn’t help much for fast enemy identification, either: pretty much every enemy I’ve met so far has been a vague brown hunched-over shape. Remember how enemies were visually distinctive in the original Doom? Zombies had green hair, shotgun guys were bald and had black armour, etc? Yeah, here everything’s brown. Brown out of 10.
I’m hopeful that this will shift when more iconic enemies like Revenants and Cacodemons start popping up, and maybe the hellscape (or later buildings) will allow for more colours, but right now I’m settling in for a sea of brown.
Before we close off, let’s quickly address Snapmap, the in-game level-building tool. Based on the (very) brief experience I’ve had with it, it’s considerably more powerful than I expected. It functions as it sounds: you create maps by snapping pre-made pieces together. You can then populate these with enemies, triggers, objectives, effects, exploding barrels, and whatever else takes your fancy. From the looks of things, this can be used to create either solo or multiplayer maps, though I need to experiment more to be sure.
I haven’t fully explored it – I don’t want to ruin the game’s environments and enemies for myself before finishing the campaign – but I was expecting something significantly less in-depth than I’ve seen here. More time is required to see if it lets me create sprawling labyrinths full of traps, though, or if it’s really more about monster arenas.
So, Doom seems like a pretty decent PC version so far. I just hope that it works out there are more colours than brown and red, and sooner rather than later.
We’ll have a full review next week.