Review: A new 'Doom' is both cursed and blessed by nostalgia

AP News
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Posted: May 20, 2016 2:22 PM
Review: A new 'Doom' is both cursed and blessed by nostalgia

Before there was "Halo" or "Call of Duty," the first-person shooter video games "Wolfenstein" and "Doom" defined the trigger-happy genre in three dimensions. While the former received a thoughtful reimagining in 2014's "Wolfenstein: The New Order," the same can't be said for a new "Doom."

"Doom" (Bethesda Softworks, for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, $59.99) sticks closely to the wacky plot of the original 1993 game. Once again, players portray an unnamed space marine crudely blasting his way across Mars, where hellish demons of all shapes and sizes are pouring out of gaping interdimensional holes.

It's best not to think too much about the story.

This is a game about shooting everything that moves until everything doesn't move. There are no moral quandaries, battlefield allies, brain-teasing puzzles or interactive cut scenes. This updated "Doom" may have the high-definition polish of a modern-day shooter, but it's unapologetically rooted in the 1990s.

All the weapons a die-hard "Doom" devotee could desire are present. There's the rocket launcher, super shotgun, chainsaw and — of course — the BFG. (If you've never played a "Doom" game, it's the series' signature weapon: a really big gun.)

Other than allowing players to upgrade their arsenal and armor, the only innovation on the point-and-shoot approach is a new melee combat system that makes this already gory franchise even more violent. Now, players can recharge themselves by initiating a "glory kill" when adjacent beasts are near death.

While hardcore shooter fans may balk at needing to holster their weapons to snap a succubus' neck or rip off a devil's horns, frequent and fast dismemberment is key to keeping the action frenetic and the health bar filled. It's not any more monotonous than repeatedly shooting zombified hordes in the head.

It's sorta grotesquely thrilling, actually.

The game's levels are well laid out and filled with fun secrets to discover between firefights. Alas, they're not that interesting to look at once your finger is off the trigger button. There's little variation, and they all sport color palettes that one might find inside a bathroom stall at a dive bar.

The soullessness extends to the soundtrack, which sounds like it was crafted by someone holding out hope for a Korn reunion. "Doom" composer Mick Gordon's score is a hot mess: a disjointed mix of industrial guitar riffs bordering on parody when joined with the guttural grunts from hell spawn.

Beyond the single-player campaign, a multiplayer mode feels more like a "Quake" clone than the latest from a series that pioneered the way gamers play together online. The exceptions are the promising "snapmap" level creation tool and the compelling "freeze tag," where teams must simultaneously work together to encase opposition in ice and thaw out friends.

Overall, "Doom" isn't a bad game. This revamped installment definitely captures the frenzied, bloodthirsty spirit of what made id Software's original "Doom" and "Doom II" hallmarks of the genre. It's a heck of a shooter. Unfortunately, it's also stuck in the past. Two stars out of four.

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Online:

http://www.doom.com

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/derrik-j-lang .