The previews for id's Doom reboot made me honestly concerned for how the game would play. It felt like they had shoved some arena maps together into a single player experience and then tacked on what felt like a shallow leveling up mechanic on top of it. Glory kills looked interesting, but the level of attention they were getting made me worried that there wasn't much more to talk about.
Then there was the miserable multiplayer beta. More on that later.
However I've been a Doom (sorry, I refuse to all caps it) addict since way on back. I actually enjoyed Doom 3 when it arrived and doing some quick math I figured it was unlikely I wouldn't try this version at some point. So I pulled the trigger on it.
And it doesn't take long to fall in love with the game. The game is way better than it has any right to be, and here is why:
It makes nostalgia work. Honestly, cashing in on old school mechanics has pretty much made indie games into the force they are these days. As such, AAA titles like Doom relying on decades old mechanics should feel incredibly cheap to players. However, Doom pulls out all the stops when it comes to trying to revive the classic. At its core it replicates what made the original fun: fast and frantic run and gun shooting and feeling like you're kicking Hell's ass.
The new mechanics don't get in the way of the old. It is way too easy to simply slap new concepts onto old and assume it will just make sense. The terrible Duke Nukem Forever was plagued by this - a mismatch of pickup, powerup and regeneration concepts which times made combat not simply not fun. Doom's upgrade concepts do nothing but add more powerful versions and options to the core game however. You could easily make it through the entire game without ever leveling up a single weapon or your armor. You just won't have enough fun. Like others I was suspicious around changes like the updated chainsaw, but all of the new stuff is very wisely handled.
The old mechanics simply work. Making power ups work in this day and age is not simple. One of the reasons game design has moved to ideas like regenerating health is it frees level designers from being responsible for so much balance between pickups and enemies. Doom solves this by combining the two: killing enemies release pickups (glory killing them even more) and so provides a safety net for the player. In trouble? Kill more. And while you'll press the left shoulder button for the first hour wondering where Aiming Down Sights went, once you start unlocking alternate modes you won't miss it once bit.
The level design is amazing. Probably the cornerstone of the game is the level design. Doom levels are sprawling, will have you going from end to the other and packed with secret little areas. Nobody really does level design like this anymore and to see it done so well is nearly worth the price of admission alone. It actually lends to replay value since going back and unlocking every little single secret is actually a fun bit of exploring.
There is just enough story for you to dance to. One of the previews had someone saying something like "we didn't really pay attention to the story". This had me a little worried, but the end result is a backstory just logical enough to push you forward in the game world. It's just present enough to make things interesting when you need but doesn't get in your face enough to question why you are teleporting in and out of Hell.
The single player has also made me appreciate the multi player attempt, even though it doesn't actually make the end result any better. The level of detail brought to the single player shows they were trying to bring back old school to arena multiplayer as well ... the results just don't work out as positively. Perhaps it is the removal of kill based powerups, maybe it is a bunch of weapons geared for single player ... not really sure.
Thankfully, the single player is rock solid. It was worth the full price for me, if you are on the fence about it I highly recommend it as at least either a rental or a discounted price down the road.