Most people know of the old Doom, one of the first pseudo-three dimensional shooters to come out of the 90’s alongside Wolfenstein and the later Quake games. With the scores of reboots Doom was definitely one of the most deeply submerged in speculation and debate. While not necessarily a bad thing, Doom held a special place in a lot of gamers’ hearts- both young and old. So when Doom came out I was pleasantly surprised to see the absolutely glowing recommendations from around the gaming world. Nearly everyone absolutely loved Doom and it was even up for the Game of the Year in 2016 next to Uncharted 4 (which is also a fantastic game). Though this game may not be for everyone- it is definitely one of the best games of 2016 and deserves every bit of praise it has received.
Most older gamers recall Doom as essentially magic boxed up into a computer. When it first came out in 1993 people were blown away by the fact you could have a third dimension in a video game. Even today, gamers that play the original Doom still remark on how difficult and fun the game still is to this day. Luckily, the newest Doom reinvents the shooter genre by harkening back to the old days when you never had to reload your gun and you could never stop moving or else you would be killed nearly instantly by the projectiles being shot towards you. In the current days of gaming most first person shooters are geared towards twitch reflexes and competitive play but honestly they just aren’t that fun. Unless you sink hundreds to thousands of hours into Call of Duty, you will never be able to reach the top of the leaderboard consistently and really be able to brag to your friends about how good you are (which honestly they probably wouldn’t like anyway). The endless grind for prestige and differing guns and their requisite attachments just isn’t fun- it’s addictive. This is where the first person shooter genre left us, in an addicted state to games that had zero substance for story-telling (unless you count motion capture of Kevin Spacey or Kit Harington’s face story).
Now we come to Doom.
Doom brings back all of the elements that people loved from the original game, reimagined them and put them into an updated and beautiful package. Firstly, the game runs incredibly well on almost any system. Doom must of been programmed by wizards because it even runs at 60 frames per second (fps) on a stock Playstation 4, even during the most hectic moments. On PC it runs even smoother, being able to pump out a whopping (but pretty useless) 200 fps on a medium cost gaming computer at 1080p. With this in mind, it is important to note that this game is all about being smooth and fast. There is no reloading so you have nothing stopping you from switching weapons willy-nilly or just shooting to your heart’s content. You have no sprint button because in all reality you are always sprinting around and jumping from platform to platform at full speed. Yet, with all of these seemingly hectic things going on around you it is an utterly soothing game to play. I know what you’re thinking: “But Christian, you just said that the game was super fast and violent!”- well yes it is, but there is a reason it is soothing. Doom is a symphony of violence. You are constantly shooting everything that moves and things are exploding left and right around you, not to mention you are almost always on the cusp of dying on the harder difficulties but for almost everyone that plays the game there is a moment that everyone has. When during all the chaos and violence-
Everything just clicks into place.
And you become an unstoppable force that even the whole of demon-kind cannot stop. In that moment there is something utterly serene about being the queller-of-evil because you know that you are something to be feared by fear itself. Even in-game there are moments described in the codex (a sort of in-game encyclopedia) where the demons have passages in their bible specifically about you. You are such a scourge that when you are called into action they throw every bit of man (demon?)-power at you in order to even slow you down. Which is why those moments of complete destruction are so satisfying- you are the protagonist and the game knows it.
Not to mention Doom also has a pretty interesting story that you can completely not care about, in the same way you can see a passing town from a car and think “Nah, I’m good” and just keep driving on. Doom lets you find the story through codex entries or during audio logs from various different characters like Samuel Hayden or Olivia Pearce- the leaders of the Mars base you rampage around. You can gather entries on the differing demon species and how they are brought into the world or read into the creation and usage of demonic energy to power the cities of earth. While the entries are not as expansive as lore in games like Mass Effect, you can still satisfy the ‘why’ of the thing by taking a dive into the codex. Or not. You don’t have to and can be completely content killing off demons that you don’t even know the proper name of because why would you? You’re the Doom-guy.
The soundtrack in Doom is also incredible. It is one of the most hardcore, brutal, and heart pumping soundtracks that I have ever come across and it fits absolutely perfectly. The soundtrack is almost entirely composed of fairly ambient low bass notes with some build up before a battle, but the music really comes into play when you punch a hole through a Gore Nest and summon up the legions of Hell to defend it. Gore Nests function as boss-like spawn zones where enemies of every type (and often some new types) will spawn into the world and present a serious challenge to you in-game. However, once you activate the battle the soundtrack quickly shifts into overdrive and turns into a heart pumping, adrenaline boosting mix of heavy guitar riffs and some well placed electronica interspersed throughout. This dichotomy is really interesting because it really pumps you up and makes you excited to fight an enemy that obviously more equipped and completely outnumbers you in order to just get another taste of the great sound design that this game has to offer.
Lastly, this game prides itself on being fast, as I have stated earlier. But one feature I honestly thought was going to ruin the game was the inclusion of the “Glory Kill” system. Basically when you damage an enemy enough you gain the option to finish them off in different ways. The only problem being, in most other games, a glory kill would be a full fledged animation that would end up lasting a good 5 to 15 seconds to execute. In Doom, the animation is a quick 2 to 4 seconds, severely cutting down the time wasted within an animation. The normal type of glory kill system usually destroys the pace of a game because it often takes so long to do a glory kill that by the time the action is over you have lost all momentum in the fight. In the case in Doom however, you often gain more rewards for doing glory kills versus just killing the monster. Specifically, you gain health modules from a glory kill, so it functions as a type of risk/reward system and poses the question “Do you want to risk a glory kill to gain more health or try to last the rest of the fight by being mobile and finding other sources of health?” More often than not you will default to a glory kill that gives you a reward based on the risk involved because in all reality Doom doesn’t want you to die. If you are at a really high health threshold then a glory kill will only net you about 5 to 10 health. However, at very low health you can gain up to about 80 health on one glory kill, a system that is also in place with ammunition. Every system in Doom is designed to be used in conjunction with another system, but for all the super violent and gorey gameplay Doom has to offer it has a soft spot for you- the player. The game will try to keep you from dying to the best of its ability, but in order to do so, you have to engage the systems put in place to allow the game to save you and I think that’s pretty cool. Usually some of the best moments in a video game are where you pull through a tough situation and *barely* scrape through with your life intact.
Doom eventually comes together to say one simple fact: that you are the Doom-guy. A man that has travelled and destroyed Hell itself all for the simple reason that he can. Video games are supposed to be an ‘escape from normal life,’ something to take you away and satisfy some part of yourself that isn’t being properly cultivated in reality, in the same way that a book takes you away to different places and lets you experience a new life with new characters. Doom gives you control of the most feared being in that universe, points you forward and gives you a small push- the rest is up to you. You carve through the depths of Hell in a way that suits you and in the end the game will be a different experience for everyone. Some will play it to just blast through the game and get the highest score, others will take their time and explore the secrets and hidden bits of the game that are difficult to find, and even more will fully immerse themselves in the lore and really attempt to suss out the meaning behind various bits of the game. And you know what? There is something great in that. That you can play at any depth and still get something great out of such a largely creatively dead genre is something to be applauded. As stated earlier, Doom is not for everyone and contains blood, gore, and buckets of violence. But if you can get past all of that, Doom is one of the most empowering games to play and easily one of the most stress-relieving games in this generation.
Photo credit: BagoGames on Flickr
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