I would say the game I spent the most time on as a kid was id Software’s Doom. I played it on 32x, I played it as Shareware (yes, kiddies this was a thing) on my hard-drive-less PC (yes that was a thing too), and I played it on my regular PC when graphics hardware wasn’t even a thing and the most important aspect of getting a game to work was ensuring your SoundBlaster was functioning.
I spent hours on Doom and the best game sequel ever, Doom 2. After beating both games I spent hours in god-mode just running around blasting monsters. I’d write my own narratives and, because the player avatar really didn’t have his own personality, I could pretend to be anything as I went from level to level stomping demons.
I never got into Doom 3 but I did very much enjoy Bethesda’s Wolfenstein: New Order and Old Blood. When I heard they were releasing their version of the venerable first person horror shooter I was excited but tentative. I couldn’t get into the grim joylessness of the franchise’s third entry and capturing the free-roaming fun of the 90s originals seemed like a tall order in the modern era.
I finally got Bethesda’s Doom (2016) in October and…I love it. It is as close to Doom as I think we’ll get without just getting graphically overhauled versions of the original games (which I would be for). How does Bethesda get it right?
- Mood: Original Doom was fun. It had some brutal imagery and scary moments but it was really a power fantasy. Your Doom marine could take on hordes of undead monsters and massive demons with a chaingun and a rocket launcher and come through with just gritted teeth and maybe a bloody nose. The narrative, which was there despite what some critics believe, took place in text crawls between chapters. This game has a far more “Bethesda” story, which is to say it’s involved and excellent. But you don’t have to pay attention to any of it. This incarnation of the Doom marine certainly doesn’t. The tone is just as power fantasy and irreverent as the original games; except here you can literally rip off demons’ arms and beat them to death with them or shove a mancubus’ explosive cells down his throat. It’s all done with cartoonish hyper-violence and humor. It’s brutal and violent but in more like a bloody looney tunes episode than Call of Duty.
- Design: One of the problems I had with Doom 3 was the design. It felt more like Aliens and later Dead Space than Doom. Everything was dark and cramped. The monsters just vaguely resembled their origin creatures. In Doom (2016) as soon as each monster appears Doom veterans will identify them. Imps, Pinkies, Cacodemons, and Barons of Hell all resemble the original game enough that you get excited when you first see them. Even the guns, the super-shotgun, the chaingun, the plasma rifle, all show their 90s origins.
- Game Play: The most important aspect of any game and the one that concerned me the most about new Doom. But it got it right. Of course it’s updated but the elements are there but you never reload your weapons; if you have 300 shots you can shoot 300 shots. You don’t hide behind walls to heal; you brutally execute demons or find health power ups to heal. The camera doesn’t wobble around like a drunk camera operator is in control of your character; it’s static and the gun moves when you run. It feels like an old school shooter in a modern wrapper. Brighter colors, faster pace, but with all the junk that clutters modern games stripped out. The junk that makes them more “realistic” and less fun.
I can’t recommend Doom (2016) highly enough. It’s a terrifically fun game and is a blast from the past for classic shooter fans.
One footnote, the music is TERRIFIC!