Doom (2016) – A Return to Form

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?

Finding an updated take on the classic Doom Marine Armor is incredibly exciting.
Finding an updated take on the classic Doom Marine Armor is incredibly exciting.
  • 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.
I know and Imp, Revenant, and Cacodemon when I see them!
I know and Imp, Revenant, and Cacodemon when I see them!
  • 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!

Life Lessons from Video Games: Every Day Video Game Influences


Video gaming has affected modern culture in strange ways. Many of the more recent ways spring from online/multiplayer culture, but surprisingly the games I grew up with, the ones from the 80s and 90s, have had a lingering effect. Things I do day-to-day still show the touch of the 8-32 bit era and just recently I thought to document the weird game references I do in everyday life and here are just the top ones…I’m sure everyone does something like this…

5.) Korobeiniki: I’ve found this to be more common than I realized. As someone with an advanced degree in OCDs and organization I’ve found that organizing anything, desk drawers, folders, shelves, U-Hauls, is always accompanied by this song playing in my head, and occasionally I hum it aloud. I never even played much Tetris because of how messing up lines made my OCDs want to eat my brain but I attached this song indelibly to putting things in order, in nice right angles, NEAT UND TIDY!

4.) Null sweat, chummer: Yes, yes I know Shadowrun was a pen-and-paper RPG before it was ported to the Sega Genesis and turned into an action/adventure masterpiece in 16-bit glory…but I never knew that in the 90s. I knew Shadowrun as a cool used cartridge I got with a very interesting futuristic landscape and creative lingo. Every now and then instead of the usual “No problem,” “sure,” or “My pleasure,” “Null Sweat, Chummer” pops out, much to the bewilderment (usually) of the person receiving this statement. I think if I ever say this to a girl and she responds “Keep running in the shadows” I’ll probably propose…

You say sure thing…he says “Null Sweat, Chummer”

3.) At Doom’s Gate: I spent more time running down the hallways of Doom than I spent in school I think. It’s a rare game I could put on godmode and not get bored. Thirty days in a row… To this day moving swiftly down hallways, corridors, or even through crowded mall makes this music pop into my head. Given how much time I spent blasting hellspawn in that game I wonder if I should fear for the crowd…

2.) Test Your Might/Flawless Victory/Fatality: Mortal Kombat…it briefly held our attention by being more cartoonishly bloody than contemporary games. Even beyond that it started its own mythos…you could find secret characters, see secret things, and half the rumors about it weren’t true. The fighting parlance of the game though far out-lasted the novelty of ripping people’s spinal columns out. I use the above three phrases a LOT in day-to-day life. “Test you Might,” any time I have anything to do really (not just breaking big blocks of steel, rubies, or diamonds). “Flawless Victory” is usually reserved for a better-than-expected result, with “Fatality” brought in when that result ended in total ownage.

1.) HADOUKEN: I use this ALL the time. It’s sad. I use it when I throw clothes across the room. I use it when I toss my phone on the desk. I use it when I drop a dish in the sink. I have no idea why but anything leaving my hand at any moment and any speed equals HADOUKEN to me. It’s probably from the ridiculous spamming of that move that came with playing any version of Street Fighter II… If I ever do figure out how to throw a fireball (I’ve tried moving down, then slightly down forward, then forward and yelling it…it didn’t work) the world would be in big trouble (see my comments on crowds in the “Doom Music” section above….).


90s Shooters: The Joy of the Wolfenstein – Doom Era

Though I was a video gamer from a young age, playing Atari and NES, I didn’t get into PC gaming until I was in middle school.

My first home PC was a simple IBM with no hard drive.  I played games directly off a 3.5” diskette and could only play shareware versions of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and use Print Shop Pro to print on the DOT Matrix Printer.  As time went on it became difficult to find games I could play that only had one disk…luckily we eventually upgraded our PC to one with a moderate hard drive (I think around 120 mb or so) and a whole new world of gaming opened up.

This was when I was introduced to shareware versions of Wolfenstein 3D, Blake Stone, and eventually Doom.

These represent the first person shooters I ever played, and some of the earliest entries into the genre.  My friend Mike provided me with Wolfenstein and eventually Blake Stone.  We played both shooting games on the 8th grade newspaper computer instead of actually working on the school newspaper (I don’t know if we even had one) until we got caught.

Wolfenstein Title Screen

Wolfenstein 3D was fascinating, killing all those Nazis in castle hallways.  Hearing their low-fi German shouts (“Halt!”  “Guten Tag! Mein Leben!” “Schutstaffel!”) and eventually working up to fight some strange version of Adolf Hitler in terminator armor.


Blake Stone is almost forgotten now, but it was a sci-fi game of the same making.  I remember the blue-green gun and the mad scientist and green alien bad guys.  Blake Stone was another one Mike and I played in English class (right behind the teacher if I recall…) and, though I never played it at home, it really got me into the corridor shooter game.


When Doom came out it changed the dynamic for me.  Released from the corridors, you now moved through expansive locales and multiple-story levels.  I played it on shareware, only the first few levels and I played them over and over.  It’s the first “god mode” I ever used (IDDQD!) and even more often I’d use IDKFA for all weapons.

I played Doom relentlessly.  I was one of the few individuals who bought a Sega 32X and even though it didn’t have a lot of games I truly enjoyed the ones it had.  I listened to Use Your Illusion I & II and played Doom for months on my 32X as a middle schooler.

Once my PC could handle it I finally got a copy of Ultimate Doom and Doom II at the local Media Play and swapped the dozens of disks to install them.  It was this era when you could play a game for months…even years.  Turn on some midi music and play Doom for hours just as a time waster.  I can’t even remember how many homework assignments I blew off to kill the Cyberdemon yet again…

I’m pretty sure the Imp sound effects are actually camel sounds. Weird to think about it now….

I actually remember it being a controversy at the time: did Doom make kids violent?  It was ludicrous to me.  Doom was as realistic as a cartoon (though a tad gorier than most I’ll admit) and it would follow that kids would only learn how to kill cacodemons with a keyboard while wielding a pixelated plasma rifle…  How that equates to loading a pistol I’ll never understand.  I’d say unless you’re a spiked imp throwing fireballs on screen and I’m a crew cut face wielding a video-chain gun society should be safe.

Doom really stands as the last first person shooter I really loved.  Others came along (Duke Nukem 3D shortly after the Doom era…Kingpin when I was in college) but none really captured that WolfensteinDoom feeling for me.  Now it’s one of my least favorite genres, burdened with a heavy emphasis on multiplayer (I’ve said it a million times…I deal with idiots all day in my real life…I don’t need to deal with anonymous idiots during my leisure time…) and less on long campaigns I could put on some music and kick back to they haven’t appealed to me.

So here’s to the 90s first person shooter.  Turn on the game, turn off your brain, and enjoy some mindless (but entirely harmless) violence!