Doom is one of the most important franchises in gaming history. It provided the blueprint for first-person shooter games from the 90s to now.
Yet, for a while, it wasn’t that big of a deal. The series lost its luster and had a reboot, a horrible movie and was taken over by titles such as Call of Duty.
Now, the series is back and in a big way, as Doom Eternal hit stores Friday, March 20 to much hype and fanfare. But how did the series leap back into prominence?
Today we’re taking a look back at the reboot of the series that escaped nearly 10 years of “Development Hell” and catapulted the franchise back into the fray in all its over the top gory glory.
Doom (2016) marked a return to form for the series, as 2004’s Doom 3 (the first official reboot of the series) received praise but was unconventional in its approach, using a more story-based level design and a slower pace of gameplay.
The planned sequel, Doom 4, followed a more common pattern of gameplay similar to the linear, scripted approach of the Call of Duty or Battlefield games of the time and did not appeal to the public following a report from Kotaku.com. It would’ve focused on demons successfully invading Earth.
After three years of development, Doom 4 was scrapped and production completely restarted in 2011. The consensus from those at id software, including Marty Stratton and Tim Willits, was that the game lacked a real personality.
So after five years of development and the decision to reboot the series a second time, how did the newest evolution of Doom fare? As a disclaimer, I’m looking at the single-player campaign only.
Forcing Hell Out of Mars: The Story
The story of Doom (2016) is everything it needed to be; short, impactful and to the point. There are no crazy plot twists in the third act, no big blue light beam in the sky to destroy or playing through a level just to watch one of your squadmates die a dramatic death.
Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) is a company that siphons energy from the realm of Hell on Mars, known as Argent Energy. One day, a rogue engineer, Olivia Pierce, releases the forces of Hell on the planet and the head of Argent Energy, Dr. Samuel Hayden unleashes the Doom Slayer to save the facility and stop Pierce.
From then on the Doom Slayer blasts his way through the compound, killing every demon in his path and showing little care toward Hayden’s work.
With Hayden’s help, he ventures into the depths of Hell to retrieve an artifact that can shut the demons down permanently. Badassery ensues.
The story is simple and to the point and that’s perfect. Even as a silent character, Doomguy emotes very well and the other small supporting characters play their roles well.
In addition, small bits of data are earned when encountering certain enemies, finding items and discovering data logs throughout the map. They are all completely optional but do a great job of fleshing out the game’s world.
Rip and Tear Hell a New One: The Gameplay
Doom’s gameplay is a welcome change of pace from the usual fare in first-person shooters, such as Call of Duty or Battlefield. While most games have you explore a linear hallway type level, with minimal deviation and a bunch of action setpieces at very specific times, Doom takes a different approach.
The maps are relatively open and have branching pathways, as well as nooks and crannies that hide secrets, such as cute plush versions of Doomguy or levers that reveal an old school level from the original games that can be played. However, they also hide a plethora of enemies that want to rip the player limb from limb.
Throughout the first few levels, you gather an arsenal of weapons that include a plasma rifle, shotgun, assault rifle, a chainsaw, gauss cannon and a rocket launcher that gives you a fighting chance against the hordes of Hades.
Additionally, every weapon can be modded with an extra power, such as a scope, explosive rounds, a high-energy charged shot, a burst of fire that stuns enemies for a few crucial seconds or mini rockets that explode on impact.
As you explore levels and defeat enemies you gain upgrades to your armor, health, ammo capacity and traversal that make it easier to fight off the demons.
The system is relatively deep with rewards such as faster reload times, easier navigation of the level’s map or quicker motions when jumping or climbing ledges. This is a really good incentive to search for hidden secrets, make an effort to kill every demon in the map and complete the rune challenges scattered throughout the game.
Doom is a game that rewards the player for staying in constant motion, taking risks and adapting to situations. Many times in the campaign you are thrown into a battle with an overwhelming amount of demons in a relatively big combat area. This is where a player can test out the massive arsenal and decide which guns work best on a particular enemy.
One of Doom’s unique features in combat is Glory Kills. When an enemy has been damaged enough, they glow orange and if close enough, can be killed in an epic way to give the player additional health and ammo. They are brutal kills that feel satisfying to dish out on a particularly challenging foe. This is one way the player is rewarded for going in guns blazing.
Combat and exploration are the core of Doom and it is executed perfectly here. It is a challenging experience that tests your resolve, yet at the end of a chaotic melee, it truly feels like the victory was earned. It’s just great fun.
Bringing Badassery to Life: Graphics and Soundtrack
Doom’s presentation is tremendous as well. The graphics are great and run consistently at 60 frames per second. This keeps the gameplay fun, as there is no slowdown that might force you to take an unfair hit in combat. Throughout my playthrough, I encountered zero glitches. The game is polished in that regard.
The designs of the various demons are inspired. The 2D sprites from the original game have been brought to the high definition era well and each enemy type is distinct enough to tell apart, which is valuable in a game where chaos is the norm and you face swarms of foes.
Levels are designed in a similar way. The deeper the Doom Slayer goes into the UAC lab, the more carnage he finds. Hell also has a nice design, with spiky gates taking the place of doors, keycards being replaced with skulls and blood, guts and bones making up a lot of the area’s architecture. This game has a style and leans into it well.
In addition to the graphics, the soundtrack by Australian rocker Mick Gordon adds to that style immensely. It is full of raging guitar riffs and imposing synth beats, two things that usually wouldn’t sound good together, but work wonders here.
It works as a homage to the original Doom soundtracks, which consisted of crunchy guitar tracks inspired by popular metal songs of the times, such as Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.”
However, it is also a style unique to this game and helps build your confidence as you face unrelenting hordes of enemies. There’s nothing quite like barely making it through a hard section of combat, hearing the music end and letting out a sigh of relief, knowing you are safe, for now.
Stylistically, Doom is a game that runs super smooth, leans into its crazy design choices and has a kick-ass soundtrack that turns it into a modern update of past games, instead of a retread.
I have gotten very tired of first-person shooters. After Call of Duty: Black Ops, they all started to follow the same pattern. Doom is different. It doesn’t hold the player’s hand. case, it was neve You will die often and in myr discouraging and I went back in determined to conquer the challenge and see what the game had to offer next.
Even if you’re not a big shooter fan, or haven’t been for a while, I encourage you to give this one a try.
One thing’s for sure, through all the turmoil of developing the game, it came out with a glowing personality and is why the series continues with the recent release of Doom Eternal. I can’t wait to see how it builds on the rock-solid foundation of this game.