Devil’s in the Design (Literally): DOOM

It’s been about two weeks since the new DOOM came out and the expectations were pretty average. Speaking personally, I don’t think I knew anyone who was excited for it, and a lot of people seemed concerned that it would feel like a poor Halo clone. I bought the game shortly after release hoping to have something to write about and I was certainly not let down. As a longtime fan of the series, the new DOOM game is everything I wanted and more. This might surprise some readers and come off as overly positive, when most major ratings seemed content to give it an 8/10, but I’ve noticed that a large majority of criticisms of the game come from the multiplayer. I’m not going to focus on the multiplayer, because in my opinion, it probably shouldn’t even be there. The new DOOM sets out to do a few things and does them fantastically.

 

For starters, the first level is a terrific example of simultaneously setting the tone, and making sure players know what they’re doing before grinding them into the dust. It’s excellently designed because it shows you right away that this is an empowerment fantasy. This game is going to exude badassery during every moment of gameplay. The guns don’t need to be reloaded, the enemies are there to be obliterated, and every second spent in combat is beautifully orchestrated with a kick ass metal soundtrack. All of this is, of course, is ethically “worry-free” as you’re sending demonic forces back to hell.

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If you’ve only played the most recent DOOM, you’re likely to be a bit surprised in the change of things. DOOM 3 played like a survival horror with limited ammo, jump scares, and carefully scripted enemy appearances. If you’ve played the DOOM games of yesteryear, you’re very familiar with the action-packed gore-fest that was in-vogue around the same time as floppy disks. Everything about the new DOOM is a callback to that time in first-person shooter history. The new DOOM throws players directly into the thick of things to let them take part in it’s “new-old” world. The true highlight of embracing their roots (and the “brutal DOOM” mod) comes in the form of their new “Glory Kill” system.

 

The “Glory Kill” system is a sort of “micro-ecosystem” that personifies everything this new DOOM is about. It’s gory, it’s awesome, and it’s satisfying as hell. The player is, during the moment of a Glory Kill, invulnerable and guaranteed (at the very least) a health drop from this enemy they’re killing. What they drop can be enhanced later in the game with power ups. In addition, the player character will close a short distance to a staggered enemy who’s ready to be executed, adding both a fluid-ness and speed that would normally be missing from most first person shooter campaigns. Despite all of the power associated with the Glory Kill, however, it’s still a game you’ll find yourself dying a lot during (assuming you play on harder difficulties).

 

Even though the bulk of my praise for DOOM is focused on things that are true to their roots and not the FPS genre in general, there is one thing that DOOM has gotten right that should be as satisfying in every other game: platforming. The platforming in this game is so good. The last shooter I played that I enjoyed jumping around this much in was Metroid: Prime. The game carefully tests your platforming skills, and as soon as you might feel you’ve mastered it, they add in a double jump and the environment drastically changes. This is extremely important because DOOM as a series is always made richer by hunting for secrets. Terrible platforming would be the worst kind of discouragement for such exploration.

 

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All of these things are expertly designed and come together to make DOOM the first person shooter most people probably didn’t know they wanted. Not to mention that if you’re really good at finding all the secrets in this game you can unlock DOOM 1 and DOOM 2. DOOM is a weird sort of, “breath of old air” during a time when there’s still seemingly an excess of cookie-cutter war shooters. The Devil’s (literally) in the design when it comes to DOOM ignoring the status quo, and succeeding in areas that have long been neglected when it comes to first person shooters.