Doom is one of the founding franchises in video game history, but never one I’ve spent much time with. The first entry in this bloody, first person-shooter series came out in 1993, when I was way too young for game like that, and while I picked up the 2004 release, Doom 3, it was mostly because a used copy of the steel book case came in at the GameStop I worked at… I don’t think I ever actually played it. I think I must have played one of the games at some point, because I recognize some of the iconic imagery from the series (mainly the look of the demons and the uniform of the unnamed Space Marine protagonist), but I might just have just absorbed that from gaming magazines and forums. In any case, the hour or so I spent with the 2016 release, simply called Doom, is the only chunk of time I can remember spending with the series, and it was fantastic!
It seems like a lot of games I’ve played recently invest heavily in two things that slow things down from the moment you press start: tutorials and the story so far. Doom manages to hit both of these points in about a minute flat, and in an active way. The game opens with your character chained to an operating table of some sort as demons creep towards you. In a first person cinematic you bust through the chains, and then the game hands control to you to start with the slaughtering immediately! After a few moments, I stood standing in a small pile of demonic corpses, looking through a window at the armored Space Marine suit from the previous games. As I moved towards it, a hologram kicked in showing that, apparently, the operating table I started on used to be some sort of coffin, with a bunch of scientists kneeling in prayer around it. I’m not sure if this connects to the prior games at all, but near as I can tell this series puts you in the role of Space Jesus and tasks you with slaughtering demons. On Mars, for some reason.
There’s a few more tunnels in this space lab to clear out before you get to the sun-drenched, red surface, but both the interior and exterior environments are beautiful. It might be because I’ve been playing a lot of games designed for the last generation of consoles lately, but everything in Doom looks amazing. The environments are super detailed, the enemy’s move fluidly (and quickly), and the lighting adds to the ambience. Inside, it’s just dark and gloomy enough to let enemies surprise you, while outside the sun let’s you look spot the demons you are about to rush through from way off.
I’m not sure if it’s an industry standard, or just a phrase I’m stealing from Polygon, but the “loop” is the most basic repeating element of gameplay in a game, and in Doom the loop is fantastic. It essentially goes like this: Open door, shoot demon, punch demon in the face, shoot demon, punch demon in the face, shoot demon, punch demon in the face… until eventually you come across another door, and then you start at the top. I’ll be honest, I have no idea what is happening narratively in this game, because every time a voiceover started to explain what was happening and where I should go next, I tuned them out to start looking for that next door. The game gave me three guns in the first 2 missions I played, but the shotgun (complete with exploding shells power up) was by far the most satisfying. Punching is really where this game excelled, though, with a mechanic where a demon who has been “stunned” (i.e., non-lethally riddled with bullets) gets highlighted, and becomes susceptible to a melee “Glory Kill”. Glory Kills are like punching-plus, with animations showing skulls being crushed, legs being broken, arms being ripped off, etc., and the game ensures you hit these as often as possible by showing you with health every time you execute one.
From what I’ve heard this game is a bit of a departure from the recent entries in the series, and I think the simple, reboot title of the name tells you everything you need to know. This is a game made to recreate early first person shooters, where we didn’t care about stealth or story, favoring instead big guns, fast pace, and blood. Doom won’t win awards for it’s story, but it’s graphic and game play are both beautiful, and the hour I spent with it was planed and simply fun.