Why DOOM is Special

(I actually wrote this post some time ago and simply forgot about it. Better late than never I suppose!)

Although I enjoy discussing topics on religion and secularism, I think it’s important every once in a while to dive into the really important topics, the things that truly matter in all of our day to day lives. Therefore, I’d like to take a few moments to talk about video games.

More specifically, I’d like to talk about DOOM.

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Yes, that’s right, DOOM, in all capital letters because THAT’S THE WAY IT’S MEANT TO BE DISPLAYED NOW AND ALWAYS. I have some history with DOOM, like so many men now creeping into their middle-aged years. It’s what got me into computers in the first place. The first PC I built was a 486 with 4 megs of RAM, components I had to save up for months to purchase at the tender age of 12. But it was totally worth it. DOOM ran like a dream, and moving through this fully realized 3D world (or at least close enough at the time) absolutely blew my mind. Technically, it was an amazing achievement.

Then, there was the adult content. My fragile, innocent mind had never seen pentagrams or zombies or demons or monsters blown into bloody, meaty chunks. As much as I was repulsed by it, I also reveled in it. It made me realize that there was a whole other world out there I had no clue about.

To say the least, I was hooked. Not just on DOOM, but on games in general. Duke Nukem, Descent, Mechwarrior, Quake, Half-Life, and everything in between and all that came after. I couldn’t get enough. But through the years, only a few games have been able to leave that same impression on me as the original DOOM. And these days, I had come to the conclusion that nothing would really surprise me anymore.

Then, DOOM came along once again.

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The new DOOM, part reboot and part sequel, came out of nowhere. Of course I knew it was coming, and sort of followed it for a couple of years now. But everything I’d seen made me skeptical. It was hard to get a gauge on how it would play, if it could capture the same feel as the original. DOOM 3 mostly failed to deliver on this front, and most of the people who worked on that first three games aren’t even at id Software anymore, so there was a lot of skepticism about what they could deliver for a new game. It worried me. I didn’t want one of my favorite franchises ruined.

Turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

DOOM is incredible. Everything about it oozes that same balls-to-the-wall mayhem of the original games, while at the same time updating it for modern graphics and gameplay sensibilities. And make no mistake, it’s all about the gameplay. There is a story, but it doesn’t really matter (even though it’s actually surprisingly more interesting than one would expect… there’s a lot there to unpack if you look for it). What matters is the journey through this game, not the destination. It’s been a long time since I played a game that made me want to play it just for the sake of playing it, because it was flat out FUN to play. In the same vein as icons like Super Mario Bros, gameplay is all that matters.

DOOM gives you all the tools to make first person shooters fun again. Health and ammo feel scarce, and the best way to get it back is through being aggressive and killing enemies through a new “glory kill” system, which allows you to finish off enemies with a gruesome melee attack once you’ve whittled their health down enough. So the game has a rewarding feedback loop of combat, kill enemies, combat gets rough, get more aggressive and get some health back, rinse and repeat. It’s hard to describe, so here’s a short video of a battle in the game right after I aquired the chsingun:

As you can see, the only way to stay on top of the enemies is to never stop moving and firing. No hiding behind cover, no reloading, no recharging health. You just keep going until you win or die. It’s an absolute blast.

I could keep going, but you get the point. There are tons of videos and reviews online to give you more impressions, but all that matters is that DOOM has recaptured something that has been lost over the years. It’s simple, but in the best way possible. It’s the ultimate video game, or at least what video games should be. If you’ve felt a little jaded about the industry over the last few years like I did, give DOOM a shot.

It’s a trip to hell worth taking.

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