Confession: I’ve never played a Doom game until Spring of last year. And you can best believe that upon finishing the game’s most excellent campaign, I’ve been giving myself hell for not having played sooner.
Doom: Eternal comes out this Friday to an onslaught of fevered anticipation. Not only is Eternal among 2020’s most anticipated games via every gaming publication out there, but with so many indefinite closures, postponements, and cancellations in the wake of our current pandemic, Eternal arrives as a much-needed distraction. I myself plan on doing absolutely nothing this Friday except opening a bottle of Jack and mercilessly beating Eternal’s campaign.
Now, I’ve been aware of the Doom series in general. I came to rise as a gamer with the dawn of Halo: Combat Evolved, and comparisons of both Halo and Doom were numerous and obvious. I just never took a stab at the series, then a PC exclusive that would make its console debut in 2005 with Doom 3.
2016’s Doom was released during my, shall we say, gaming sabbatical. I thought I was done with video games for a time, then came a personal renaissance last year where I’ve since been knocking down all the games in my stockpile. Doom was actually a Christmas gift that I never got around to opening… until last Spring.
Doom boasts one of the most straight up METAL intros I’ve ever experienced. A demon comes charging while you, Doomguy, are strapped in chains. You proceed to smash its skull with one hand, you break free, you grab a gun, then it’s ALL. SYSTEMS. GO. It doesn’t hurt that the soundtrack is pure razor-sharp metal.
The game’s gung-ho spirit is so damned refreshing in that it has a complete disregard for opening cinematics or exposition of any kind. At one point early on, a character tries to give you the situational lowdown via monitor and Doomguy proceeds to bash the computer to smithereens.
Doom flips the bird to any and all shooters that have given up on the single-player campaign in favor of repetitive multiplayer. (Looking at you, EA.) Doom essentially reverses the modern FPS equation where the campaign IS the point of the game, leaving its multiplayer as the afterthought— which I’m sure Bethesda would take as a compliment.
Right away you’re blasting through a high-tech research facility on Mars, the place run amok by possessed scientists and ghouls of varying sizes. UAC, the company behind the space operation, has been mining the planet for a sustainable energy resource. In doing so, they’ve opened the gates of Hell and here we are. I could say more but what’s the point? The game is all about exorcising your demons and pent-up rage via shotgun.
Doom is as old-school as shooters come with ZERO cover-based mechanics. There are armor and health pick-ups interspersed across the map and that’s about it. Which is to say there’s no ducking and running in Doom. The demons are supposed to do that.
Glory kills as I understand them were new additions to the series and they were very new to me as a player. When an enemy is on their last and sometimes literal legs, they glow orange, cueing you to perform a brutal finishing move. Think Mortal Kombat’s gory fatalities, or more fittingly, Gears of War’s skull-crushing executions.
Thankfully, you’re invulnerable while the animatic of those few seconds play out, whether it’s ripping a demon’s head clean, or yanking off a beasts’ horn and jabbing it through their eye socket. There are maybe one or two variations for each demon type, but it is bottom line as intended: gloriously over-the-top. Each glory kill rewards you with a health drop, meaning they’re your new best friend.
You face off against hordes upon hordes of grotesque fire-balling demons. The key to your success is by staying in CONSTANT motion. Areas will be routinely sealed shut due to “unsafe demonic levels,” thus you cannot progress without obliterating all fiends in the vicinity into charred chunks of meat. It’s arena-style play, essentially. Certain levels have air lifts that catapult you across the map, or portals that serve as either shortcuts or quick escapes. You’ll never approach any level linearly. You might climb upward, double back, or lead enemies in circles.
Power-ups are a godsend in those insanely close quarters and overwhelming firefights. Quad Damage gives you max weapon damage; Haste provides the agility of Sonic; Invisibility is self-explanatory; and my favorite, Berserk, in which you shoulder all weapons and let your fists do the killing.
It’s amazing how the game’s platforming encourages you to get creative with the action. I didn’t realize how attuned my FPS play-style had been to shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield that I was stuck in the cover-shooter mentality. Letting that go was very freeing. From double-jumping, cycling through your arsenal wheel in slow-mo, and utilizing glory kills to nab a clutch-saving health boost; Doom’s hyper-violent ballet took some getting used to, but it is crazy satisfying to pull off. It’s worth noting that there are no NPCs to escort or assist you, ever. It’s just you – a lone and unstoppable badass. This is exactly the kind of game where you chug Red Bulls during pause breaks. (11/10 would recommend.)
Doom is so spectacularly and breathtakingly violent that it does laps around the boycott of the first Mortal Kombat. As a gamer I’ve got quite the bloodlust. Gears of War is the only shooter series that satisfied my thirst for overkill. You can add Doom to the list for providing me with a whole new palette to savor. The game’s chainsaw-use in particular is so damn satisfying that for a split second I thought to myself, “Maybe Leatherface wasn’t such a bad guy.” Of course, nothing beats the super shotgun a.k.a. the double barrel boom-stick of death. There’s something about blasting a demon in half that just gets me. You guys think I should see a therapist yet?
I rarely cheer or say anything aloud when I’m playing by myself; I’m a quiet gamer. But there’s so much potential for outrageous moments in Doom that it was impossible not to scream like I was ringside at a WWE arena. Some of Doom’s boss fights are much more formidable than anticipated. I didn’t realize I was holding my breath during these intense battles, or that my shoulders had scrunched up. Cheering aloud following their gory collapse seemed like the only appropriate reaction. (I’ve thought about smashing my controller like rockstars do with their guitars… but I can’t afford another controller.) Doom, frankly, is the rare game where a Hulk-sized demon will charge forth and you’ll smile at all the blood-spattering opportunities.
I cut my gamer teeth playing Halo growing up and that set quite the bar for subsequent FPS games that have come my way. And I’ve been bored with much of the shooter crop that has befallen this current generation of consoles, save for a select few. Doom, thankfully, gave me hope for a time when an FPS gave you a campaign first, multiplayer second. If the mediocrity of the modern FPS slate seemed clogged to hell, then 2016’s Doom is like a quadruple bypass of rip-roaring awesomeness. And, if the early buzz for Doom: Eternal is any indication, we’re in for another game-changing shot of pure violent adrenaline. Friday cannot get here fast enough.