How DOOM Makes The Shooter Feel Like A Game Again

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All I can really talk about right now that I’ve been playing is DOOM, which I’m most of the way through as of this writing. I’m not sure I can say anything about it that reviews didn’t already cover though.

The most succinct thing I can say about id Software’s 2016 DOOM is that it makes the first person shooter feel like a game again. Followers of this blog may have seen my previous posts about older FPSs, and I certainly think this one fits right in with the qualities of those games, but still concedes to modernity in its own way.

When I say DOOM “feels like a game again,” I mean its pacing reminds me more of action games I played in the 90’s and early 2000’s than more recent ones. It’s not even really the ways in which it get’s back to 90’s shooter mechanics by removing the reload button or letting you carry more than two weapons. I think it’s mostly how DOOM doesn’t constantly shepherd you down one path with the assumption you have a short attention span, but rather lets you move at your own pace to explore its actually-existent level design. That along with the combat which feels absolutely smooth with tight controls and fun enemies to fight.

That’s it really. DOOM is supposed to be all about shooting things but I’ve spent just as much time exploring each level to try to find all the secrets. That back-and-forth bounce between enemy encounters and exploration is precisely what I’ve enjoyed about the older shooters I’ve investigated, what I’ve missed in newer action games, and what I mean when I say DOOM reminds me of action games before the era of the dominance of Call of Duty, which I actually think is coming to an end. Not the sales dominance of COD (I’m actually pretty interested in Infinite Warfare), but I’ve started to notice fewer and fewer action games trying to be COD. Some of that is being replaced with MOBA and Overwatch influences though.

I’ve said before I don’t hate COD’s way of doing shooter campaigns in and of itself. I still love Modern Warfare. I just think only maybe four shooters have ever done that type of level design correctly, and all the other should try something different.

The 2016 game I’d compare to DOOM the most is probably Dark Souls III because of the old school approach both take to environment design and enemy encounters. I think that along with some of the visual design is why some are comparing it to Metroid Prime. Personally I can still feel some of the Nintendo influence that was evident in classic DoomDOOM is one of those games that, if I have the time, I’m probably going to dive back into as soon as I finish the campaign, both to do all the extra stuff and beat the levels on higher difficulties. I almost never bother with extra difficulty modes.

That said I do notice a couple core differences between 2016 DOOM and 90’s Doom. I’m not talking about the character upgrade system or challenges either.

The first big difference is with the enemies and how they show up. New DOOM seems to be more encounter-based, where you go into a room or hit a trigger and a big staged battle happens. The new chapter of Quake MacineGames released for that game’s 20th anniversary does the same thing. The classic Doom games did this too, but in them you also constantly encountered enemies as you explored the levels. New DOOM feels like it packs almost all its enemies into these staged encounters.

In the context of that, the big gore things you activate to deliberately start up the encounters are an interesting change. Older games like classic Doom would frequently have you hit a switch or grab an item that would trigger a bunch of enemies, and though this is supposed to surprise players, after a while you tended to know it was coming. The big gore things in new DOOM are like those switches except they aren’t even trying to hide what they’re for.

The second core difference I’ve noticed is that levels in new DOOM have points of no return, which can be frustrating if you’re trying to fully explore them. This is especially due to those points of no return almost never being really clear to the player. This is honestly most of the reason that, even with the automap, I’m going to have to repeat almost all the levels in this game.

In any case, DOOM feels like a consummate package of a classical video game with the full brunt of today’s graphics technology, that even manages to try to tell a story without becoming the attempt at a movie many modern action games have. Technically, a lot of what I’ve said can also be said about Wolfenstein: The New Order, and to an extent even RAGE had similarly fulfilling combat. I feel like with its last three shooters Bethesda Game Studios has been going progressively further back in time in FPS design. RAGE felt like a great shooter but was still very beholden to the trends of 2011, Wolfenstein felt like a really good post-Half-Life but pre-COD shooter, DOOM feels like a modern… well… Doom.

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