The original Doom, developed by id Software more than two decades ago, has always stuck with me as the definitive example of how a first-person shooter can be constructed and paced. I can vividly remember playing the first few levels with a friend, and though in hindsight playing with a touch-pad was probably not the wisest decision, we still had a amazing time shooting our way across Mars despite our botched controller choice. The fast moving enemies required quick reflexes to defeat, especially at higher difficulty modes. There were even some neat little platforming and exploration based puzzles thrown in for good measure. Most memorably, the action set pieces were incredibly over-the-top and fascinating to my impressionable, eight-year old mind. I never would have imagined that hell would have such an upbeat and rockin’ soundtrack. Needless to say, I was curious to try out the recently released reboot of Doom.
Into the Fire
I was somewhat hesitant going into Doom’s single-player mode, not having played a campaign mode for a shooter in quite some time. Endless shooting gallery gameplay in shooters like Call of Duty and Halo had left me a tad wary of modern shooter gameplay. However, within the first five minutes of Doom’s single-player mode, I was immediately hooked. I was quickly thrown headfirst into the fray of battle. Only a few seconds are devoted to story development in these opening moments, since the overall plot is relatively simplistic. The character I played as in Doom is a space marine who is just awakening from his entombed stasis on a Mars research facility. Mars has literally gone to hell, and he is tasked with stopping a demonic invasion from spreading off the planet and onto the surrounding systems. I appreciated this intense opening for kicking up the adrenaline level almost instantaneously, foreshadowing what would lie ahead for me in the experience.
Glory Kills and Good Thrills
As I was soon to find out, Doom rarely allows any downtime during its nine to ten hour campaign. Much like last year’s entry in the Mad Max film series, action is king in Doom, leaving little room for anything else. I wasn’t given detailed instructions on how to play the game from the outset unlike other shooters. Most of the tutorials were relegated to a pop-up message box on the bottom of the screen, encouraging me to decipher the game’s combat system on my own. I felt that this really helped to immerse me in the game world by putting me in a situation where I needed to be resourceful in order to survive.
Though I technically could have played through the game solely using guns, I felt encouraged to go for context sensitive “takedowns” on my opponents once enough damage was dealt to them. After being informed that these takedowns had the chance to reward me with ammo and health packs, I was more than pleased to start implementing them as part of my battle strategy. I eventually became completely invested in the rhythm of combat, an essential component of Doom’s gameplay.
A Ferocious Pattern
When I usually think of games centered around rhythm, I envision party games such as Rock Band or Guitar Hero which involve matching controller inputs to the beat and melody of the music. With Doom, I noticed that there was a unique concept of rhythm matching applied over the duration of each battle. The first time I entered into a fight against a group of demons, I only had my pistol to use as a weapon against the oncoming hordes. I started by trying to shoot my way through the enemies the way I would if engaged in a paintball match, slowly and methodically. To my dismay, I soon found that this method of hiding behind cover and shooting was an ineffective strategy that led to more moments of dispiriting pain than of utter joy. On my next attempt, I tried mixing in takedown kills while speedily jumping around the map. Much like pulling off a difficult solo in Guitar Hero, eliminating all demons by employing this strategy relied on my ability to get into this “groove” of battle. I ended up having more resources available to me afterwards, such as ammunition and health, improving my chances of survival for the subsequent battles.
The Princess Is In Another Castle
A little bit further on from the introductory level, I entered into one of the more primary missions in Doom. Here, I was tasked with discovering the source of the demonic invasion, and I was also introduced to the astonishing outdoor environments of the game. These large, expansive levels have a very open feel to them, which allowed me to freely explore the game world at my own pace. I utilized my character’s speedy movement to rhythmically maneuver my way across floating platforms, accessing collectible datalogs and new weapons along the way. These platforming segments were particularly fun to play, reminiscent of the ones featured in Mirror’s Edge and Half-Life 2.
A few missi ons later, and I thoroughly believed I had mastered these environmental puzzles. That was until I encountered a particularly unique mission where I needed to ascend towards the top of an energy catalyzation tower. Here, I not only was required to time my speed and jumps to hit stationary platforms, but also to hit those which were constantly in motion. It was immensely fun to tackle these additional challenges, and it made me yearn for the inclusion of more well developed platforming mechanics in other first-person shooters.
Whenever I look back on the time I spent experiencing the gleefully over-the-top campaign of Doom, I frequently get the urge to pick it up and jump right back in. Unlike other shooters where I tend to dread heading into tedious fights, here I could not wait to enter into each immediately gratifying combat scene. I learned how enjoyable gameplay can manifest itself in rhythmic game mechanics, requiring quick reflexes, sharp timing, and naturally flowing strategies to master. It was unquestionably difficult for me to put down the game after each play session, and I never believed my time could have been spent better playing another shooter. It’s hugely refreshing to see a game which values a solo campaign experience which can be enjoyed by any player, and one that doesn’t hold your hand during even the most critical of challenges. The original game is still a high point for effectively simple first-person shooter design, but the frenetic gameplay in this latest iteration of the franchise combines both old and new mechanics intuitively, making me love every moment I spent blasting my way through the depths of hell.