Examining the greatest strengths of id Software’s modern classic.
Blasting through demonic enemies with comically overpowered guns, ripping out a Bull Demon’s tooth and violently shoving it into his eye socket as a finishing move, and slashing through an Imp right down the middle with a chainsaw, gleefully turning him into half the Imp he used to be. These are just a few of the savagely brutal and insanely fun things you’ll be doing during your time in 2016’s DOOM reboot. It’s an over the top power fantasy that managed to strike a chord with younger gamers and older ones alike, and thusly saw a level of success both critically and commercially few games from that year were able even dream of.
Gaming certainly has its classics. Resident Evil, Need for Speed, Mortal Kombat, and Minecraft could all be considered the cultural representatives and leaders of their respective genres. But within this family of iconic games resides a much darker, demented grand-daddy of a game that countless other games owe everything to: DOOM. The original DOOM was by no means the first violent shooter from the first person perspective, nor was it the first game to cause parents across the world to clutch their pearls, but it was easily the first game to do both of these things as ridiculously well as it did. The game set the world on fire for gamers and even sparked several national discussions on the morality of violent video games being allowed to exist. Even today, the original game’s name is invoked by lawmakers and other authority figures as a scapegoat for society’s various ills.
As ridiculous an argument as that usually is, there’s no denying the power and influence that DOOM was able to wield with some sound effects, midi metal tunes, and of some pixels on a screen. As you might imagine, DOOM would see a release on just about anything that could run it in the ‘90s. The Sega 32x, Saturn, Super Nintendo, PlayStation, Atari Jaguar, Gameboy Advance, and even the Acorn Archimedes would see some form of DOOM in their libraries keeping the game relevant far longer than anybody could have guessed. This enduring popularity also led to plenty of sequels. The outstanding DOOM 2 gave fans more of what they wanted from the first game, DOOM 64 flirted with a darker tone but still largely playing the same, DOOM 3 went full-on horror to great effect, and finally, in 2016, DOOM would get the full-on reboot treatment from id Software with Bethesda’s backing, and what an unapologetically insane trip down homicidal lane it would be.
Firstly and most immediately apparent is DOOM (2016)’s dedication to the violence of the original. In a day and age where many developers are spending massive sums of time and effort to avoid controversy, 2016’s DOOM runs right at it with a chainsaw in one hand and a super shotgun in the other. I personally wouldn’t have blamed id Software for toning DOOM down a bit to be more realistic, or perhaps taking another direction with the gameplay altogether as many reboots tend to do, but thankfully they did no such thing and completely ran with the idea of the original to the furthest blood-soaked extent possible. Enemies often filled the area as they relentlessly attacked you and hurled various projectiles your way. As in the original game, it’s up to you to leap, strafe, and smash your way through them in whatever way you choose and keep yourself alive in the process.
This is nothing but natural for fans of the original, and this gameplay style was able to serve as a stark reminder of the beauty in the simplicity of the originals’ while also being a breath of fresh air among the highly technical, calculative shooters that currently populate most of the genre today. Adding in the ability to jump around to various platforms and dish out brutal finishing moves is about the only real fundamental elements that were added here, and they feel right at home among the other characteristics that made up the feel of the original game. To this day, eviscerating a demon, shooting another in the face with a rocket launcher, and resorting to a chainsaw when you’re low on ammo are things that come together best in a DOOM game, and the 2016 reboot accomplished their clearly intentional goal of defending that status.
While gameplay is certainly king, other peripheral elements of 2016’s DOOM also went a long way to holding on to the original’s tone while bringing it into the 21st century. Of the most impactful of the things that make up the tone of the DOOM reboot was the overwhelmingly intense soundtrack composed by Australian Mick Gordon. While the original DOOM’s soundtrack of midi tunes that imitated the sound of popular Pantera songs was an excellent fit for that game and that time, Gordon’s highly-produced, more industrial metal songs would produce a much more vicious, fast-paced sound that couldn’t have matched the tone of the visuals any better than it did. Thrashing metal-core drums, Stylish Guitar and Bass parts with some slick electronica thrown in here and there were a perfect mix to drive the player through the game’s non-stop rush of violence and its jaw-dropping hellscapes. It’s a soundtrack so good that one wonders why Bethesda wouldn’t include a CD soundtrack with the game, and it’s a huge reason the reboot stood out among other shooters of the time.
The visual department of 2016’s DOOM was no slouch either. While more and more of today’s games are gaining enough power from consoles to deliver outstanding visuals at good frame-rates, DOOM (2016) still stands tall among them by somehow wielding highly-detailed graphics at a sharp 1080p resolution and fairly reliable 60 frames per second on the base PlayStation 4. While a dynamic resolution on the Xbox One often fell below that to maintain the framerate, it looked good on that console too, as you would likely be too busy ripping through demon guts to notice the resolution shifting around. The only console that made any real concessions in this area was the Nintendo Switch as that version had some muddier textures and was locked at 720p and 30 frames per second. Even still, for a port to a handheld console, DOOM (2016) holds up nicely on the Switch all things considered. All-in-all, much like the original game, DOOM (2016) plays well for everything on which it was launched, and will likely continue to as future iterations are released on future hardware.
DOOM (2016) is not just a fantastic game for its excellent gameplay that refuses to leave its roots, its outstanding gory visuals, or its powerful pounding auditory assault of a soundtrack. It’s fantastic because it has all of these things and somehow is able to add up to a greater experience than the sum of its parts. Where most major video game reboots try to straddle the line between the sensibilities of a modern game and the original with feebleness and delicacy, this game charges through that problem with the power of a BFG. DOOM (2016) knows what it is inside and out, makes no apologies for it, and does it better than anyone else. It created its own outlandish brand of first person shooter almost 30 years ago, and in 2016, reminded the world who the king of the genre really is. And for that alone, you have to admit, 2016’s DOOM was one hell of a game.