Gleeful Gore and Gloom – DOOM

Now, I do not have the most experience in video games, but I have been doing my fair share of PC-gaming recently. I might be a little late to the party on this particular big name, but I want to share my thoughts on it because I thoroughly enjoy the new DOOM.

DOOM
Curtesy Bethesda/Id

I remember spending a bunch of time sitting near my Dad as he played (and swore at) some of the predecessors of this game. I never got the chance to really test these out myself, and as I got older I shied away from other First Person Shooter [FPS] video games because, having not grown up playing them, I could not compete.My husband, on the other hand, grew up on the Halo games, and was ecstatic when he saw the new DOOM. He was the one that bought it although the moment he brought it home, he poured a bunch of alcohol into me and set me up to play.

Although I am on the easiest setting, this game is hilarious and epic to play, and I have a feeling that a lot of my enjoyment is from it being somewhat different than traditional FPS games. To give any of you that have not looked at this game an idea of what I am talking about, this music video from Miracle of Sound portrays about how I see DOOM, although beware, the game is exceedingly bloody, graphic, and full of head-bangingly awesome metal music.

Miracle of Sound: DOOM SONG – Hell to Pay (Youtube Link)

The game absolutely drips with a dark and oppressive atmosphere, complete with trails of viscera, walls that look more like the insides of organs, ritual demon-worship, and a nice little story that is pretty decent for an FPS. You play as the DOOM Marine, an amusingly violent and angry maguffin in a suit of power armor who cuts through hordes of demons like a hot knife through butter.

Now, I’m going to stop here for a moment before continuing again. Violently ripping demons apart with your bare hands and pumping them full of white hot lead is surprisingly cathartic, and the chaotic arena shooting sections of the game, which the developers wanted to play out like “Jackie Chan on a skateboard,” are incredibly engrossing. I cannot recommend this game any harder, well for adults at least – and ones that like blood and gore at that. It’s a bit like Deadpool. Very few kids below the age level of teen will be able to handle this game, and it might not suit some adults either. It falls a little into the vein of violence for violence’s sake and does seem very geared towards guys. Still, as a caviat, I am an academic that takes most things pretty seriously, and I loved it.

If you do not like spoilers though, stop reading. If you want to continue, you have now been warned. So, here are some parts of this game that I think deserve a little more in-depth coverage.

Spoilers!

Gameplay

I think one of the things that sets DOOM apart, at least from other FPS games I have played, is its game mechanics. Harkening back to its older predecessors, there is no reloading; your guns spray bullets in a never-ending hail until they just don’t anymore. The guns also have two firing modes that are unlocked as the player progresses through the game. Some of them, such as the mini rockets for the assault rifle, are as hilarious as they are ridiculous. Others, such as the rotor for  machine gun, are practical, if a little boring.

Another very different thing is that standing still and carefully planning is viciously punished. You very quickly learn to just keep running, never stopping, especially when one of the big arena fights pops up. The demons are incredibly mobile and will not hesitate to surround you, climbing up walls, leaping across gaps, and much more in their pursuit of turning you into meat paste. One particularly annoying AI is that of the Imps, obnoxiously quick little buggers that specialize in throwing fire at you from places you thought an AI would not be capable of reaching. I once had one lob a nasty powered shot from the freaking ceiling and momentarily stopped my sprinting to look for it in sheer amazement. Of course, the amusing part of the Imp AI is that they have a number of modes they fall into, and although they are exceedingly good at the ranged game, some of them insist on bum-rushing you to use their nigh-useless little claws.

This, and the point that most of the demons run towards you at full tilt, helps with another aspect of the game: glory kills. These specialized moves allow DOOM Marine to brutally melee your enemies to death in a number of bloody and graphic ways, and after a while, encourage you to turn the demons into health piƱatas, which becomes indisposable in harder modes as there simply are not enough health pick-ups to keep you alive otherwise.

The Storyline

Waking up on chained to a stone tablet, DOOM Marine is just as clueless as we are. The game throws us right into this mess – no intro, no scrolling title screen, no background. We just wake up with some wierd pseudo-demon zombies [called Possessed] about to try to chew our face off. Presumably naked, DOOM Marine proceeds to break free, find a gun, and murder the lot of Possessed before finding his suit of power armor in the next room over.

We learn as he does that the facility he is in is property of the Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC), which dug DOOM Marine up in this Hell dimension connected to our world by the Argent Rift, which the UAC just so happens to be using to create energy to meet the unreasonable power demands of Earth. Of course something went wrong because the scientists were slowly corrupted by the Argent Energy coming from the Rift, so the whole Mars research facility ended up a bastard hybrid of science and demon worship with little regard for its workers’ lives until someone finally pulled the plug on the safety systems. This released a massive wave of Argent Energy, killing most of the staff and turning the rest of them into the Possessed which began summoning actual demons.

So the DOOM Marine has to fight his way through the whole mess with directions from Samuel Hayden, the facility’s president and founder, who just so happens to be a 9 foot tall robot since the man he used to be would have otherwise died from cancer. This inevitably leads to trying to chase down the person responsible for the debaucle, one Olivia Pierce, head biochemical researcher and Head Director of the UAC’s Lazarus Project. Amusingly, she remains one step ahead of our silent and angry destroyer, succeeding in her ultimate mission and making fixing it require a trip into the very bowels of Hell.

For an FPS, DOOM has a great storyline that really works well in dragging us through much of the overrun facility and in explaining the environment.

DOOM Marine

DOOM Marine
Curtesy of DOOM Wiki

At first, DOOM Marine’s enraged demeanor is mostly funny – a somewhat tongue in cheek jab at the tendency video game players have for destroying everything and being unnecessarily cruel. His enfuriated destruction of the Argent Energy filters even as Hayden pleads with him to carefully remove them instead and the wonton destruction he wreaks in the facility, however, ends up being entirely justified.

We learn that DOOM Marine is literally the last of his planet/universe/whatever alive after it got sucked into Hell, which ate everything he knew and loved. He has been killing demons ever since, carving a swathe of destruction through them so wide that they all are outright terrified of him.

At the same time, a few scenes do imply that DOOM Marine is capable of empathy. He creates a backup copy of the AI VEGA before destroying it and in one scene where Hayden states Argent Energy use is “for the good of mankind” glances at a nearby mutilated corpse before destroying the speaker Sam is talking through. The inclusion of scenes like these added depth to an otherwise flat character that would have been hard to identify with, and I was very pleasantly surprised when his back story was revealed.

The Portrayal of Science and Scientists

Science is all over in this game as it is set in a research facility, but the game does get a little close to having a “science is evil” vibe. Other than that – which is my biggest annoyance – scientists are actually portrayed pretty accurately besides the mindlessly worshipping demons thing. They show holographic logs of expeditions into Hell. There is information on demons lying about in the form of research slates everywhere. The scientists weaponize demons. Yes, it gets a bit close to the “do not mess with things you do not understand” trope, but most scientists would be foaming at the mouth to have access to research so unendingly awesome. Graft mechanisms into a demon to make its acid attacks stronger? Yes please! That would be hella fun! And what military-type organization (the UAC does have its own standing army after all) would not be all over this kind of stuff? If we got enough control over the demons or good ways to release/capture them, we could use them as highly-effective shock-troops, spearheads, you name it. Their destructive power is amazing.

So, while we get the vibe of science is evil, it is tempered by a well displayed understanding of science and scientists. Plus, UAC is not generally presented as stupid in the way other “evil corporations” have been in video games. They are mostly just wontonly evil because of the corruption, and it gets played for a lot of dark humor and laughs.

All in All

Overall, the game is not particularly meant to be taken seriously and is full of tropes. Want some proof? The DOOM entry for TV Tropes is pretty fun to read.

Anyway, the game finds this really interesting balance between humor, bloody horror, and ridiculous badassery that puts it into a category pretty much all by itself. It is what a reboot is supposed to be. Bethesda and Id really raised the bar.

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