With the small cast of characters in DOOM that are not screeching horrors from Hell, you would think picking a favorite would be an exercise in who I hate least, what with all of the characters not being “good guys” per se – DOOM Marine is an angry god of revenge bent on destroying everything at the UAC; VEGA is a somewhat featureless AI that, although benign, is relatively boring; Samuel Hayden is incessantly polite and calm despite heading a company that knowingly performs human sacrifice and demon worship; and Olivia Pierce is the lunatic leader of the demon worshipers that is responsible for the mess going on at the UAC Mars facility. Still, picking the least of the evils is not what I ended up doing.
I ended up loving Olivia Pierce. She is by far my favorite, and the more I found out about her, the more it felt like Bethesda and Id really wanted to give DOOM a female character as amazing as the DOOM Marine is angry. She is one of the very few female characters in video games that I have really identified with, not just in understanding her mindset, but in actively seeing a strong, complex, and powerful woman that I could look up to. And she is the “villain.”
Once again, there will be spoilers.
Olivia Pierce is the first female protagonist in the DOOM series and a highly accomplished scientist. After graduating with highest honor in biomechanical and genetic engineering, she established her own company, NanoStruct Aerospace and Defense Systems, which she refused to leave despite Hayden’s persuasion attempts until he sent her an artifact from the Argent Fracture (the “gate” to Hell). Becoming obsessed with the thing, she came to UAC since she was Hayden’s hand-picked protégé and would have taken over for him if he had ever died. Eventually she developed idiopathic scoliosis, which confined her to a wheelchair until she agreed to undergo a dangerous surgery that grafted a titanium exoskeleton to her body. Regaining her ability to walk unfortunately came with a nasty side-effect. Movement caused her extreme pain, which is evident from the slow and haulting way in which she moves in game, but she refused to take pain-killers since they would cloud her mind.
In short, Olivia was an absolute badass so dedicated to science and advancing mankind that she would put up with non-stop agony just to have every mental faculty and function available to her.
She also just so happened to subvert the idea that women can only be pretty OR intelligent and not both. We come across a picture of her before she had her exoskeleton, and I really like that the developers decided to portray her as sophisticated, beautiful, and blindingly intelligent.
Even after the Argent Energy began to corrupt her, Olivia’s brilliance persisted. Her studies of the demons led her to believe that merging their world with ours could initiate the next step in human evolution, although eventually she descended into an obsession to become one with some great demonic power, which would make her into a goddess.
Even in the game, she persistently stays a step ahead of the fully-functioning murder machine that is the DOOM Marine and succeeds in her end goal of creating a full portal into Hell. The only thing I find a little odd is that she is the only female character and falls into the corrupted villain trope. Her agency is almost robbed of her in our final encounter where DOOM Marine finds her rotting and shivering in Hell, her last words “They promised me so much.” before she is transformed into the final boss, other parts of our journey through hell having implied that Olivia is some prophesized person, who through merging with a demon god thing might be able to destroy the DOOM Marine.
[As an aside, what is with the Spider Mastermind design? It seemed so cartoony and so incredibly different from all of the other demons that it was distracting. It broke the atmosphere and was laughable and goofy. Yes, I know it is a throw-back to one of the bosses in another DOOM game, but still, we could have done with a re-think there. Olivia deserved a better final form; she is supposed to be a goddess after all.]
I am conflicted with the last time we see Olivia. I would have been okay with this prophesized demon-savior shtick, but it would have been better if she had found this demon god thing and merged with it on her own. I do not like that she is portrayed as a victim, especially in this ever-so-critical moment; it makes her seem like a pawn in a battle against this demon god and DOOM Marine. On the other hand, she would have not been part of this if not for Hayden (surprise, the corrupter is a guy – yay subverting tropes) and the whole story kind of centers around Argent Energy being a corrupting force that turned her from an amazing scientist doing great by herself into a demon-worshiping lunatic.
Still, she did get what she wanted despite that miniscule moment of regret at the end of the game, and I am thoroughly impressed with DOOM for giving me probably my favorite video game scientist so far.