McMillan’s Codex #43 by C.T. McMillan
“Pure” and “shooter” are the only words you need when describing this game. From top to bottom, back to front, every conceivable inch is dedicated to making Doom (2016) the most genuine shooter experience I have ever played. The game is a classic, reminiscent of an age in which the first person shooter was about killing anything within reach of your bullets.
Where Wolfenstein: New Order made contemporary shooter elements better, Doom (2016) is postmodern with aspects that are virtually nonexistent in the genre today. The mechanics, levels, and narrative are designed without fattening inconveniences to drag the pace. In the first line of dialog, you are told to “Rip and tear” and your character takes the command quite literally.
Your sole objective is to slaughter everything that is not you. With an arsenal of 10 weapons, you must go from objective to objective, laying waste to hell-spawn that had the misfortune of crossing your path. The game never slows down as your character moves at a quick pace, switches weapons with equal ease, and has the ability to double-jump. This allows you to move between targets and strafe, avoiding oncoming fire as you dispatch them with gory efficiency.
There is no reloading or need to press a button to pick up spare ammo, cutting down more time wasted in other shooters. Every weapon has a max ammo count that decreases when you pull the trigger and increases when walking over ammo drops. The same principle applies to health and armor where you must rely on drops instead of a period of regeneration. If you want to stay alive and full on ammo, do not stop moving, and keeping firing.
Health, armor, and ammo pickups are scattered throughout levels and some enemies will drop them upon death. To increase the likelihood of a drop you can perform a Glory Kill, an animation where you literally tear an enemy apart. After shooting a target a number of times, they enter a stunned state and flash blue, indicating you can preform the Kill. Focusing on a specific body part will trigger a different animation.
The large levels are great for exploration. They are vertical in nature with many floors and platforms to climb, folding into each other with shortcuts and alcoves tucked away in far off corners. They all have something to discover like upgrade points, collectables, and secrets areas modeled after the original Doom. After completing your required tasks, you can go back through the level to hunt down all the secrets and extras before moving on.
Between narrow corridors that lead you to objectives are open arenas where enemies spawn in. Each arena tests your skill where you must jump, climb, and strafe your way to victory as you hold off multiple waves of enemies. While that sounds repetitive, the fast pace and fluid mechanics make arenas a delight to complete.
Later the fights become more intense and the arenas larger, packed tight with every monster you could possibly encounter. The struggle becomes desperate when you run low on health and ammo and search for an opportunity to perform a Glory Kill.
The story is very easy to ignore because the fun factor supersedes the need for narrative. Had there been only the combat I would still praise the game. The story is there to provide context to why you are traveling across Mars slaughtering hell-spawn by the bushel. You have to close a portal and stop a raving fanatic from merging Hell with our world.
When paying attention, there is a lot to appreciate in how your character behaves. From the very beginning the game implies that you, Doom Slayer, have been through this predicament in the past. You travel to Hell and discover you were there before and became synonymous with legend. This contradicts the idea of Doom (2016) being a reboot, but whether it is a direct sequel is unclear because there is no consistent continuity to follow.
When the game starts on Mars during the demonic invasion, you dismiss the character Dr. Hayden trying to convince you to work with him. When Hayden attempts to salvage what is left of his corporation that harvested resources from Hell, you destroy any possibility of recovery by wrecking equipment because Doom Slayer obviously has first hand experience in what happens when you meddle in the extra-dimensional.
The absolute brutality of how you kill is telling to who Doom Slayer is. The Glory Kills are excessive with torn limbs, exploded heads, and eviscerated bowels, all performed with your bare hands. For the average gore-hound they are beautiful, but they say a lot about Doom Slayer’s personality. You are so full of hate that eliminating the demonic threat is more important than maintaining your composure and behaving like a soldier.
The aesthetic ties everything together in a beautiful bow. The human designs on Mars are sleek with a utilitarian touch. Everything looks nice and futuristic, but they also serve a function. When you transition to Hell, the aesthetic goes from science fiction to medieval fantasy. Among ruins of old structures are statues of demons and metal spikes rising from pools blood. In one level called Titan’s Realm, the bones of giants litter a blasted landscape with ornate ziggurats decorated in grotesque bas-relief designs.
Calling Doom (2016) the best shooter of the year and possibly the decade would not be a stretch. In my time as a gamer, I cannot recall a more perfect experience that was so enjoyable to play. The game is a classic in the guise of the contemporary, a callback to a bygone era when putting your bullets in things was all about fun. Doom (2016) sets a standard for what should come as the quality of the genre wanes. Big names like Call of Duty and Halo have begun a slow decay into mediocrity and the time has come for Doom Slayer put them out of their misery.
C.T. McMillan (Episode 169) is a film critic and devout gamer. He has a Bachelors for Creative Writing in Entertainment from Full Sail University.