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In Defence of DOOM

Prior to this weekend, I couldn’t have cared less about ID’s revamped DOOM.

Another modern reimagining of a 20-year old franchise was hardly a turn-on, and I was content to ignore the new shooter until it inevitably showed up cheap in a Steam sale.

But the few hours I spent on the open beta, turned out to be some of the most effortlessly enjoyable I’d had on a multiplayer FPS since Halo Reach. Not only is DOOM now well and truly on my radar, I’ve pre-ordered it, marked launch day on my calendar, and I’m itching to get stuck back in.

DOOM

Thanks to its arsenal of chunky weaponry, brutal melee finishers and fast-flowing combat, DOOM’s multiplayer is a properly cathartic experience that refreshingly, doesn’t take itself too seriously.

A regular stream of perversely entertaining moments made each match I played memorable. Whether I’d vaporised an entire team with a quad-damage-amped super shotgun, or beat-down a Revenant demon to the unsettling approval of the commentator; it was easy to find elements that kept me smiling.

Rounds concluded with the top three scorers on-screen, wailing on air-guitars, dancing ‘The Carlton’ and pelvic-thrusting away in their garish custom armour sets. There’s no place for subtlety in DOOM’s multiplayer. It’s just gory, unashamedly juvenile fun.

DOOM

But the overwhelmingly poor response from the community suggests that this new reboot has completely missed its mark. At time of writing, there are over 12,000 reviews for the DOOM beta on Steam, of which an incredible 63% are negative. So what is it that players are complaining about?

Most feel as though ID is forcing modern FPS elements into their arena-style shooter for the sake of market appeal. But at the risk of sounding cavalier, “…so what?”

Class systems, custom loadouts, perks and levelling, are all popular mechanics in modern shooters. ID have simply done what any sane developer would, and embraced these features to meet the expectations of their target demographic.

Ultimately, their aim hasn’t changed from what it was in ’93. The original Doom was a fast-paced, gory frag-fest designed to appeal to young-adult males, and from what I’ve played of the reboot, that design concept remains. All that’s changed is the mechanics that facilitate it.

DOOM

Now I’m not deliberately ignoring the elephant in the room. The argument that it’s ‘just not Doom’ is a valid one, and I’m no stranger to seeing beloved franchises tweaked and changed drastically from their origins.

But there has to be an acknowledgement that video games are a constantly evolving medium, and developers like ID have to adapt to meet the expectations of their audience. If they didn’t, this new DOOM wouldn’t even exist. No, you can’t strafe-run or rocket jump anymore, but there’s a whole lot more you can do that wasn’t even mechanically possible 23 years ago.

Furthermore, give it another 20-odd years and we’ll be seeing the current younger generation whining on the Internet about how their games don’t have perks or class systems anymore. Because a whole new set of mechanics will have become the genre norm and the medium will have evolved again.

This new reboot was never going to please everybody. Such an influential IP was always going to have some unrealistic expectations to live up to. But from what I’ve played, it’s really quite fun.

Maybe if the community spent less time lamenting the loss of what was, and more time trying to appreciate what is, they might just realise that new DOOM’s multiplayer is actually pretty damn good.

John Hatfield
There are two things in life John enjoys more than anything else: gaming and writing. In 2014 he decided to combine the two, and Level-Clear was born!

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