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A Look at WHY Doom Was So Great

There is a new DOOM coming. Surely everybody knows that by now, at least anybody who's actually still playing Doom on their computers. Or mobile phones. Or ATMs. Or printers.

Anyway, Doom has been something of a cult classic for the longest time. It's still played online, it's still being modded, and it's still a damn good game, even in this day and age. But what makes such an old and archaic game like Doom still feel so fresh and different among a plethora of modern day triple A titles?


If you think the answer was "retro" or "nostalgia" or even "rose-tinted-glasses," you would be wrong.

Let me segue a bit back to the modern DOOM, the one that's coming out one of these days (fingers crossed!). Doom has a lot to live up to. After all, it's not only a successor to an old classic, but it's a reboot, as well, even if the devs originally claimed it wasn't. Change is gonna happen, which is bound to upset a bunch of old fans, especially purists who don't want anything but an HD remake of the original (I'm not gonna lie, I think that would be amazing). It sounds like it's going to be a difficult task to live up to the classic predecessors' legacy, but the checklist for doing it right is actually a lot easier than it sounds. The defining features of Doom are actually really basic and really obvious.

*Note: Henceforth, the new DOOM will be referred to in all capitals, while the classic will be referred to with only the D capitalized.

1. An Actual Health System


Regenerating health sounds like a good idea on paper; a system that allows you to play the game's story by giving the player a chance to recover if they are caught with their pants down. The idea is to provide a smooth flow so as to have as little "Game Overs" as possible, particularly one resulting of having only one health point left and expected to fight a horde of enemies with no medpack to help you out along the way.

Unfortunately, regenerating from bullet wounds actually breaks up the action far, far, far more than you'd probably realize if you were to believe the above paragraph. Modern shooters like Call of Duty put the player more often behind cover than behind the scope, despite "Aiming Down Sights" being a mechanic that's been so popularized by Call of Duty that it was actually synonymous with it.

Fun Fact: the first game to actually have Aiming Down Sights was technically Wolfenstein 3D. In fact, that was the only option you had for your gun!


By contrast, Doom used the good-ol' numeric health system. When playing survival horror games, one would assume that in doing so, a player would be a lot more careful about what they try to do in game, but the effects are completely opposite. In fact, in having a health system with a large amount of health, Doom's action is completely and utterly relentless. Doomguy has a lot of health to start with, and while he takes considerably more damage on higher difficulties, it was offset by the fact that there were convenient health kits scattered all over the place, though sometimes just out of reach of Doomguy's bloodied and broken face. The health system flows perfectly naturally, keeping players alert on their health bar while also knowing that only if they kept pushing will they have the opportunity to heal; hiding behind cover wasn't going to do anything but block incoming shots.

The health system and the careful placement of health kits is exactly what kept Doom going forward without stopping it for a moment, and is integral to the proper "Doom" experience. To be honest, I would settle for a "Payday-esque" or "Halo-esque" system of regeneration where your health only goes up so far to give you a fighting chance in a bad situation, at least on the easier modes, but for the proper Doom experience, a health system with smartly placed medkits needs to exist.


2. Intuitive, Secret-Filled Levels


Doom had large, sprawling maps that were filled with a whole bunch of secrets and alternative paths. But what it didn't have was waypoint indicators to let you know in which direction you were supposed to be going. Surprisingly, it didn't need to. Doom's maps flowed very naturally, as big and imposing as they were, and even if you ended up getting lost, chances are you have actually stumbled upon a secret or a clue telling you that you weren't supposed to reach this area yet. There were no actual dead ends in the game, no invisible walls, nobody on the microphone threatening to shoot you if you left the battle zone. It vastly encouraged exploration, because at best you'd find awesome gear like the Berserker pack or BFG ammo, and at worst, it'll let you learn more about the map by getting lost, and figuring out how that zone plays in later in the game.

The levels were far from open world and non-linear, but it certainly felt like there was a great deal of freedom. Finding secrets on the map and realizing how you got to them were constantly rewarding with each playthrough on each higher difficulty, primarily because on higher difficulties they were of enormous help, and genuinely contributed to the game experience in ways that Easter Eggs and concept art never could. A large part of what made the Doom levels so great in this regard as well as in terms of general exploration was that you were never bound to a single area at different parts of the stage. In games such as Call of Duty and Uncharted, levels are broken down into segments where one player cannot travel back and forth between, instead only allowed to proceed according to the games' script. Largely this was in part because of the games' story's script, which were always too rigid to allow for the possibility of the protagonist going back, often creating some excuse like "the helicopter was in the way" or "the rocks tumbled down and caved in the entrance." Conversely, Doom never told you where you should be and where you should go. The levels, themselves, were just laid out in front of you, and expected you to figure it out. Yet, despite the little amount of hand-holding, their design was so well made that they didn't have to reduce it to a corridor to have you naturally find your way to the end without any guidance.


It's a big challenge, especially because the only thing more difficult than mapmaking is the design process, but as long as Doom levels give any freedom of exploration between stages and fill it with secrets, it'll be a Doom game. Whether or not it's a good one would largely depend on its quality, however.

Fun Fact: Doomguy was one of the original generic marine characters in the genre. So generic, in fact, that he didn't even have a stock name, nor was he referred to as Doomguy officially. He's also one of the most iconic characters in gaming history.


3. Not Trying to be "Epic"

Did you ever notice how the coolest people you ever meet are the ones who aren't actually trying to come across as cool? Part of it comes from their biologically-ingrained charisma, unfortunately. The other, however, is a true acceptance of one's own identity.


Doom is sort of like the "cool guy" of first person shooters, while modern military shooters (and Call of Duty being the prime example, here) often come across as trying too hard to be one. It's one of the reasons why a lot of shooters are jokingly referred to as a "Doom clone" even nowadays.

Think about it this way: Doom's concept, story, and gameplay were all really matter-of-fact. You play as Doomguy. You fight the legions of hell. Then you fight the devil, and beat the literal hell out of him. Then, you win. The gameplay could be described as a pure first person shooting experience, not trying to show off story, complicated orchestral music, gameplay features, or anything.


Why was all this awesome? Because it just was.

To be fair, this was largely because video games weren't such a huge industry in its time, but that worked in its favor to make it such a great experience. By contrast, Call of Duty had gained a reputation as one of the most expensive games in history. It had it all: Graphics. Motion capture. Explosions. Gruff voice acting. Cutscenes. Explosions. Dramatic script writing. An orchestral music score. Explosions.


Yet the truth is that all this stuff just makes Call of Duty pretentious. The stories try too hard to be deep and complex that they just seem bloated. The motion capture is so overused that cutscenes happen more often and last longer than gameplay. The gruff voice acting stops making the characters sound cool really fast and makes it sound more like they're trying to reaffirm their own masculinity. The orchestral music is so epic (in the literal sense) and dramatic that it went over the edge and oversold the mood of the situation.

Then the explosions: Everybody loves them, especially gamers, but they're everywhere, and none of them occur because of anything the player did. In a video game, what fun is it to see bombastic special effects if you did nothing to contribute to it?


Bottom line, Doom was such an "epic" (not literally) experience because it drew a fine line between the horror tone it tried to set and the absurdity that came with it, and then radically hopped between the two, having enough overall goofiness and zaniness to poke fun at itself, but enough horror to send a chill down your spine. At least, for the standards of its time. Modern military shooters ended up trying so hard to be serious that they ended up being a joke. Not a funny one, either.

DOOM can easily accomplish this by accepting that it is a video game first, and a story second. It can put in as many cutscenes and story elements as it wants, but by the end of the day, it has to have a larger focus on being what it is; a video game. It's what Doom always was, it's what DOOM and beyond always should be. Lord knows it's a franchise that has a lot of biologically-ingrained charisma.

Fun Fact: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is a return to form sequel which came after the abysmally received Call of Juarez: The Cartel, which was almost universally panned for its pretentious characters and atmosphere. Gunslinger, instead, decided to just take the Wild West concept and run wild with it, going completely bonkers with its "drunken recollections" style of storytelling that virtually never interrupted the gameplay. In the end, it was a hell of a good time!


4. Modding

I mean, come on.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the .wad extention actually stands for "Where's All the Data?" question mark included?


5. A Crazy Variety of Disturbing Yet Colorful Enemies

Doom's most impressive aspect was the monster design. Boy were they all memorable. Who could ever forget the first time they saw the Zombieman, then meeting face-to-invisible-face with the Spectre? The minion-resurrecting Archvile or the homing fireball launching Revenant? Or the gigantic, rapid-fire-rocket-launcher-toting Cyberdemon or the horrific Spidermind? Just in case you couldn't tell they were different based on their shape and sizes, they also came in a variety of colors, too, for your color-coded needs. For a game about a world as bleak as Doom, every element in it was colorful and vivid, and a lot of that was lost in Doom 3's dark tone, visuals, and mood. Hopefully, DOOM wouldn't suffer from that and opts for a more visually varying set of monsters.

Fun Fact: The new DOOM is believed to be largely inspired by the Brutal Doom mod, which in turn was entirely inspired by The Doom Comic. Whether or not this is true can't be said for certain, but many features which are in Brutal Doom are said to also exist in DOOM, as well!


6. The Ability to Carry All Your Weapons

Perhaps Duke Nukem: Forever's greatest sin was the lack of ability to carry all your weapons at the same time and use each in their appropriate situation. Why this is the case, nobody has a clue. Probably not even Gearbox. But the bottom line is that after coming from a series that had the character carry piles and piles of weapons, that was a serious downgrade which greatly ruined the experience. Luckily, the latest Wolfenstein seemed to ignore that piece of realism and opted for the classic approach. Fingers crossed DOOM does the same.

Fun Fact: Because of his inability to jump and his ridiculously fast movement speed, Doomguy has long been believed to be bound in a rocket-powered wheelchair. That would also explain his ability to carry multiple weapons without any repercussions on his inhuman speed!



Besides the obvious, which is basically just Doom's general world and story (perhaps reimagined), DOOM doesn't have to do much to sell itself as a proper Doom experience. As long as it remains true to the above list, as much as possible, it should end up being fine, no matter how many changes it makes.

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