Critical Contrast – E3DOOM2016

Ultimately, Doom 3 championed the horror aesthetics of Doom, treating them as the core of the experience rather than the trappings, and that wasn’t what people wanted from the property. Take away the Doomguy’s rocket skates, open playgrounds and hordes of demonic playmates, and people know, remember where they were and throw their toys out of the pram. Doom 2016’s solution- give them all back.

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Fast paced Doom is back, as are all the guns, demons, and colour that made it iconic. Bright, open arenas are populated by bright hordes of demons for the player to run around at break neck speeds, dodging projectiles and racking up the body count to heavy metal music and not a flashlight in sight. Nobody gives a fuck about the atmosphere and any story that helps convey it, least of all the Doom Guy himself, who actively shuns the attempts of the supporting cast to embroil him in their shit. He’s here for the same reason the player is- to kill some hellspawn and have a damn good time doing so!

But Doom 2016 doesn’t give us the original Doom with prettier graphics. More importantly, it gives us the legend of Doom, the Doom the world saw through rose-tinted goggles. This is the core of Doom 2016- nostalgia, and like the title it invokes, it champions the gameplay first and foremost.

For a nostalgic homage, Doom 2016 changes the core mechanics more than the black sheep of the family did- Doom 3 merely changed the player’s speed, the demon’s damage output and added a reload to facilitate the survival horror gameplay loop, but the player’s only source of health, armour and ammo remained pickups, as in the original, encouraging exploration and resource management.

Doom 2016 retains these as well, but it’s the demons themselves that hand out the most resources, acting as pick up piñatas depending on how they’re killed- the new “Glory Kills” (canned animations of graphic, melee based mutilation) bursting weakened demons into showers of health whilst a player low on ammunition need only break out the chainsaw to create an eruption of viscera and precious ammo from the nearest hellspawn. And sure Doom 2016 brought back the hordes, and the quick on his feet Doomguy, but Doom junior is still slower than Doom senior, and junior’s projectiles are twice as fast and much harder to avoid, necessitating that the player stays close to his attackers to make use of these new mechanics, or fail.

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Doom 2016 also seeks to overwhelm the player more than the Doom of 93. In the former, the player would open a door into a room and the demons would be there and waiting, allowing the player to analyse their slow-moving targets safe in the knowledge that their flank was clear in case of retreat, even allowing for the use of cover and stop and pop tactics (sacrilegious I know). The latter actually takes some cues from Doom 3, letting the player walk into a room and then teleporting fast, relentless enemies in all around- no safe place, no retreat, no surrender. Where it avoids the pitfalls of 2004 however is by making the ambush entirely consensual- the arena remaining empty until the player triggers the ambush with the push of a button (be that by destroying a gore nest or an actual button).

With no place to hide the player is constantly forced on the move, killing whatever’s unlucky enough to be in their way, and when their health or ammo is low go in on the attack, creating  a frantically furious cycle of killing, near death, brutal killing and repeat until nothing lives but you.

This is Doom 2016’s interpretation of the gameplay loop, and whilst Doom 93’s focus on projectile avoidance at a distance and tactical decision-making encouraged a fast, offensive play style, Doom 2016 demands it, and like Doom 3, any player trying to play like the original will be swiftly killed until they learn the new way- it’s just that the new way isn’t a jarring with the old, and more importantly, what people know Doom to be.

This is also encouraged by the level design, which whilst boasting open, arena like spaces (more so in fact than the original), they’re still not as open as in Doom 93 in length and width. Instead, they champion height and depth, giving the player plenty of space to run around in (aided by another addition to the mechanics, a double jump) whilst keeping them close to the action at all times.

The main place where this falls short of the original is tactically. Whilst the demons of 2016 are more diverse in movement than ever before, their attack patterns are far too similar, and it’s not until the fairly late introduction of the Pinky demon (whose armoured front and charge attack demands different tactics) that the player really needs to prioritize one enemy over another. However, this tactical reading however isn’t something that’s remembered from the original title, and in service to the frenetic gameplay loop of legend, was rightly sacrificed at the altar of Doom.


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