DOOM: Slogging Through Hell To Deliver A Knockout Title

To Hell and back: that’s what it took development studio ID to put out one of the best games of 2016 – but the true brilliance lies in their approach to design.

To talk about DOOM is to talk about the history of video games. Few games have been as massively influential and impactful as ID’s romp through demon-infested hallways back in the winter of ’93.

The ultra-violent narrative saw the titular DOOMguy storm through waves of horrendous monstrosities in a bid to emerge the dominant one. DOOM unquestionably earned its laurels and place in the hall of fame – but it took ID quite a while to find their groove with the latest iteration.

DOOM (2016) had a long and tumultuous development history. Spanning nearly eight years since it was initially announced, ID and DOOM found themselves – perhaps fittingly – in development hell. The studio saw many of its notable higher-ups such as whizkid John Carmack leave the company, and the studio found itself short staffed for the first time in a long while. Despite this, the team resolved to push through and finish what they had set out to do.

After the success of DOOM 3 – the title that saw DOOM considerably trade its breakneck speed in favour of claustrophobic corridors and horror galore, the team initially plodded along in the same direction.

However, something was wrong; the further they went, the less the game felt like DOOM. At some point, ID issued an overhaul of the game once more, and the team sat back down to dig away at the question “What makes DOOM, DOOM?”

Somewhere, in the bowels of energy-drink ridden nights at the office, they found their answer: going back to basics. It’s startling to see the rebooted DOOM played alongside the original. They appear to be near copies aside from the added graphical fidelity.

The speed is there, the hyper-violence is there, even the awkward middle-of-the-chest gun position is there should the player opt to enable it. DOOM went back to basics to remind the players that they shouldn’t be afraid of being locked in a room with demons the way that DOOM 3 tried to – ID reminded us all that the demons should be afraid of being locked in with us.

Aside from the addition of systems like GloryKills, SnapMap and multiplayer, the core gameplay remained true to the original DOOM – only amplified tenfold through Mick Gordon’s stunning soundtrack of relentless riffs, sharp stabs, and seething anger.

The GloryKill system, while new, gave players a chance of performing snappy executions on weakened enemies in order to replenish their health. SnapMap, on the other hand, functions as an easy-to-use level editor which gives players a chance of testing their mettle against each other’s designs.

The series’ iconic chainsaw saw its return as a fuel-based insta-gib weapon that would cause enemies to spew out copious amounts of ammo and health – and the fan-favourite BFG saw its return as the mother-of-all-destruction that it should be, functioning as a three-charge weapon that could eradicate entire rooms of hell minions.

The new additions do indeed serve to spruce up the platter that ID put forth, but the true testament to the brilliance of their design lies in their ability to weave in new additions that complement the original design rather than perverting it. The video game industry has little room for purism, but all the more for timeless design.