“They are rage, brutal. Without mercy. But You? You will be worse. Rip and Tear, until it is done.”
That line right there; combined with the opening sequence did way more to sell me on the thesis statement of DOOM 2016 more than any piece of marketing ever released for the game. Well, that and the soundtrack, which I’ll gush about later. And that thesis statement is to justify murdering as many demons as is possible.
It’s a game that spares no time getting to the point of itself and is relentless in its pacing of combat. Where hanging back and taking precise shots is eschewed in favor of wading into the thick of combat and reducing the denizens of hell down to chunky salsa. That doesn’t mean the game is dumb, far from it. The second to second decision making, target prioritization, and weapon/ammo management; combined with a move or die philosophy, make for a first-person shooting combat experience that feels more like high-speed murder chess than what you would expect from a shooter these days.
This intense speed is facilitated by the Glory Kills. These extra brutal melee kills are the heart of the pacing because they are the only way to get consistent in-combat health regeneration; the lower your health, the higher the health payout when you make an enemy into a fine paste, thus giving a very nice “high risk, high reward”. This is also accompanied by the chainsaw that gives you a nice explosion of ammo every time you kill something with it, like a piñata…but with bullets instead of candy.
You get a fine painter’s palate of punishment to help you both figuratively and literally paint Mars a new shade of red. All have their purpose and no singular one feels weak. The Heavy Assault Rifle and Minigun are for mowing down mobs of poor bastards in your way, the shotguns (regular and super variety) are for when you want to put a new hole in a particularly pesky demon’s chest, the Plasma Rifle and Gauss Cannon are for when you want to crowd control or snipe dudes respectively; and of course, we got the holy grail, the big daddy, the BFG 9000, or as I like to call it the “fuck this I’m on a deadline” button. Oh, and did I forget to mention that you get a FUCKING CHAINSAW?! BECAUSE YOU DO AND IT’S RAD.
All of these weapons are needed to get past the denizens of Hell who want to see you locked back up in a spooky sarcophagus like last time. The majority of the enemies from the first two DOOM games make a return, with the Summoner filling in for the Archvile from DOOM 2 because he was on sick leave and the new Hell Razer enemy who feels like that weird new hire at the office, but is a pretty decent guy when you get to know him. Imps, Cacodemons, Hell Knights, Pinkies, Revenants, both flavors of Mancubus, Barons of Hell, and various flavors of undead all return and are just waiting to have their days ruined because they’re demons and they don’t deserve happiness.
In the background and downtime of the carnage is the telling of a story that’s surprisingly candid and self-aware of the proceedings and rolls with them. The UAC’s exploitation of Hell and Argent Energy to solve the world’s energy crisis (TOPICAL) is a not-so-subtle message about how Capitalism and Corporate Greed are the roots of all evil in this setting. The Doom Slayer, naturally, is only there to kill demons in an increasingly brutal and efficient manner, mirroring the player’s main reason they would play a DOOM game in the first place. This is best exemplified when Dr. Samuel Hayden tries to explain the situation and the Doom Slayer just grabs the monitor displaying Hayden and shoves it out of the way. The action of it letting loose an air of contempt so thick you could cut through it with a chainsaw.
But the main thing I like about DOOM from a narrative standpoint is how it uses its gameplay to tell a story as well. It tells a story of a force of nature being loosed from its shackles and wreaking unprecedented havoc upon its would-be captors, the momentary pangs of fear in their eyes when they see their uncaring assailant brutalize them with his bare hands. Make no mistake: this is the tale of an ancient evil being awoken and unleashed upon the planet of Mars, fueled by nothing more than malice and hatred for those it slaughters; the key difference here is that the Ancient Evil being awoken is you. It’s possibly the most metal set up for a video game this side of Brutal Legend and I am here for it. It’s the one time I can think of that a video game does this and I love it because of how simple it is.
But before we go, we gotta talk about the soundtrack like I mentioned at the beginning of all of this (FORESHADOWING!). It’s really good. How good? Good enough to both be nominated for and win awards since its release, as well as being the reason I bought the game, to begin with. The use of heavy instrumentals, low droning (don’t know the proper term because I don’t know how to talk about music), and the use of djent (a sub-genre of progressive metal known for its use of low pitch guitar sounds that are almost distorted at times) make the soundtrack for the game feel suitably heavy and both appropriately and surprisingly industrial in tone in times. It feels closer to Meshuggah than DOOM and DOOM 2 in terms of sound at times and it’s pretty great.
All of this adds up to make possibly one of my favorite games of the last ten years because of how wonderfully they all tie together into one nice, violent, blood-soaked experience that is simultaneously really silly and smart at the same time. It scratches some very specific itches for me that I didn’t even know I was suffering from at the time I first played it and it has remained in my mind since then. If you don’t mind a lot of gore, I highly recommend you check it out. And Rip and Tear. Until it is done.
MOJO’s NOTE: Images as always are provided by https://www.igdb.com/games/doom--2/presskit