Doom 2016 has reignited my passion for FPS and I consider it to be the benchmark all future FPS will have to be measured against. I hadn’t seriously played an Id game until its release and now I’m desperate to see what they and Bethesda will do next. The new Doom is mechanically excellent, supremely confident and above all else a huge amount of fun. But why have no other recent shooters got to me in the same way?
One of the first things I considered is DOOM’s focus on gameplay over meaningless spectacle. Nothing about the game is scripted, unlike a lot of what you can expect to find in Call of Duty. You can leap through the air machine-gunning the hell-spawn below and then chainsaw one of the bigger lads in half. In a game more focused on spectacle this would probably happen inside a cut-scene or control would have been wrested away from the player in order to perform the “spectacular” set piece. The fact that you can do things like this completely organically also adds to DOOM’s tactical depth. It is always the player that has agency, not the game (or at least whoever designed it). Set pieces are becoming more and more a part of the modern shooter and while they do look impressive, they’re not what I would call substantial.
Hyper realism, at least in some regards is now a core part of what modern shooters have become. I had a look at the back cover of Medal of Honour : War-Fighter the other day. Here are some direct quotes. “Real Operators, Real War”, “The same tech behind Battlefield 3” and perhaps most tellingly of all “Improved gameplay with new animation, destruction and graphics” There seems to be a belief that fancy tech and realism actually improves the overall quality of the game, something I simply cannot comprehend. Sure, using your chainsaw on an enemy and receiving ammo as a reward isn’t realistic, but it makes sense from a mechanical standpoint. Quality (mechanically, narratively etc) must come before realism and cutting edge tech. Take a look at the back of the DOOM 2016 box. Slap bang in the middle in big red letters is one simple phrase that perfectly encapsulates the whole experience “Fight Like Hell”. DOOM knows exactly what it wants to be and adjusts its focus accordingly, something not a lot of games have the balls to do.
There are also a lot of small things that set DOOM apart from the rest. Being able to carry more than two weapons at a time, no reloading, health pickups, open-ended levels, I could go on. These are all hallmarks of classic nineties FPS and while some might argue that they are a touch old-school, in my eyes they haven’t aged a bit. They all help the game flow and generally make things a lot more fun. I feel like modern shooters lost sight of what truly makes a game feel good to play. There have been countless iterations of what, to me are essentially the same boring, unimaginative experience. Terrorists or Russians are doing something naughty and we have to go and sort them out, in the most realistic (dull) way possible.
And it’s not that these games don’t sell well, they do. But with sales of DOOM 2016 now in the millions, no executive in a smart suit can tell me that there’s no placein the market for a bit of proper shooter action. I don’t want the same old dreary military simulator over and over again. This might sound insane, but my dive into hell was a real breath of fresh air.
This may have seemed a little bit preachy, and I’m sorry for that, but DOOM’s success both critically and commercially is a hugely significant moment for the games industry. We may at last see an end to the grey-brown snooze fests that are modern military shooters. So thank you Id and thank you Bethesda, my love for FPS now burns brighter than ever.