“Doom” Returns | Games, Gamers, & Gaming, June 15, 2016

As game design technology grows more sophisticated, old favorites are reimagined with better developed stories, more robust graphics, and new gameplay mechanics. This gives us a chance to breathe new life into the games we love the most. The latest such franchise to get this treatment is Doom.

Storied history

doom.jpg6716Released in 1993, the original Doom was revolutionary is many ways. Its biggest technological achievement is arguably its three-dimensional multilevel stages; this game had you going up stairs and elevators to discover new areas. Doom was also the original online multiplayer game. Players on the same network could all play on the same map and deal damage to one another.

What everyone remembers, however, isn’t the revolutionary design but the controversy. Doom was, especially for the time, a brutally violent game with intense, dark themes. The “Doomguy” (as the player-character is known) was trapped in a military research facility on Mars where a portal to hell had opened. Doomguy has to fight his way out and eventually finds himself in hell itself. While the graphical effects were primitive, there was plenty of blood and gore to go around; bodies burst when they were caught in explosions, corpses were covered in splatter, and Doomguy grew more bruised and bloodied as you took damage.

Doom was thrust into the spotlight in the wake of the tragedy in Columbine, CO, when videos made by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris showed them practicing with a shotgun that they said was “just like the one from Doom.” This became a flash point in a long-standing campaign against video game violence, the likes of which we are still fighting now.

Brutal legacy

While the story line for Doom was never particularly well developed, it did get a sequel called Hell on Earth in 1995; that same year, The Ultimate Doom, a remastered and updated version of the original, was also released. Final Doom was built on this game’s engine and is regarded as a more challenging and more intense experience, featuring new levels and enemies. In 2004, Doom 3 saw the franchise rebooted with a new graphics engine and gameplay mechanics. It was not as well received by fans, being played at a slower, more cinematic pace.

The original game is still alive and well, however. It’s available on both Steam and GOG, so gamers can experience it in all its glory. There’s even a mod that users can download called Brutal Doom. It ups the violence to extreme levels, with brutal hand-to-hand combat, more varied weapons, and the option to turn the gore up to ridiculous levels; it basically turns the game into the nightmare scenario that concerned citizens imagined more than 20 years ago. Much like the new game from Bethesda.

Back to hell

Released on May 13, 2016, Doom is a true rebirth of the series. Bringing back the fast-paced gameplay of the original while implementing mechanics from modern shooters, this Doom feels simultaneously familiar and fresh. The shotgun is still the trusty friend one remembers it being, enemies will still (sometimes literally) eat you alive if you stand still for more than a couple of seconds, and the anxiety of walking into a new room only to have the doors shut and the sound of demonic howling is more intense than ever. There’s more hand-to-hand combat, with “glory kills” being a way to pick up health power-ups. Players can upgrade their armor and weapons and earn buffs for their character, which make finding secrets, surviving damage, and dealing out damage easier.

This new game is unforgiving; it punishes the player for even the slightest mistake, and dying is almost certainly a regular occurrence for most participants. Doom doesn’t wish to empower you and make you feel like the hero; it wants you to fear for your safety and fight for your life. It is not, however, a claustrophobic experience. Environments are open and offer varied terrain, giving the player many options for engaging the enemy and planning attacks. What the game does not do, however, is slow down. Players don’t have to reload, enemies don’t stop for more than a few breaths, and (other than hunting down secrets) there is little reason to stay in an area once it has been cleared.

Doom does have a multiplayer mode, but it’s not quite as much fun as the single-player experience. The multiplayer ties certain weapons and abilities to experience progression and awards random prizes for completing and winning matches. The multiplayer is fast-paced, but there’s not much variety, save for a power-up that randomly spawns and allows you to play as a demon.

Doom is a perfect example of how gaming technology has changed over the years, but it’s also a testament to how solid game design and engaging mechanics will always matters most. Much like its conceptual parent and namesake, it’s a stripped-down and visceral engagement. To earn a feeling of accomplishment, you’ll have to rip and tear your way through the forces of hell itself.

Until next time, keep telling yourself: just one more level!

RobbinsWebfinalM. Brandon Robbins is Media Coordinator, Goldsboro High School, NC, and a member of the 2011 class of the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders

This article was published in Library Journal's June 15, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

M. Brandon Robbins About M. Brandon Robbins

M. Brandon Robbins (mbrandon.robbins@gmail.com) is the Media Coordinator at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, NC. He's a member of the 2011 class of ALA Emerging Leaders.