I didn't expect to love 2016's Doom reboot as much as I did. After a period of wild and wonderful experimentation in the 2000s, the FPS genre seemed to have settled down into a comfortable groove typified by the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield, with a focus on scripted setpieces and one-off gimmicks.
For me, what set Doom apart and made it great was its confidence in itself, and its focus on pure gameplay.
Where other modern FPS games throw in a turret/vehicle section every twenty minutes or so, as if they're terrified the player is getting bored, Doom had faith in the ability of its core combat loop to carry the experience without the need for extraneous fluff. Variety was provided in the form of new guns and demons, not a section where you control a drone that's never used again. Rather than feeling like a desperate babysitter trying to amuse you with an endless parade of new toys, it threw down the gauntlet and said "we're a game about a dude blasting demons to pulp, and that's it." And that was such a refreshing change of pace. Confidence, after all, is very sexy. Being fussed over, not so much.
It's other big hook was that it prioritized gameplay above all. It didn't constantly take control away from the player to thrust them into barely (or completely non-) interactive setpieces and long winded cut-scenes. It didn't force you to walk slowly from point A to point B for five minutes while an NPC vomits exposition all over you. Where so many modern games lose themselves in trying to be a Hollywood blockbuster, Doom embraced what it was; a video game. And video games are meant to be played, not just watched.
The whole experience felt almost like an intentionally concocted antidote to the tired formula of the 2010s FPS. In recent years, the genre had become like a pizza shop that layered so many toppings onto their pizzas that all you get in the end is a cacophony of dissonant flavours. Doom went back to basics; it was a meat lovers pizza with bacon, salami and hot sauce, and it was goddamn delicious.
This may sound strange, as Doom is an R-rated game soaked in gore and viscera, but in a lot of ways I almost feel like its Nintendo-esque in its tight focus on a central gameplay loop with minimal frills. Maybe that why it appeals to me so powerfully. Whatever the reason, I'm glad it exists, and it stands as a glorious testament that there is still room in the genre for games that don't follow the rulebook and boldly go their own way.
Bring on Doom Eternal!
Bet with Liquidlaser: I say PS5 and Xbox Series will sell more than 56 million combined by the end of 2023.