[Originally published May 30, 2016]
The new DOOM is a masterpiece of carnage and speed, but there’s more to it than stellar mechanics. It boasts a surprisingly robust story – both fun and full of hidden meaning. Its intelligence may not reveal itself upon first glance, but the story of DOOM’s protagonist is actually a light meta-commentary on the history of DOOM and its developer, iD.
For those unfamiliar, you begin the game chained to a sarcophagus, in which your player-character – the Doom Slayer – has been imprisoned. Much like the DOOM franchise itself – its visuals, themes, and mechanics – he has been asleep for quite some time. He tears off his chains, and smooshes the head of a nearby demon like an overripe berry. Boom. He’s back, and he’s as angry as ever. Bad news if you’re a denizen of hell. See, several codex entries reveal that the demons imprisoned our hero millennia ago, as he was spending all his time waging a literal genocide against demonkind. They describe his unstoppable might and his unending rage. The Doom Slayer is a mythical powerhouse, not unlike the original DOOM games.
DOOM was the floppy to have when it first released. Games still show signs of its significance and legacy. DOOM put iD on the map, rocketing them to legendary status. They couldn’t be stopped. Both iD and their Doom Slayer could fell titans.
Then it all changed.
Ion Storm – a team consisting of many former iD devs – shattered the legacy of both DOOM and iD. Done in by their hubris – a poorly conceived ad campaign paired with a critically panned title – Ion Storm botched iD’s FPS legacy with the disasterous Daikatana – a game in the very genre they pioneered. Much in the same way, the Doom Slayer – lured by his rage – falls for a trap set by the demons. He enters the Blood Temple – a site of his former domination – and Demon priests bring the walls tumbling down around him. This is how he comes to be imprisoned within the sarcophagus. iD would also disappear from the public eye for quite some time, releasing Doom 3 to mixed reactions. Two mythic figures – the Doom Slayer and iD – brought down within the confines of their former expertise.
The DOOM franchise went on hiatus shortly thereafter, as did the Doom Slayer. iD was actually making a DOOM 4, but cancelled it. The newest game’s been in – appropriately – development hell ever since. They struggled to retain its identity, showing a clear disdain for modern shooters. Now DOOM has returned, and so has its protagonist. After years spent trapped within that accursed rock, he’s hear to rip and tear. He fights demons that – like many of the last decade’s middling shooters – never seem to quit.
Let’s see if it’s a fight he can win.