Why is Doom so great? It's not afraid to be itself.
Doom came out of nowhere for me. I mean, I knew it was coming out - that id was rebooting the classic game that put the FPS genre on the map. But I had no idea I would like it so much.
I'm not great at shooters, and I find the grimdark aesthetic of most full-priced FPS games fantastically dull. But Doom is nothing like your average Call of Duty or Battlefield or even Halo. It's a loving homage to the weirdness of earlier games in the series, and frankly a brave step forward for the genre.
It sounds weird to call a ridiculously violent, bloody shooter brave, but hear me out. Doom is so great because it's not afraid to be itself.
The game is so unapologetically, wonderfully, earnestly 90s and metal and gory in the most cartoonish way. You fight demons on Mars at a blistering pace, and no one in the game has any compunctions about what is going on. In the very first scene, a glossy computer display tells you that demons have invaded. There's no grimdark, Batman Begins-ish backstory. No attempt at passing off the gloriously goofy conceit as hard science fiction. Nope. You are a nameless bro in a badass suit, fighting demons from hell. And I love it.
Doom knows exactly what it wants to be. It knows exactly what it is. It makes no apologies. From that blaring industrial soundtrack to its concept-art-come alive aesthetics, it is the Doomiest Doom that ever Doomed.
I could go on about how good and new the combat feels, how tight the level design is, how cool and refreshing it is that a AAA mega violent shooter has bits of Metroid Prime DNA - in its light platforming and the way it rewards exploration - and how cool it is that it looks and feels like a much more indulgent Alien: Isolation. But you can read reviews for that.
A lot of games fall into a self-important trap. Their creative teams, probably with their hearts in the right place, want their violent AAA games to have rich characters, important stories, a sense of heaviness and drama. And that works beautifully in a game that isn't explicitly about shooting thousands of enemies in their faces. But in a shooter that isn't explicitly referencing military tactics and a very specific "war is hell" vibe, there's massive dissonance there. Doom drops that pretense entirely. It wants you to know, from its very first minutes, that this is a game about having fun shooting and bludgeoning DEMONS FROM HELL IN SPACE.
There's something wonderfully 90s about this - even outside of the very direct references to the elder doom games, right down to the hidden classic Doom levels and Easter eggs - this "be yourself" ethos. It's not the first modern game to do this, by any means. But it's one of the very rare FPS games in this era that feels entirely comfortable in its own skin. It's scaly, preator-suited, radioactive skin. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.