Doom: An Old Take on New Design

ID Software has certainly been on the uptake in recent years. After the failures of Doom 3 and Rage to reclaim the shooter throne, they had the surprisingly great Wolfenstein. No one could have predicted that a new Doom would be good, but we were all completely surprised with just how great it is.

Doom (6)

One Man Army:

The story of Doom is simple: Demons are invading Mars, you’re pissed off, now go kill them. Doom’s protagonist: The Doom Marine does everything he can to tell the story to go f**k itself. All you need to know is that there are demons of all shapes and sizes standing in your way.

First from a gameplay standpoint, the feel of the guns is a high point. Every weapon feels meaty; from the sound to the impact and makes you feel powerful. This is not a realistic shooter, but a return to the old ways: Where characters could hold multiple guns and there was no such thing as reloading.

The level design is probably the biggest shock for fans of modern shooters. Levels in Doom are massive; with multiple ways around, secrets and a lot of fighting. If you’re an older shooter fan, the level design in Doom will probably be enough to make it worth looking at on that alone.


The level design takes us back to the old days of maze-like levels

The majority of the enemies in the game are from previous Dooms with a few new ones here and there. The format doesn’t change between levels: You walk into a room, demons show up, you kill everything in sight.

While that is old-school shooting, it’s the changes and additions to Doom that really elevate it for modern audiences.

Hunting Around:

There are several big changes in Doom compared to previous games. The first is the new glory kill system that acts as a middle-ground between static and regenerating health. How it works is when an enemy is about to die, they’ll flash blue. If you can get within melee range, you can perform a glory kill; causing the enemy to drop bonus health. Later on, you’ll get the chainsaw that lets you kill any enemy as long as you have enough fuel for a massive ammo drop.

This system is quite brilliant as it does two things. First, it rewards the player for being aggressive in every fight. Second and more importantly, it doesn’t punish the player for what they do in one room. In a lot of shooters, if you ran out of ammo or took too much damage, you wouldn’t be able to recover and get killed in the next fight. With the glory kill system, it allows the player to refill their stock at any time; making sure they’re always capable of fighting.

The kills themselves take about a second to go off, and prevents the action from stopping too much from using them. When it all works, the flow of the combat is amazing and never lets up until the last demon in the room is dead.

The biggest change from previous games would have to be the progression system. Progression in Doom was designed to give you a reason to explore and help even your odds later in the game. You’ll be able to upgrade your weapons, suit and basic abilities. The beauty of the system is that unlocking these bonuses is all about exploring the massive levels.


The upgrade system provides long-term progression and rewards for the player

Completing challenges and finding secrets will get you points for your weapons, finding dead elite guard will let you upgrade your suit, and finding power cores will let you improve your core stats.

A good player will get upgrades simply by playing the game, while the option is there to find more if you want to go hunting. There is a hard limit per level in terms of possible upgrades, making sure that you can’t grind one level for power.

Tying the progression model to exploring was a very smart move by ID. It rewards expert players who are keeping an eye out, and makes it appealing for new players to start hunting for secrets. Depending on the difficulty you play at, these bonuses could make things super easy or balance things out.

All in all, what you see is what you get with Doom, and we have a very well-tuned FPS. My only problem with the game is literally what makes it so great.

Run and Gun and Repeat:

Doom, as with all old school games is built around one main game mechanic or system. No matter how great fighting demons is, things do get repetitive. Fighting your first imp is going to be the same as fighting your 500th. Even though the environments change throughout the game, it’s all window dressing to the actual killing of the enemies. I don’t know how I would solve this problem to be honest with you, as this is what the game is all about.

Maybe have different versions of the enemies show up later in, or provide more ways of the environment affecting combat. Another idea would be to fully embrace it and give players a reason to go nuts. I was thinking about a scoring system similar to Bulletstorm, and how the game rewarded variety and keeping the killing flow going.

By the time I returned from Hell, I kind of lost the drive to keep playing. Doom is like cake: A great treat, but something you’ll get tired of if you have to eat it every day.


It wouldn’t be Doom without a trip to Hell

The game also kind of just ends; leaving room (and the story) open for a sequel/expansion. One complaint I’ve heard is that the multiplayer is not as exciting or interesting compared to singleplayer, but I don’t have first-hand knowledge to talk about it.


Doom is a game that should not work considering the change in FPS design, but not only does it work, it’s a fantastic return to form for ID Software. It’s not quite old-school, nor is it a modern game, but something in-between. The flow and pace of the game is just amazing, and something that other FPS designers should be taking notes on.

If you’re a fan of FPS games, Doom is definitely a must play along with Wolfenstein. For the first time in a very long while, I’m excited to see what’s next from ID Software.

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