The Nostalgia of “New DOOM”
This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #153. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.
Here’s the Thing is where Rob dumps his random thoughts and strong opinions on all manner of nerdy subjects – from videogames and movies to board games and toys.
I have my misgivings about DOOM Eternal – even after slowly upgrading my Doomslayer to give me more of the experience I was initially hoping for – but I still adore the 2016 reboot and, 2020 missteps aside, am still excited about where the franchise seems to be heading. Overall, both games do a great job of capturing the look and feel of their early id Software counterparts in pretty much every way. Here’s the thing: It took me a while to connect the dots, but I realized that the updated games pander to my 90s Doom nostalgia in more ways than I’d initially thought.
DOOM (and by extension, DOOM Eternal) build themselves around this frantic pace where you pretty much have to be aggressive in order to survive. Flitting from one Glory Kill to the next both reduces the enemy count and provides resources to keep you alive. Using the chainsaw to insta-kill an enemy gets them out of the way without having to weaken them first, but also showers you with ammo. In short, you have to kill to live. A lot. All the time.
When I find my groove; when I semi-gracefully bounce around the arena dodging big enemies and deftly picking off the small fries; when I realize I’m running low on ammo but have enough chainsaw fuel to take down a Hell Knight and refill everything; when I find a Berserk powerup and physically tear through everything in sight like it was made of gooey paper; it feels like I’m playing old-school Doom after punching in “IDDQD” and “IDFA.”
Which is to say, God Mode with infinite ammo.
Yes, I know I’m not actually playing DOOM (or DOOM Eternal) with invincibility and an unlimited supply of bullets – in fact I tend to die pretty fast if I can’t find my rhythm – but it feels like I am. The constant movement; the hit-and-run tactics; the general flow of murdering every demonic thing in sight; it’s all so very, very 13-year-old Rob having a ton of fun playing a game the way he wanted to play it.
While I’m not the biggest fan of DOOM Eternal’s approach to level design or the look of most of its environments, it was the distinct lack of making me feel like a human bullet blender right from the start that made it difficult for me to engage with it like I did its predecessor. Thankfully after a bit of upgrading and point-allotment I’ve gotten it to feel almost as IDDQD + IDFA as 2016’s DOOM. I just hope that the next time we see the Doomslayer he continues to rip and tear like it’s the mid-90s and we don’t give a fuck about using cheat codes for our own amusement.
Rob Rich is a guy who’s loved nerdy stuff since the 80s, from videogames to anime to Godzilla to Power Rangers toys to Transformers, and has had the good fortune of being able to write about them all. He’s also editor for the Games section of Exploits! You can still find him on Twitter, Instagram and Mastodon.