Doom does the simple task of accomplishing the impossible. And all signs pointed to it failing, including the now well-documented almost-reality of a “Call of Doom.” But somewhere along the way, as if someone had actually gone to Hell and made a deal with the Devil himself, everything turned around. Instead of just another modern tragedy of a rebooted classic franchise (replete with missing subtitle or numbered entry), we have a new classic.

How the hell do you even go about modernizing something as pure and somewhat archaic as Doom? It sure as hell wasn’t Doom 3, a protracted romp through dour, uninteresting corridors and encounters. As decent as it was, it wasn’t something you could hang your hat on as a studio; it was a competent and sufficient patch, a thing to hold your attention until the next thing.

Given that, no one had any expectations for this. It was, well, known. The general and unspoken consensus was that this was going to be something we’d be familiar with before we even put our hands on it. But as soon as the game starts—literally from the very first god damn second—your ass is blown off its fleshy hinges and what you knew drastically changed. This was going to be one hell of a ride.

For one, it’s smart. So unbelievably smart. Stupidly smart, even. As much as Doomguy gives the finger to everyone telling him what to do throughout the campaign, the game itself has the same defiance to contemporary and rote design. There’s no cover, there’s no reloading, and there’s no recharging health. It’s instead an almost chaotic mix of ideas all pointed towards the singular idea that you must be ruthless, brutal, and aggressive to survive. There’s no retreat, only forward.

Everything is interconnected and in support of this motif. Fire on all cylinders as you push forward, glory killing to get more health and using the chainsaw to get more ammunition. Once you stop moving or stop killing is when you start losing, an obvious yet refreshing understanding and interpretation of how to get the player to interact with the world and your opponents.

Then there’s just the attitude. It’s aware of its own legacy but also just the history it enabled 23 years ago, making it weirdly funny yet brutal. Doomguy has elevated to a sort of reverent, biblical figure while sinking right back into the same shit that has nipped at his heels for over two decades. I could talk about the brilliance of Doom for hours, but I’ll just leave it at the understated fact that it is the number two game of the year.

Tim Poon

Computer scientist turned journalist. Send tips to