Doom Eternal

DOOM Eternal has a lengthy campaign but expresses everything it wants to in a single level: its seventh, Mars Core. Titanic barrels drift lazily through the sky, inviting ballistic detonation. Militarized Phobos, bleak Mars, and ancient Hell are blended and remixed as the Slayer skips across space-strewn islands, a frozen explosion of the series’ mythological topoi. The S/P/layer achieves their truest self, firing themself out of a giant gun in an instant of climactic, comical excess.

This is what you’re here for, isn’t it?

DOOM Eternal is DOOM eagerly and knowingly eating itself alive and savoring every morsel.

Doom (2016)

Doom is a story about DOOM told in its own language. It is a Rosetta Stone of game design; a compass bearing unerringly towards 1993. Doom cannot escape its own conversation. Every musical track or beat of action cannot be regarded outside the original’s enormous shadow. Every splatter of blood reckons with itself as a response to its predecessor. Commentary on the speed, power, and polish of this game could fill many times more space than the game itself. Of course, all of it is correct. The title thrums with diabolical spectacle and joy. Doom is a magnum opus, again.

Doom 64

Even after a modernized re-release and reintroduction into the series’ canon, the awkward single analog stick of the Nintendo 64 defines and continues to define DOOM 64’s identity as an understated counterpoint to the games that precede it. It disrupts everything about the original, trading power fantasy for melancholy, momentum for caution, dad rock for ambient synth, bloodsport for death traps. You come to DOOM 64 tired of DOOM, and find that DOOM 64 does not tire of you. It is malicious by design, and it has such sights to show you.

I love this one, even if it’s unrequited.

Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil

What do you get when you deliberately leave your game on a cliffhanger only to sell the real ending 8 months later? If you answered Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil, congratulations! You’ve probably played a mostly-decent expansion adding a few new weapons, 12 new levels that all look the same, and an insipid final boss fight! Couple that with a redundant ending, and you’ve got a cash grab! Thanks, Activision!

But hey, there are worse ways to spend four-ish hours.

Accessibility: The Panic Button ports of Doom 3: BFG Edition on PS4, Xbox One, and Switch do not have subtitles.

Doom 3

It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but Doom 3 is a slower-paced and creepier take on a series that’s mostly focused on killing everything in sight. It might not have aged well in some places (namely level design and controls) and is rather disregarded by most Doom fans, but its atmosphere and tone made me question why this game is so often left out of the conversation. Be sure to conserve your ammo, punch some turkeys, and raze hell!

Accessibility: The Panic Button ports of Doom 3: BFG Edition on PS4, Xbox One, and Switch do not have subtitles.

Doom 2

DOOM 2 is a conundrum. It’s iterative instead of innovative, and a lot more uneven than the original. It’s the inevitable, unenviable answer to the question of how to follow the game that set the world on fire and sent it to hell.

And yet.

DOOM 2 is a conundrum. It’s iterative in precisely the right way to make the original feel incomplete in retrospect. It’s as uneven as it is varied and unpredictable. It’s the inevitable, enviable answer to every single one of its first-person contemporaries and it sends them all to hell.

It also has a bigger shotgun.

Doom (1993)

Why do I come back to DOOM when so many new, bigger games and vaster worlds have superseded it over the decades? Why might you? For me, it comes down to the uncertainty: a single shotgun blast will make a sergeant drop–most of the time. The odd time it doesn’t, he gets a shot at revenge. From this simple, tense heuristic and from innumerable others, strategies and tactics bloom.

I’ll admit it: I mostly just replay the free shareware episode. I come back, time again, year after year, to those nine levels, and every time, it’s a little bit different.