Everyone who has played the first Call of Duty: Modern Warfare remembers the AC-130 gunship level. This level plucks you from the thick of the action and temporarily sticks you in front of a TV screen inside a very large aeroplane that’s orbiting a kilometre above the same engagement; said aeroplane also happens to have a gigantic howitzer mounted on the side of it, and so for the duration of this level it’s your job to fire phone box-sized shells at groups of baddies who look like ants from your lofty perch, who don’t even know you’re there and who wouldn’t even have the option of fighting back if they did. When I first played this level I thought it was making a point about the impersonal, dehumanising nature of modern warfare, and that there was something deeply unsettling about the power of life and death being in the hands of people who can (and do) treat it just like a videogame. The AC-130 level is one of the reasons I came away with a pretty high opinion of Modern Warfare and its apparent anti-war message. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered the real reason the AC-130 level was in the game: the developers just thought being able to commit indiscriminate slaughter from 1,000 metres altitude was really cool1.
The reason I’m going with this somewhat tortured introduction to a review of Doom Eternal is because I think Modern Warfare proves something very important: that art is always going to be subjective to a greater or lesser degree, and so it is very possible to make an excellent videogame entirely by accident. Somewhat to my dismay it turns out that this is a very relevant lesson to apply to Doom Eternal; id’s 2016 reboot of Doom was and is excellent, but based on the experience I just had with Doom Eternal I’m starting to think that might have been entirely down to dumb luck.
- I have gone looking for the interview where this was revealed, but it seems to have been lost to the vagaries of time — I can find comments that are pretty close but they’re from the president of Infinity Ward rather than any of the actual dev team. As I lack hard evidence I’ll at least caveat: development studios are not hive minds and what gets said in publicity junkets to hype up the game does not necessarily represent what was going on in the studio at the time it was being made. However, stacked up against that generous interpretation is the jingoistic onanism that comprises the entirety of Modern Warfare 2, which really doesn’t make me inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. ↩