One of the best things about Doom 2016 was the Doom Slayer himself. Within the first 30 minutes of the game, you could sense his unbridled fury, and when the game dared to throw some exposition at him, he paid no mind. He didn’t ask Samuel Hayden to stop talking. He violently shoved the screen away, expressing his disdain without uttering a single word. He couldn’t be bothered with the hows or whys of the situation; he needed to spill demon blood. Doom Eternal doubles down on his terrifying silence, but it also showcases why that silence works so well.
Spoiler warning: This contains spoilers up to the eighth stage of Doom Eternal.
Characterizing Doom Eternal’s Silent Protagonist (and his Shotgun)
Doom Eternal starts with a booming voice delivering a monolog about the Doom Slayer. He’s the only thing that can stop the armies of hell, and the last thing this voice says is, “Rip and tear, until it is done.” Already, you get a sense of how powerful, deadly, and terrifying the Slayer can be. But where’s the proof? What does the Slayer do to show his intimidating savagery?
Early in Doom Eternal, the Slayer has to find the three Hell Priests to stop an invasion, and you’ll see them in the first level. Upon meeting the first one, a cutscene plays, and our hero rushes forward to grab Deag Nilox’s neck. In typical villain fashion, Nilox claims that his soul is immortal, but that doesn’t faze the Slayer. Instead, he decapitates the priest by crushing his one hand around the neck. No remorse, no hesitation—just unbridled and assured fury.
When the Slayer reaches the other two priests, they also have a smug attitude about them. Humanity deserves this treatment, and there’s nothing that can be done to stop them. Then the Slayer throws Nilox’s head at their feet. They hesitate slightly, but they still think their victory is assured. After all, what can one man do against an army of demons? The Slayer, still unfazed, turns to them and simply pumps his Combat Shotgun.
The two priests immediately retreat.
That level of sheer terror comes across without the Slayer saying anything. No grunts or menacing roars, no heroic soliloquy, not even a holier-than-thou “Hmph.” His actions express a complete disdain for demonkind.
Unlike most other silent protagonists, the Slayer has far too much character to feel like an avatar for the player. With Persona 5’s Joker, for example, I can step into his shoes and embody him; my dialogue choices—while they ultimately don’t matter—make me feel like this is my version of Joker. For the Doom Slayer, I can’t step into his shoes. His fury is his own, and his silence is part of his character.
Why the Doom Slayer is Better When Silent
For all intents and purposes, though, the entire narrative of Doom Eternal is a bit over the top and, at times, campy. The Slayer’s stoicism stands out among overbearing, villainous monologues and cheeky UAC spokesperson lines. The story doesn’t really ask you to suspend your disbelief either. The plot marches forward because it needs to, and the Doom Slayer does what he does simply because he can.
One of the stand-out moments of the Slayer’s silence melding with gaming tropes happens before the seventh stage of the game, Mars Core. Hayden tells the Slayer he needs to reach an ancient city that sits in the core of Mars, and there’s no way to get to it. He even says, “You can't just shoot a hole into the surface of Mars.”
Then an objective pops up. “Shoot a Hole in Mars.” It showcases the Slayer’s ironclad, silent resolve, and it uses a language most gamers are familiar with: mission directives.
Unfortunately, the campiness in Doom Eternal does eventually infect the Slayer, even if for a bit. Early moments in the Sentinel Prime stage show some flashbacks to his early days, back when he was called Doomguy. The Sentinels take him in, testing his strength and bloodlust. It’s at this point that id decides to give our hero a voice, and it really interrupts the fantasy.
Doomguy is a snarling, rabid mess. He demands to see “huge guts” and proclaims that the demons are everywhere. Instead of that cool, stoic rage that was established in 2016 and throughout Eternal, we see this babbling, savage madman. It really drives home the point that the Slayer is at his best when he doesn’t talk. His menacing stature and intimidating body language do all the talking for him.
Maybe you could call it character development, as if Doomguy graduated and matured into the Doom Slayer. On the other hand, it definitely makes you appreciate those moments when the Slayer simply cocks a shotgun to get his point across.
What do you think about the story of Doom Eternal? Have you been playing Battlemode? Let us know in the comments below.