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Why Boomer Shooters Are Appealing

The boomer shooters are rising in the world of indie first-person shooters. It's very unlikely that gamers will see an indie first-person shooter that isn't a Doom inspired game, and that's because the boomer shooters does have its appeal. The '90s-centric game design might be old, but it sure hasn't aged at all in modern times.

Why Boomer Shooters Are Appealing

If you’ve been observing the indie first-person shooter scene, you’ll notice there a good amount of first-person shooters that’ll remind you of the old Doom and Quake titles.

It was the times where key hunting was mandatory to finish a level, strafing was your best friend, and there was little to no story being involved. That was how most first-person shooters were played back in the ‘90s when those two titles were living in their prime years.

But now in 2023 and perhaps for the future, there have been many of these kinds of first-person shooters appearing left and right.

There is a game called Supplice, and it was recently released as an early access title. It’s made a by a team full of devoted Doom modders. It definitely will give you some old school Doom vibes if you have played those titles before.

It seems like the ‘90s have never left us. Even in the times of modern first-person shooters like Call of Duty or Apex Legends, there are a handful of developers that want to make their shooters akin to Doom.

As someone who grew up playing these retro-styled shooters or boomer shooters is what people like to call them nowadays, there are many reasons why these games still have their appeal.

Doom II is the best out of the bunch.

Doom II is the best out of the bunch.

I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up playing the classic Doom titles which these games were literally what got me into video games. I’ve never experienced anything that was as engaging and life changing as the old Doom games.

Being a naïve child I was, this was my gateway to the video game world, and it would exemplify what kind of video games I enjoy playing.

The boomer shooters’ formula is heavily built among shooters from the ‘90s, and you may think its core game design is obsolete. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s definitely not the case.

Power Fantasy Galore

The best thing about these games is that sense of power fantasy you get. First-person shooters are absolutely obsessed at trying to make players do things that are not realistic. Even some of the modern titles still give players that kind of feeling.

Call of Duty is a good example of this. In reality, you will never see a professional sniper running around the map like a madman and start quick scoping any hostile threats. However, in Call of Duty you can easily do stuff like that, and to some players, they enjoy that type of experience from a Call of Duty title.

In boomer shooters, there are so many factors that certainly give you that sense of power that’s generally rare in modern first-person shooters. These types of games would require you to move fast to a point you can actually dodge projectile based enemies.

Quake - Official Trailer (2021)

This means players can have the option to play the game aggressively. Matter of fact, aggressive playing is generally important to play these types of games. Boomer shooters are generally movement based games, so they create enemies that encourage players to move and be active during a combat encounter.

The enemy design is also important to the power fantasy role for boomer shooters. Generally, these games love making the player fight through hideous monsters or aliens. It’s to remind the player that they’re fighting a menacing threat due to the fact a lot of these monsters generally look terrifying.

And what makes that great is if you kill them many times, you just feel like an unstoppable threat. Even just the idea of making a video game that’s revolved around killing monsters is simply a power fantasy idea.

Diverse Enemies & Resource Mangagement

There’s also more to mention. Boomer shooters love having different types of enemies that have different roles. For example, in Doom, you generally have three types of enemies.

They are melee-based which is what you think they are. They are enemies that will become a threat to you if they’re near to your proximity. After that, there are two different types of range based enemies: projectile and hitscan. Projectile based enemies are enemies that attack you, but the player can dodge them if they strafe properly.

Hitscan enemies are enemies that attack the player where there’s a luck factor in terms of taking damage from the enemy. Generally, these guys are the high priority target during combat encounters in boomer shooters due to their design.

The iconic Battlelord from Duke Nukem 3D.

The iconic Battlelord from Duke Nukem 3D.

Ever since Doom has created this philosophy for enemy design, many other boomer shooters would follow its footsteps.

Since there are enemies that fulfill their respective roles, encounters feel dynamic in a boomer shooter. You never know what kind of enemy composition the level designer will throw at you, and it’s up to you to figure out how to handle that fight.

If you take a look at Call of Duty and how it handles its enemy design in its campaigns, it’s generally hitscan-based enemies. There’s really not much to it which makes the single player experiences for these games feel lackluster and not as replayable as the multiplayer component.

Since hitscan enemies are common, you generally will have encounters that are more cover based which is the complete opposite design of boomer shooters. Fans of older shooters tend to say that newer shooters aren’t as engaging enough.

What they really mean is there’s not much emphasis on movement, and managing your health, armor, and ammo which is also something that’s an important design structure for boomer shooters. There is also the wide range of weaponry that players can use all at once, and never have to sacrifice them which is something that non boomer shooters tend to do. Since players can carry all sorts of weapon, they must figure out which weapon will be the ideal one for the right situation.

All About the Gameplay & Level Design

Of course, boomer shooters love its shock factor. Particularly, how devastating some of these weapons can be when you fire at an enemy. Basically, they will turn them into chunks of flesh or what most boomer shooter fanatic calls them “gibs.”

When you take all these power fantasy elements that boomer shooters offer, modern first-person shooters just can’t compete. What you have is a gaming experience that’s designed to give you the ultimate power fantasy, and that’s what boomer shooters love to do.

Doom Eternal isn't quite a pure boomer shooter, but it does have a lot of its traits.

Doom Eternal isn’t quite a pure boomer shooter, but it does have a lot of its traits.

There’s a real reason why most of these types of games don’t focus much on the story, but rather focus on giving the player a heavily gameplay focused experience. However, it’s also important to mention that you must earn your way to get that power fantasy experience because it’s not always going to be given to the player.

Another fantastic thing that boomer shooters have always nailed on was the level design. Level design in any genre of video games is important. It’s always nice to have gameplay or mechanic idea that the player must experience, but it also needs to be presented in a way that’s memorable.

I’ve always enjoyed the Mancubus and Arachnotron from Doom II and that’s because you first fought them on MAP07: Dead Simple. That level was certainly memorable in how they introduced these two new enemies to the original Doom’s sandbox, and it has left an impression on me throughout the years.

The level design is something that should be paid heavily attention to when you’re playing a boomer shooter. These levels tend to be complex and it generally requires the player to pay attention in how they’re navigating because of the complexity. Some people might say making a level that’s too complex where it makes the player get lost is bad game design. I believe there are good ways of getting players lost and then there are bad ways.

There will be moments where you need to look at your map...

There will be moments where you need to look at your map…

As long, you hit a switch and you’re trying to understand what that switch does, that’s the good kind of getting lost. Sure, you might have to navigate around the map to figure out your way, but exploring your way is definitely a nice thing to go through after having many combat encounters.

But the beauty behind having these types of levels is the many ways the player can approach it. You might approach this level differently than how I would or your buddy would. This creates depth and replay value in a map.

I’ve always been a big fan of Duke Nukem 3D’s E3L4:  L.A. Rumble because of how many ways you can play that level. You can play the intentional way by just simply walking from the start to the end of the map. However, if you do have a jet pack with you, you can completely play the map very differently than how it was supposed to be played intentionally via pistol start.

Getting Closer to the Exit

It also should be mentioned that modern boomer shooters might be able to expand the complexity of levels even further in today’s times. Keep in mind, games like the original Doom, Quake, Heretic, and so on were designed for the hardware at the time. Obviously, there were limitations that the developers had to deal with at the time. What that means is if you’re a fan of large and complex maps in first-person shooters, the boomer shooters in today’s times are more likely going to offer that type of experience.

Keep in mind, this is generally a genre that’s made by independent and smaller groups of game developers, so they will never have to worry so hard about balancing technology and what they can do with their imagination while developing a game.

WRATH: Aeon of Ruin is my most anticipated boomer shooter of this year.

WRATH: Aeon of Ruin is my most anticipated boomer shooter of this year.

If you have never played a boomer shooter in your life, I’d suggest you to explore on your own. There are so many options to choose from nowadays, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if more of them will appear out of nowhere at the end of the 2023 or the beginning of 2024. It’s the kind of shooter that still have its legs to stand out against the triple A modern first-person shooter titles.

I believe once you play one or two of these types of games, you might end up digging deeper in its world and wanting to try out other titles. It’s a sub genre that I am happy to see that there are developers that want to keep the scene alive. Not only that, it’s also nice that there are a handful of amount of fans that still love these kinds of games after the ‘90s. There won’t be a time where boomer shooters will become mainstream like it was in the ‘90s, but the passion and soul is very much alive.

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