We reflect on the origin, legacy, and current status of Doom's iconic Marine.
Video games have their fair share of charismatic, heroic, and relatable protagonists ... but that's not quite the case with Doom Slayer, a bloke that doesn't speak and has no name, whose sole purpose in life is to crush demons. This, however, doesn't mean he's any less iconic, as he manages to perfectly represent the players' feelings when playing Doom. With Doom Eternal's imminent arrival, players will once take control of the Slayer, and as such, we thought it would be an excellent opportunity to remember the character's origins, his legacy over the decades, and the plot surrounding the modern version of this most storied of video game anti-heroes.
Origin and Legacy
The Doom Slayer first appeared in Doom, released in 1993, and at the time was referred to only as the "Marine", although players nicknamed him "Doom Guy" and later "Doom Slayer", a name that apparently stuck with the character. The Marine had no name and voice for a simple reason: it was designed to be the player's avatar, as revealed by creator John Romero. Still, through the cover of the game, and with his face visible in the interface, we knew that he was a caucasian man with light brown eyes and hair.
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Even without saying anything, the Marine was already capable of transmitting great personality through the animations of his face, from the sadistic smile he showed when he picked up a new weapon, to the fury of his eyes when he was attacked. His adventure continued through Doom II and Final Doom without major changes, up until the release of Doom III.
Doom III launched in 2004, at a time when video game graphics were already much better than those of previous games in the saga. Aware of Doom's legacy, id Software decided to create an extremely ambitious game with Doom III, not only from a technical and graphical standpoint but also in terms of gameplay and narrative. This time the Marine's face was clearly visible throughout the game, mostly during cinematic sequences, but his past remained a mystery. In addition, he continued to be referred to only as "Marine", even by the other characters, and he still didn't speak.
There is some contradictory information regarding the Doom Marine, as to whether or not it is the same Marine as other games. Clues left in the manuals of the different versions released over the years seem to suggest that yes, it is the same character, although that's not entirely clear. The most important trait, however, remained the same, as the Marine was once again a relentless demon killing machine, even if somewhat more restrained than the original version.
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We also got a Doom III expansion, and later on, Doom RPG, released for mobile platforms, which also suggested that this character was the same as in all previous games. There is however an audio file indicating that this version may be B.J. Blazkowicz from the Wolfenstein series. We believe, however, that this is more of joke or an Easter egg, rather than something actually canonical.
And here we are, in the 2016 Doom reboot. This is possibly the Doom that most explores the character's past, even if it still leaves many questions open to interpretation. Here, the Marine is officially referred to as the Doom Slayer, and as the game kicks off, he is trapped inside a demonic sarcophagus at the UAC base on Mars. Doom is not a game that requires the player to go through a lot of exposition, and the Doom Slayer himself shows little patience for that. However, if you decide to read the documents you find and listen to the audio files, you can put together some of the pieces about the background of the Doom Slayer.
As in previous games, this Doom Slayer doesn't speak but rather shows some emotion through small animations. The way he throws the computer at the beginning of the game indicates that he has no interest in what Samuel Hayden (president of UAC) has to say, and shortly thereafter, as he hears the same Samuel Hayden mention that everything they did was for humanity's good - with the body of an employee on the ground - this contempt quickly turns into pure rage. In fact, it's quite obvious throughout the campaign that the Doom Slayer has only one goal: to stop the demonic invasion. Everything else, and specifically the secondary objectives of Samuel Hayden, are utterly disregarded.
One of Doom's novelties were the glory kills that allowed players to obliterate demons when they are stunned. The ferocity and brutality of these animations clearly convey the kind of hatred and disdain that the Doom Slayer has towards demonkind. Killing is often not enough, as he needs to do it in the most violent and grotesque way possible, not only to send a message to the other demons, but above all because he simply can't contain his fury.
But not everything is violence with the Doom Slayer, as there are some lighthearted moments for players looking for them. When the Slayer finds one of his own cuddly toys (collectibles that are hidden throughout the maps), he relaxes for a second or two to play with the doll, and sometimes even gives him an adorable fistbump. Another situation that shows the character's (and id Software's) humour is when the player dies immersed in lava, with the Doom Slayer making the "Ok" sign just before disappearing into the melting sea. A clear tribute to Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Personality aside, we soon realise that the Doom Slayer is no common mortal, but something else. UAC tried to wake him up and study him after they found him in a sarcophagus in Hell, but all attempts to resurrect him were futile. Even his armour, the Praetor Suit, only works with the Doom Slayer himself.
Through messages found on Mars and Hell, it is possible to conclude that the Doom Slayer has been causing havoc among the demons for some time, in such a way that the demonic writings themselves show great fear and terror in relation to him. If demons tell scary stories to their children before they go to sleep, the Doom Slayer is certainly their version of the boogie-man.
A little more investigation shows that the Doom Slayer is actually linked to the Sentinels, knights from the Argent D'Nur planet whose mission is to stop all the forces of Hell. There are even references that indicate that the Doom Slayer may have been the commander and best warrior of that order, although he is apparently a human, which seems to indicate that he was born on Earth, not Argent D'Nur.
In the Demon's Testaments it is said that all attempts to stop the Doom Slayer in the past were useless, including the creation of a demon entitled Titan. Eventually, however, the Demonic Priests managed to use the Doom Slayer's fury against himself, taking advantage of his entry into the catacombs to bring down the entire structure on top of him, imprisoning him in a cursed sarcophagus. There, the Doom Slayer remained asleep and protected by an Argent force, until the demons invaded Mars, which woke him up after centuries of sleep.
Doom Eternal (Spoilers beware)
We don't know much about the Doom Eternal story yet, but the 2016 game had already left some clues about the narrative. To begin with, we know that the Doom Slayer was betrayed by Samuel Hayden at the end of the game, which suggests his return in the sequel (he even appeared briefly in a trailer). Hayden stole the Crucible recovered by the Doom Slayer, but admitted that he would be unable to eliminate him, so he chose to teleport the Slayer to an unknown location.
The Doom Slayer, however, is not completely alone. At a certain point in Doom the protagonist is forced to destroy the artificial intelligence known as VEGA, responsible for managing the base on Mars. However, it is visible that just before its destruction, the Doom Slayer manages to make a copy into some kind of futuristic USB stick. VEGA is not mentioned again in Doom, but this action suggests that the artificial intelligence is alive and may return in Eternal.
At the moment we know that the sequel will take place eight months after Doom and that much of the Earth has been devastated by a demonic invasion. We also know that the player will visit the planet of the Sentinels, which suggests that id Software will further deepen the character's past, and we're anxious to get to know more about him in between all the demon slaughter.
Doom Eternal is out today, and you can read our spoiler-free review right here.