Team Fortress 2 isn’t the only game that gave assault rifles the boot. The original Doom has one of the most iconic FPS rosters in history, but is surprisingly lacking the most famous generalist weapon of all time. Yet did you know it wasn’t always that way? Today I wanted to spend an article discussing the sordid history of the unluckiest weapon in the world’s most famous shooter.
The Early Alpha
Doom‘s assault rifle was there from the beginning, the very first and only weapon available in the early alphas released to the public (once the Wolfenstein 3D sprites were replaced with new original artwork in version 0.3). It had a removable bayonet which doubled as the player’s melee attack. But due to the game being so early, there wasn’t really much to shoot at. Only three monsters (the Imp, Demon, and Baron of Hell) existed as immobile sprites. Firing the weapon only produced a bulletless muzzle flash. By the time the alphas were replaced with press releases for the upcoming shareware game, both the rifle and the bayonet had already been replaced. The pistol and fist served as the player’s starting loadout for the rest of Doom history.
Nothing but References
Only two references remain to the assault rifle in the final product. (Which I suppose is more than the poor bayonet gets.) The player character is always shown wielding one in third-person, which only matters in multiplayer. It’s also the weapon wielded by enemy Zombiemen. This shows that it canonically deals the same damage as the pistol while firing far slower. That explains why Doomguy never even bothers to pick one up despite pilfering every other weapon during his rampage through hell.
And why would he? Hypothetically, the main role an assault rifle would fill in Doom is a weapon with longer range than the pistol while retaining the same accuracy. Since the actual pistol upgrade, the Chaingun, was incredibly inaccurate, there could have been room for a semi-automatic long-range hitscan rifle, right?
Wrong. It turns out you can absolutely play with the Chaingun exactly how you would have used the assault rifle. The accuracy debuff only kicks in after the first two bullets, the exact amount you fire with a light tap on the mouse button. Feel free to jump into game and test it. If you activate the Steam version‘s optional crosshair and place it over a faraway enemy, you can treat the Chaingun like a semi-automatic sniper rifle. Sorry, assault rifle. There’s just no space for you in Doomguy’s arsenal.
And as if to rub salt in the wound, the assault rifle got skipped again during the remakes! An untextured model can still be found in Doom 2016’s game files. This indicates that it was considered but ultimately scrapped somewhere in development. Personally, I think the main reason it keeps getting cut is that its versatility is also a weakness from a design perspective. Doom wants each of its guns to fill a different niche in combat. It wants to encourage the player to switch around to counter different threats and situations. At the end of the day, an assault rifle was just too clean, steady, and reliable. And it doesn’t play nice with the other more-specialized ordnance.