#237 Doom

Posted: 29th March 2014 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , ,

318th played so far

DoomGenre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1993
Developer: id Software
Publisher: id Software

One nice advantage of playing this blog are the excuses to go back to old games from our childhood, that we hadn’t played for ages, and give us a chance to play it again (I was 6 when I played this last, probably goes a long way to explaining why survival horrors petrify me).ย  Doom is one of the first FPSes – the first on the list, although Wolfenstein got there earlier (and was far less sophisticated… and more controversial) and it’s a game I played several rounds off, while we (friends, family and myself) were amazed at the possibilities.

As it stands, the game still captures the imagination – one of those often-discussed games that started a long chain of more and less worthy successors, explaining why the more recent Doom 3 launch was such a big deal. We’ll get to that in a few years – for now it’s the first in the series we’ll play.

Our Thoughts

So yeah, that was good fun. Clearly, I’ve played the game before, we knew what was coming, the game was as we remembered.

Doom is an interesting game. Not entirely the first to do a game like this, it’s probably the first that did it well as a shooter – and more importantly, did so seamlessly. If you know what to look for, you can see the cheats – paths can’t cross, you can’t go under and over a bridge at the same time, you’d only get one of the two. Beyond that, it’s good at hiding the nature of the map, with differently angled maps and surroundings (something you didn’t see as much in earlier games) with what feel like more varied surroundings than seen before (or even often afterwards).

But as much as it laid the groundwork for a genre that was often imitated, Doom is also a good entry in the genre. Sure, the graphics don’t always live up – even if they’re not that bad even for several years later – and later games had a chance to play around more with weapon variety (and often imitating the Doom stalwarts such as the shotgun), but the basic gameplay still stands and still makes for a solid FPS. The controls are tight, there’s the right amount of enemies and a challenge that slowly ramps up. There’s more of an emphasis on finding secrets and raising your score than in later games – again a sign of the times – but that’s not as important when playing through the game.

Then there’s the small touches that – for better or for worse – weren’t really seen afterwards. Doom is one of the very few games – certainly one of the very few FPSes – showing your character’s face getting bloodied and battered as your health goes down. As minor as it is – as you can tell from in not being seen at any later point – it does aid identification slightly in a mostly generic ‘you’re a space marine, kill the aliens’ storyline. And yeah, it’s a clearly copied storyline that (I suppose) many others have done before, but it gives you just enough context – together with the maps that link the levels in each act – to give you a reason to do what you’re doing. It’s just enough that it’s worth looking at.

One of the things that I could do now that I couldn’t do when I was younger was playing the later acts. Being released in the shareware era, we only had access to the first act, while our current copy had all of them unlocked. What only becomes visible at that point is how versatile the game really is. From a simple start to end tour of some fairly standard levels in the early first episode, later acts put you inside teleporter mazes, sending you hunting for different switches while immediately putting you up against bigger, more diverse enemies. The increase in challenge is noticeable, but at the same time remains a lot of fun – I had a blast trying to get through them. It’s weird thinking most players would have never seen them.

Final Thoughts

Forget the graphics and the limitations of the game. Even now, Doom is fun to play, has some good map design, and is engaging enough to lead you through the game several times. It does everything right, in a way that sets an example that even now seems rarely followed. You don’t need interactive cutscenes every five minutes or gritty dark realism. Some demons and guns is good enough most of the time.

I never understood just how groundbreaking this game was until an episode of Bones featured someone being murdered when someone stole their code for the episodes equivalent of Doom. This really is one of those keystone games like Body Harvest where the gaming world was never the same again afterwards.

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