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Doom (PC) Retro Review

One of the greatest games of all time, iD Software’s defining moment for the FPS built a legacy that’s still having an impact today.

Doom is one of the best. There’s really no questioning that statement (and if you do, you’re wrong). The game single-handedly redefined a young genre that all began not too much earlier with another iD creation in Wolfenstein 3D, and gave a generation of gamers a glimpse of what would become the dominant genre of game for a good long time.

The premise of the original Doom is simple enough; you play as a nameless space marine who’s stationed on a research facility on the Martian moon of Phobos. Things take a horrible turn when the portal technology that the Union Aerospace Company is working on rips a hole into a dimension that looks an awful lot like the iconic vision of Christian hell- complete with demons and vengeful spirits.

Human soldiers are transformed into menacing zombies (before it was popular!) and demons of every shape and size come pouring through the portal and into the Mars base. It’s not a great scene, but as the line goes- if it bleeds we can kill it. And kill it you can, as the gunplay was unrivaled at the time in pretty much any game and still stands up today.

Doom featured an inspired arsenal of hardware, from shotguns (a favorite of any Evil Dead fan) to plasma based weaponry and the mighty BFG 9000. The power-ups were simple in contrast to the guns, with stuff like the life-giving Soul Sphere and the fist-fighting Berserk Pack, but they weren’t really the centerpiece of this one. Quite plainly, blasting monsters to pieces and making it through the fiendishly designed maps was the paramount objective. It really  wasn’t so much how you did it, just that you found all the keycards (or skulls) needed to pass through the locked doors… although that chainsaw definitely gave some nonexistent style points.

Imps and shotgunguys, time to strafe…

As you progress through Doom, the level design goes from simple and straight forward to downright confusing and almost puzzle-like. This is intentional though and isn’t ‘bad game design’ in any way. Although at times when I first played Doom, I wanted to tear my hair out as I couldn’t find an exit or a keycard and got stuck retracing my steps to see what I missed for what felt like hours, it never got old. There’s just something so intrinsically fun about the game and the design that John Carmack and John Romero came up with at every level, that it’s not even maddening when you can’t figure out what to do next.

Graphically, Doom might not look like much to today’s gaming audiences, but years ago it was the best of the best. The 3D FPS effect, which was still very new at the time back in 1993, was incredible and like nothing else. And even though I say the game has aged in the looks department, it still looks nice and clean today in 2014 with a graphical style still very much its own.

Gameplay was another notch on Doom’s scorecard as the title was as spot on as an FPS’ got in the early days. True, there’s no degree of look-freedom (that wasn’t around yet in those days), but moving through the Mars base’s tight corridors and invading the very shores of hell was worry free (other than the demons) and a dream to control with the old mouse and keyboard setup. If you got killed while battling the forces of evil in Doom, it was your own fault and not the game’s.

With all that, iD laid the ground work for what would become a community of players all working on new maps, mods, and total conversions. I remember playing more than a few that were so good they could have been made in-house at the developer (some were even added to a ‘new’ version of Doom at one point), and one particular Aliens-themed TC that was a stroke of genius, complete with sounds and imagery from the film of the same name.

And don’t get me started on the hours and hours (and hours) that I spent making my own maps. Back then, crafting levels for an FPS only took a short time to learn, after which several really good ones (with a decent amount of work put into them) could be cranked out in no time flat. I made tons of maps for Doom, letting my imagination go, and it was a regular scene at my house to see my buddies ‘play testing’ stages that I had cooked up. Once complete and to your liking, is was easy-peasy to share those files with the world. Those were the days- and in my opinion it was a heck of a lot more fun than the simple multiplayer modes that constitute most online activity today.

Multiplayer in simpler times

Not that Doom didn’t have multiplayer though. The game invented the institution and featured both co-op and competitive Deathmatching. There were only four players per match,  but it was an earlier time and there were no 64 player slugfests going on online for it to be compared to. It also was a lot different than today simply for the fact that there was no chat function and you were pretty much on your own in both online game types. All in all, it was a blast and something that really has died out in recent times with the whole ‘social’ level being played up to the max in FPS’.

Final Thoughts

Doom is pretty easily in my top five games of all time and, depending on what kind of mood I’m in, a game that I can play any time on any console and enjoy the heck out of.

There’s a ton and a half of ways to play Doom these days too, even the GameBoy Advance had a version appear on it’s tiny screen, which really says something about what kind of a phenomenon it became. If you’re a newbie to the series, I’d recommend the recent Doom 3: BFG Edition brought out by publisher Bethesda. The collection included on the disc boasts the original title reviewed here, Doom II, Doom 3, and the Resurrection of Evil and (all-new) The Lost Mission expansion packs for the latter title. It’s out for for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC too, so you’re pretty much covered on availability.

If you’re not a newcomer to Doom and are looking for some of the best translations of the game to try out (harder to find stuff that you might have missed), grab a copy of the PSOne version or the N64 edition. Aside from the PC original, those rank pretty darned high on my own personal top-Doom list.

Note- All screens are form the Xbox Live version of the game

About Jason Micciche

Jason's been knee deep in videogames since he was but a lad. Cutting his teeth on the pixely glory that was the Atari 2600, he's been hack'n'slashing and shoot'em'uping ever since. Mainly an FPS and action guy, Jason enjoys the occasional well crafted title from every genre.

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