So, we’re a couple of months away from the release of the newest installment in the Doom franchise, Doom (not to be confused with the original!). In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I’ve played the alpha of the new Doom, but I won’t be talking about it. Partially because of NDA stuff, admittedly, but the main reason is that I felt like talking about Doom. Not the new one: the original game that started it all in December 1993.
I was one year away from being born in 1993 when Doom launched, so I can’t tell you what it was like when it launched from personal experience. However, my old man tells me that Doom and Quake were various time fillers when they were waiting for something to be done at his old workplace. So even my father has heard of Doom and, honestly, anyone who is a serious gamer will have at least heard of it at absolute minimum, if not beaten it!
Considering it’s now over 22 years old, Doom has held up amazing for its age. It has had tons of source ports, the modding capabilities for it are huge (to name just one example, Brutal Doom), it still has an active community now (something which some games released even last year cannot attest to having: anyone else remember Infinite Crisis?) and versions of it have been released on more systems than you’d think possible (did you know the Game Boy Advance had a port of Doom?). Yet that’s not what I want to talk about in this article.
What I want to talk about is Doom’s influence over the gaming industry. You can thank Doom and the engine that was used for it for being the core behind a huge number of games, among which include highly regarded titles like Quake, Unreal Tournament, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (whose core engine, the IW engine, uses a modified id Tech 3 engine as its base) and two of the Star Wars Jedi Knight games (Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy). It’s hard to overstate just how important Doom was to the gaming industry as a whole, for it basically popularised the first-person shooter genre as we know it today (alongside the likes of Wolfenstein 3D, also created by id Software, incidentally!) and a very valid case could be made that it is one of the most important video games of all time.
Most people probably don’t need me to say that Doom’s sequels haven’t quite left the impact that the original did (Doom 3 is still a bit controversial now among the fans of the series and that was released over a decade ago!), but it’s here that I have to return back to the upcoming Doom. I’m purely speculating here, but it looks very much like Wolfenstein: The New Order did: arena based combat whilst proceeding through different areas to complete an objective.
Which, if so, is genuinely brilliant: it’s the old school FPS game style which I love from playing games like Serious Sam and Painkiller and which most people don’t seem interested in doing much ever since the success of Halo and Gears of War. A return to the old school style is honestly something I’m really looking forward to if that is the case.
But it’s not what the original Doom was. As easy as it is to write off Doom as just a game where your only goal is to kill everything (although that isn’t entirely untrue, I’ll admit!), there was far more to it than just that. Something which is far cleverer than the admittedly fun mindless violence that one sees in games like Painkiller: the level design.
Everyone reading this who has played Doom, ask yourself what springs to mind when you think of the game aside from the music, creature designs and the gore. What do you always remember the game for? That well hidden secret which you never forget the location of? That health pack you always run back to because you know a tough room is coming up ahead? That well placed chainsaw which you always grab whenever you go past it?
That’s what I’m talking about: the level design is absolutely brilliant. Admittedly, the game gets more confusing and maze like once you get to the second episode of the game, but I’m sure everyone reading this who has played Doom for themselves can attest that they know the locations of every weapon, secret and item for the first episode at least. It’s a game which has a surprisingly large amount of intelligence behind its design and which few would think the game had on first glance, which is what really helps make the game special.
An example that springs to mind which is along the same lines as this is the Spencer Mansion from Resident Evil. You start traversing through it not knowing anything about it and you very quickly die due to mistakes and inexperience causing you to put yourself into a bad spot, but, as you die and travel through it, you begin to realize where the safe spots are, which zombies you should take out or save your ammo on and where the answers to the notorious Resident Evil puzzles are. I’m also reminded of the very early parts of Dark Souls, where you tend to remember every area (even if it’s only because of how relentlessly difficult the game can be meaning that not doing so is a good way to be killed by unexpected mimics and the like) and it is very memorable. Yes, you die a lot until you know what you’re doing, but, once you do, it truly transforms itself into a game which you don’t forget.
That’s the point I’m trying to get across. I’ve played a lot of shooters in my time (some of which I’d like to forget, like Aliens: Colonial Marines), but, at the end of the day, I always keep coming back to Doom, because there’s just something about it that is special. It’s truly an incredible game and it’s one which I would outright urge people to check out if they haven’t already. It’s hardly a taxing game on current day systems and it’s a piece of gaming history that more than lives up to the hype.