Hurt Me Plenty: A Doom Retrospective
It’s been 25 years since the original Doom game graced our gaming shelves. With gaming legend and master level designer John Romero announcing his much anticipated Sigil title, effectively adding an extra campaign to the original Doom’s four chapters. It’s a great time to look back on one of gaming’s great masterpieces of graphical engineering and design which still immerses players even now. Doom is a little like the Dorian Grey of videogaming in that it’s gameplay never seems to age a day and it’s graphics upscale gloriously to high resolutions.
My first experience of Doom was playing the PC version in a small computer store in a small town in Northern Ireland. It was the first level which looped over and over and I was completely entranced, the powerful soundtrack blasting from the speakers and the up close and personal gunplay against hordes of demons. I played until I was unceremoniously thrown out of the shop and as my feet touched the street outside my head was still buzzing from the rush of the experience. Over the years I have experienced Doom on a variety of different consoles and ports, including the much maligned SNES version. However it was when I purchased the Doom 3 BFG edition for the PC that I spent serious uninterrupted time with the title. I found myself recently re-immersed in the original’s mechanics and pulled back into the engaging level design crafted by John Romero way back in December 10th 1993.
Doom was crafted by a small team at ID Software and took about nine months to complete. It’s narrative was simple but effective, players took the role of a Space Marine fighting off waves of demons. The locations where the action took place were diverse and fashioned a form of narrative, starting at the research facility where demonic forces were unleashed. Moving to one of the moons of Mars – Phobos and then through the gates of Hell itself, this was a powerful and frantic journey battling ever increasing monsters to survive. It was a dark and violent game and that was part of it’s appeal. It’s hard to forget the first time you fired your gun in Doom or the how the marine’s face started to resemble a bloodied piece of meat as he took damage.
Doom was also a technical marvel, First Person Shooters such as Wolfenstein had existed and were worked on by ID staff but they never looked as good as this or were as immersive. The immersion of the first person perspective made the brutal action feel even more realistic. The technical wizardry used to pull this off was far ahead of anything else available at the time. The perspective also made the title seem far more visceral, shooting enemies in Contra didn’t feel quite the same as shooting the hell spawn in Doom. It was this feeling that helped make the game influential and remembered even more than 20 years since the title debuted.
Doom also brought competitive multiplayer to the masses, it was the title that coined the phrase ‘Deathmatch’. Being able to turn Doom’s mightly weapons against your friends at a LAN party or against like minded strangers across the fledgling internet. There was a celebration of senseless murder and being able to use ever cruel trick of the environment to our advantage. We became the monsters hiding in the shadows, or the hand on the lever that dropped some poor soul into the corrosive radioactive waste. Human competitors proved themselves even more devious and deadly than any of the games monsters and Doom started a new and lasting craze for a multiplayer aspect to FPS games.
Ultimately Doom’s legacy is the fact that the game is still being played across the world on various systems even today. I am incredibly excited by John Romero’s additions to this gaming masterpiece, Sigil promises to be full of visceral delight. Doom will live on throughout gaming memory as being one of the pinnacles of the industry.