Late to the Party: DOOM and DOOM II

As far as “late to the party” posts I’ve done so far go, I think the original DOOM games pretty much top the list, both in terms of the oldest games I’m just now playing and the most important to the history of the medium. It’s not even like I haven’t had access to these games all this time. That’s actually a bit of a story in and of itself.

I actually had a sort of phobia of first person shooters for years. I was six years old when DOOM first came out, and back then it looked like the scariest game imaginable. For a long time after that, playing almost any FPS felt extremely oppressive to me. I think this was due to a few elements that almost all classic PC shooters held in common – elements that DOOM likely popularized.

To me, the advent of 3D worlds viewed through a first person perspective was very off-putting because for the first time I couldn’t see what was around my character. On top of that I never liked how shooters displayed your character’s health as a definite percentage, which combined with the player character’s face deteriorating with damage in DOOM made the whole thing feel extremely fatalistic. Last but not least was the satanic imagery, gore, and demonic enemies present throughout DOOM. Most shooters following after it for almost a decade seemed to at least in part evoke the horror-themed imagery and demonic enemies. Even playing it now, I think classic DOOM is a very effective action horror game. At the very least I find it to be scarier than either Dead Space game.

During the 90’s I couldn’t play games like Turok or Duke Nukem at all without cheats, and those were almost the only shooters I would even go near in the first place. I couldn’t comfortably play an FPS until GoldenEye came out, which seemed to approach the genre from a completely different perspective. Using a standard health bar and pitting me against human enemies in a more “real world” setting without as much gore made that game immediately more accessible to me. I don’t think I even tried another “classic-style” FPS on the PC until Half-Life 2.

Anyway, since I’ve bought pretty much id’s entire library on Steam sales and DOOM 3 BFG Edition is coming out I thought I’d at least get through that game’s predecessors. I’d already started to confront my old fears by getting through Duke Nukem 3D a couple years ago.

RAGE last year was the first id software game I’d played, and from it I could tell that id was a company that knew how to make shooters with smooth and satisfying controls. On consoles the only other FPS that runs at 60 frames per second right now is Call of Duty, which itself still uses some of id’s own Quake III code. Similarly, DOOM and DOOM II feel like some of the smoothest shooters I’ve ever played.

That’s not just because of the rock-bottom system requirements either. Independent of tech, classic DOOM seems to have been designed to slide in the player’s hands in a way similar to Mario platformers if you will. The way the player’s view bobs with movement in combination with how each weapon slides across the field of view gives classic DOOM a very light sense of weight.

Even the sound design feels more satisfying than that of a lot of shooters today. I’d be ready to basically call classic DOOM “Shotgun: the Game,” because it contains pretty much the most gratifying shotgun sound effects in any shooter I’ve played. It’s why that became my main weapon throughout the games. Even enemy death screams seem to fit perfectly with it 19 years later.

I would definitely say that controls and the feel of the weapons have been core virtues of FPSs throughout their entire history. Other than the obvious graphics I would say that the only thing that feels painfully dated in classic DOOM is its level design.

Today we like to laugh at the famous image comparing 1993 FPS level design to 2010 level design, but we forget that the 1993 map was made convoluted by key card puzzles. The funny thing is that DOOM seems to encourage exploration, which is my favorite thing in video games, but this is also one of the few games where I get lost in almost every level. That alone has probably doubled or tripled the time it’s taken for me to get through the DOOM games.

That level design is pretty much the only thing keeping classic DOOM, in my experience, from becoming a perfect go-to game for simple, quick, smooth shooting when I’m too tired of playing RPGs. Really it’s similar to why I crack open Super Mario Bros. every once in a while. Maybe Quake and Quake 2 (or as some suggested, Star Wars: Dark Forces) might occupy that space when I try them out.

BULLETS:

  • I was just thinking about getting back on Left 4 Dead 2, and Valve decides to go ahead and add Steam Workshop support to it: http://t.co/1lqHiz0g
  • Takedown is one of the Kickstarter projects that I was genuinely interested in – a real tactical shooter, and it looks like it’s actually materializing now: http://t.co/4HlDd5oJ
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One thought on “Late to the Party: DOOM and DOOM II

  1. […] ago I played through DOOM and DOOM II for the first time and did a Late to the Party post on it here. Since the original game turns 20 this week and everyone else is reminiscing about it I thought […]

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