Hey all! So sorry for the lateness of this week's article.
Last week brought us to a deeply emotional shooter, with a story better than most FPS games.
This week, we're doing the polar opposite of last week's game. For here's a game with really no story, no plot, no moral choices. And we wouldn't have it any other way.
Yep. DOOM. Brought to us in 1993, DOOM is so old, there's SNES and Jaguar ports of it. Brought to us by id Software, and designed by Johns Carmack and Romero. Who you've likely heard of at some point.
In DOOM (yes, it's gonna be in all caps throughout the article), you play as a nameless space Marine that players like to call Doomguy. Doomguy fights demons and monsters.
That's pretty much it.
Oh, there's a bunch of lore running in the background. The demons are from Hell, and they're invading Phobos (a moon of Mars), and so on and so on. I like it, it's just that, well, you're not playing DOOM for the plot. Come on.
You played it back then because it was like nothing else before it.
By no means was DOOM the debut of the first-person-shooter genre. Even Wolfenstein 3D came out before it. But DOOM was the reason FPS's took off back in the old days. DOOM proved that this genre of gameplay could not only function, but excel. A textbook example of old-school shooter design (the example, really), DOOM consists of labyrinthine, non-linear levels, peppered with enemies, color-coded keys, and secrets on top of secrets.
See, DOOM made you explore. That's one thing right there that separates DOOM from games that come out today. You'd be dropped into a level, and you'd have just one objective: find the exit. Literally, a giant door labled "EXIT."
Of course, accessing that exit proved to be tougher than it sounded. For DOOM was made in the old days of gaming, in which the game you were playing tried quite hard to prevent you from reaching the end. To that end, when I say "dropped into a level," I mean you're given no help. You had to find all the cool weapons on your own, not to mention the keys needed to open the corresponding doors that lead to more enemies and more color-coded keys and doors-all in the name of finding that horrible, glorious EXIT door.
I've been replaying DOOM in preparation for this article. (Full disclosure-I've been running The Ultimate DOOM, downloaded from Steam, unmodded.) (Also, Steam doesn't let me take screenshots so :-/) What surprises me the most, about playing this 90's shooter filled with pixelated monsters, frustratingly complex level design, and sometimes grating sound effects, is that I'm finding DOOM to be more immersive, challenging, and fun than most triple-A titles that are coming out today.
Don't get me wrong; I love games today as much as I did years ago. What I'm saying is, I'm amazed at how immersed I can be in this blocky, pixely world, when at the same time, I feel so detached from something like the current Call of Duty games. Which feature a presumably "realistic" story. With, you know, humans and such. Specifically, I mean the Modern Warfare series; the first CoD continues to be one of my favorite games and a great example of immersion in gaming.
But there's something...liberating about playing as Doomguy. I guess it's because I get to blast wave after wave of enemies without consequence? Which of course led to controversy back in the 90's. Didn't help that Mortal Kombat was around this time too, but whatever. "Experts" named DOOM harmful to children, called it a mass murder sim, and feared it could be used with VR tech to simulate realistic killing.
Ha. Those people had no idea how violent games could be, huh? DOOM is pretty tame by comparison. But children everywhere got a lot of experience killing demons and flying skulls and what not. In case we get invaded by demons from Hell.
But let's not turn this into that debate. Let's instead remember DOOM for what it was-what it is, because it's timeless-it's a seriously fun game that remains fun thanks to design light-years ahead of it's time. I mean, there's a new version of the Brutal DOOM mod coming out. People are still modding this game today, 21 years after its release.
Next week, we'll visit a bizarre tropical island (shaped like a letter), get eaten by a whale, and get water all over our instruction manual.