April 2016 – Doom

You’ve come here for a reason. The Union Aerospace Corporations massive research facility on Mars is overwhelmed by fierce and powerful demons, and only one person stands between their world and ours. As the lone DOOM Marine, you’ve been activated to do one thing – kill them all.

Title: Doom
Platforms: Everything
Release Date: December 10, 1993
Developer: id Software
Publisher: GT Interactive
Genre: First Person Shooter

Members Completed: 1 
Average Rating: 90/100
MemberProgressRatingReview and/or Comments
KuroCompleted90/100The first modern FPS, and still better today than 90% of the genre. Revolutionary from a technical standpoint--diminished lighting, binary space partitioning, etc. A step forward in terms of gameplay; id purposefully did away with stale conventions held over from arcade games (having X number of lives, piling up a high score by collecting tons of golden chests and bejeweled goblets). With Doom, they focused on creating a sense of place, atmosphere, and adventure. Out with the levels where the maps are just a grid of square rooms; in with asymmetry, round lines, and vertical gameplay--elevators, enemies attacking from windows, etc.

Sure, that's why it was such a big deal back then, but what makes it hold up so well? The gameplay is very minimal and presumes nothing; there are no bells and whistles, just viscerally satisfying gunplay in well-done maps. Given the fact that this is all Doom wants to give you, it *better* be done well, and it is. The essence of Doom is this: you are a glass cannon that kills shit fast and moves fast. You zip around, avoiding projectiles that sometimes border on bullet hell, while whittling down hordes of monsters until everything's dead. Contrast this to modern shooters, which are mostly cover-based. To be sure, cover plays a role in Doom, but there's a clear contrast between Doom's fast-paced, active fights against tons of monsters, and the contemporary FPS's slower fights that bid the player slip in and out of cover to take down a handful of enemies at a time. Even when the latter is challenging, winning those fights doesn't feel nearly as much of an accomplishment as winning the frantic slobberknockers in Doom.

So Doom feels a lot more active and rewarding than shooters today and makes the player feel like a badass. It was revolutionary, and it's still fun as hell. But moreover it doesn't feel a bit clunky. The graphics hold up as kind of a charming pixel art style, but more importantly the gameplay is fluid as ever and incredibly accessible nearly 25 years later. That goes back to the game's minimal approach; games that focus on just one primary mechanic and do it well--gunplay in Doom's case--tend to hold up over time; there's nothing here that really *could* age much. Compare Doom to another shooter that was a contemporary of Doom, System Shock. SS is a phenomenal game in its own right, but it's clunky as hell; it's much busier than Doom and anchors its gameplay in several different mechanics. The result is that younger gamers would find System Shock much less accessible than Doom, which revolves simply around the thrilling gunplay. The only big caveat would be the lack of vertical mouselook in vanilla Doom, but if you're playing on a source port, as you should, free mouselook is easily enabled.

Doom broke a ton of ground back in the day, and it remains entirely accessible and free of clunk. And it offers thrilling gameplay in a different, more active mold than most of today's shooters. Critics might dismiss it as mindless shooting that offers little else, but Doom is a demonstration of elegant, finely-crafted minimalism; folks who want to learn about game design and level design would do well to give Doom a try, then Doom 2, which perfected the formula with new monsters that expand the gameplay and give it much more nuance.

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