Holy hell, hell is holy.
I wasn’t much of a PC gamer growing up, I didn’t even have steady access to the internet until 2007, but I was always well aware of Doom. I remember seeing screenshots of it in gaming magazines and commercials for Doom 3 (I’ll get to that) and even seeing the movie (I’ll Get To That) when I was young lad, it left a massive impact on me even though I never touched it. Now that’s not to say NEVER interacted with the series, far from it actually, I played demos for the Xbox 360 versions of Doom 1 and 2 a lot whenever I could. Doom remained a constant interest with me until about two years ago when I finally got to play and beat the 2016 reboot of Doom on PC and it made me want to go back and replay the older games.
Then I didn’t.
But then I did!
With Doom Eternal coming out this month I wanted to try and go through the entire series just for fun and I’m glad I did because, despite its age, Doom has held up remarkably well.
Doom tells the story of a shady company by the name of UAC (Union Aerospace Corporation) performing experiments on the surface of Mars. While testing out new forms of teleportation they accidentally open up a rift into Hell which summons the forces of the dark realm onto the surface, killing or possessing many of the facility’s inhabitants. Not having any of it, the player (Doomguy) must traverse the destroyed labs and ruined research facilities to drive the hordes of Hell back from whence they came. Here’s the thing though: Doom rarely uses text to convey its story. Outside of a few text boxes at the end of each chapter, Doom chooses to tell its story through its gameplay and intense atmosphere and its positively brilliant. Doom is an extremely intimidating game even without its admittedly hardcore difficulty because the world of Doom is just Fucked. There are eviscerated space marine bodies littered on the ground, bodies nailed to the walls, blood painted pentagrams, demons around every corner, awkward midi ripoffs of Metallica, it’s all insane. This goes double for the gameplay because for how powerful some of the weapons are, you yourself are extremely weak and you can never be too comfortable.
To be honest this was the part of the game I was worried about experiencing the most because while I knew the game came out in ’93 it’s always hard to go back to older games simply because modern innovation can end up making them feel archaic and stiff.
I have been wrong before.
Doom hasn’t aged a goddamn day. While it isn’t a complex game by any means it is still a blast to go through simply because of how good it feels to run around and Rip and Tear through enemies (I was gonna say it). Due to how aggressive enemies can be you’re going to be running in circles around them and blasting them away with quite possibly the most entertaining arsenal of weapons I have ever used in an FPS game. The shotgun, chainsaw, plasma rifle, the BFG (Big Flippin’ Gun), all of them great weapons that feel amazing to use and..GOD this game is so much fun to play. The levels are all meticulously designed to be explored and find secrets as well and while the majority of them can be a riot to go through they aren’t all winners. Some of the maps can be a tad too long and quite a number of them rely too heavily on puzzle-solving and there were times where I was lost for upwards to 10 minutes just trying to figure out where to go (fuck you E2M4). Overall I think the gameplay and level design is amazing and has stood the test of time.
The difficulty, on the other hand……
Look, games are allowed to be hard. People should be allowed to test their skills and have their abilities pushed to their absolute limits. I also think there’s a limit to how messed up a game can be, there’s a balance to be had and I think Doom SORT of gets it right. I didn’t have too much of a problem with the first two episodes of Doom sure they weren’t exactly easy but they were fair. Episode 3 (Inferno) started to get a bit much for me since many of the maps had an overabundance of Cacodemons and Barons but through sheer perseverance, I succeeded. “Thy Flesh Consumed” though? WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?! “Thy Flesh Consumed” is an absolute nightmare and throws every nice thing I had to say about Doom’s level design out the damn window. Levels are WAY too long and sprawling and they not only constantly spam enemies at you, but they have the gall to spawn enemies BEHIND the player and have several progression walkways in lava and acid. I straight up couldn’t even beat the first level on normal difficulty I HAD to go on easy for the sake of my own sanity. I get wanting a challenge but Jesus Christ you guys.
Doom is a game I had a massive amount of fun with outside of Episode 4. I think it’s a game anyone can and should play if they have even a passing interest in first-person shooters or just want a damn good challenge. This recommendation comes with a caveat though. If you’re going to play this game and are able to, try to hunt down a PC copy. I played the 2019 Bethesda published Nintendo Switch port and while it runs fine and has some cool additions like builtin addons and a quicksave feature it is far, FAR from perfect. There was an instance in Episode 3 where I started to stutter and freak out and it dragged my framerate into the negatives, making it completely unplayable. Saving and restarting didn’t fix it either so I had to completely restart the episode because dying removes all of your weapons. The game also bricks itself if you move it from handheld mode to tv mode and that’s not even MENTIONING the multitude of issues the game had at launch with the DRM gatekeeping with Bethesda.net and the audio issues. It’s a decent port now and my experience was relatively glitch-free but I would still recommend the original PC version if you want a cleaner experience.
Doom is still good despite these issues though and I recommend it wholeheartedly. Play it when you can, you have no excuse. None. LITERALLY none you can run the damn thing on a refrigerator.