Judgment Day is upon us: The remade version of DOOM is available today on Xbox One—and PC, if you don’t mind purchasing via Steam or a local retailer—offering a graphic and violent walk down memory lane. Whether the new game stands up at all to the original, let alone the DOOM 3 reboot from 12 years ago, remains to be seen. But just a quick look at the single player campaign reveals a nice combination of stellar visuals and classic game play techniques.
Will I review DOOM? Probably not. But I do go way back with DOOM, and with its predecessors. 25 years ago, I was an Amiga user and fan, and one of the big attractions of that platform was its gaming prowess. But the Amiga peaked with sideways scrollers like “Shadow of the Beast.” And it was Id Software, and the release of “Castle Wolftenstein 3D”—on the lowly PC, no less—that took everything to the next level.
Id’s impact cannot be overstated. Thanks to the programming genius of John Carmack and the stylized level design of John Romero (and others), Id’s games weren’t just impressive, they were amazing. So amazing, in fact, that my wife’s early-90’s IBM PS/1, which featured a feeble 10 MHz 286 processor and a screen that could display only 4 shades of gray, could easily handled “Castle Wolftenstein 3D.” My Amiga, suddenly, was obsolete.
Id followed up Wolf 3D with a succession of excellent games, but none were as influential as DOOM, which shipped in 1993 as a shareware title where you could literally send Id a check and they’d mail you the floppy disks of the full game. DOOM and its sequel DOOM II, and games like Heretic, Rise of the Triads, and Duke Nukem 3D dominated my free time in the mid-to-late 1990s. I used to gather with friends at work on nights and weekends so we could play DOOM (and later other games) in multiplayer mode. And then of course the Internet took off, Quake happened, and on we went.
I didn’t transition to console-based gaming until the release of the Xbox 360 in 2005. But before that happened, Id remade DOOM as DOOM 3, introducing amazing graphics and substituting the dark for playability. It was an OK game, especially single player. But it suffered alongside superior PC games like Far Cry and Half-Life 2. And by the time I jumped to the 360, Call of Duty had taken over. Indeed, Call of Duty’s FPS reign continues unabated to this day.
So DOOM. Not my first love. But my biggest love? Absolutely. So I approach this new game with a bit of concern. Concern that it will not be as good as Call of Duty, let alone DOOM 3. I have zero belief that it can ever match, today, what the original DOOM games achieved in the mid-1990s, of course. You have to be realistic.
My experience with the DOOM Beta and Open Beta did not help: Id, now a shadow of its former self—Carmack and Romero are long gone—only provided two levels to test. And compared to COD, the game felt constrained, with no vertical movement and a weird gliding effect that didn’t feel like your character was walking onscreen. It was fast and pretty. But I didn’t like it very much.
After a long and slow download—and seriously, how is it that this game didn’t pre-install over the past week?—I took my first look at the DOOM single player campaign this morning. Like the multiplayer stuff, it’s gorgeous, and gruesome, and a nice updating of the game. You jump right in, and the story is filled in about as naturally as possible. Some of it is truly dumb—you need to bring a satellite online so you can find out “why” there’s a demonic invasion—and some of is a nod to popular science fiction, like the movie “Prometheus.”
Getting started with weapons and the remade enemies, I like what I see. And I started smiling when I realized that classic (old fashioned) game play tactics from the first DOOM still work: You can easily evade thrown fireballs by just moving side-to-side, for example. It’s fun.
Sometimes the nostalgia’s not that fun, too. It’s still very much a checkpoint rail runner, and you get health from exploding demon bodies … for some reason. Not to mention exploding barrels (excellent) and oddly placed health packs all over the place (silly). So I’m a bit torn so far.
But it’s early times. I’ll be out most of the day for a speaking engagement in Boston, but I’ll try to spend more time with DOOM over the weekend, and will do my best to stick with it and finish the campaign. There’s multiplayer, too, though I’m a bit less interested to get back into that.
So far, I can say it’s a gory stunner, visually. Is it worth buying? I’ll need more time before I can figure out that, sorry.
Oh, and you should check out Microsoft’s The Demons of Doom: Then and Now. It’s a nice peek at how the visuals have changed since 1993.
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