My Journey Into Hell: A DOOM Retrospective, Part 1

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Posted by Igort (23 posts) -

With the release of Doom Eternal looming over the horizon, and with the release of new levels for the original Doom from one of the games original creators, I thought now would be the best time to go back and experience the old Doom games properly for the first time. I had played through and furiously enjoyed 2016’s Doom, so why not go back and truly experience where this legendary franchise had come from?

I’m not a complete stranger to Doom, of course. I had Doom 64 way back when, and I owned a copy of Doom for the Playstation around the same time. Just after the release of 2016’s Doom, I bought copies of all the other Doom titles on Steam. Despite this, I had never gone into the weeds and played classic Doom, outside of messing around in each games opening levels before nodding happily, turning the game off, and telling myself I’d get around to playing it properly some other time.

My journey through Classic Doom began with trying to figure out what the best way to play the original 1993 Doom now in 2019 was. I had all the games on Steam, so playing them wasn’t really a chore, but would that really be the best way?

It was an act of serendipity that lead me straight to one of the best ways to play Doom, thanks to one of the men behind the whole thing in the first place, John Romero himself. With Romero releasing his much-anticipated fifth episode for Doom (known as Sigil) I found myself wanting to assure that when the time came I could play through those levels too. From there I quickly discovered gzdoom, a fan-made enhanced port of the Doom engine for modern operating systems. Fantastic.

One of the first things that struck me about Doom was how wrong my old, initial impressions of it were. I always had the idea in my head that a typical session playing Doom would involve wandering around gigantic open ended levels aimlessly for several minutes looking for that one door or switch or keycard I had missed to advance. This ended up not being the case at all once I was playing it for myself. Doom levels can be quite open and sparse (for lack of a better word), but there’s usually always a clear objective or path communicated either through item or enemy placement, or (in some cases) with actual straight-up arrows pointing you in the right direction. Those moments did happen, on occasion, but they were few and far between compared to what I was expecting.

Another thing that struck me was just how fast it was. Maybe playing it on a modern PC had a little to do with it, but the game really doesn’t show it’s age at all when it comes to the fluidity and responsiveness in it’s controls. It’s level design is awe-inspiring and intuitive, and fun. It’s easy to see why and how Doom became the monolith that it is, and why so many chased after it’s throne as the king of first person shooters.

Doom II: Hell On Earth was equally as fun. In many ways, it felt like a victory lap. A decent chunk of the levels ooze the developers intent of building something enjoyably and challenging for the players. Many levels are built around specific gimmicks or ideas, but not in a way that feels hokey or gimmicky. My favourite example is the 7th level, “Dead Simple,” which flies in the face of other Doom levels where exploration is key; this map is just a big square with enemies flooding in to face you. I laughed at the entire tongue in cheek nature of it.

Over the years I’ve become slightly bored by modern FPS games. I think there’s still interesting things being done in that space, but a little bit of the spark has faded away for me. Revisiting Doom and Doom II really helped me remember how fun FPS games can be, has really revitalised my interest in the genre.

After finishing the first two Doom games, I thought: “Why stop there?” I decided I may as well go all the way and play through Doom 64 and Doom 3, and I’ll talk about my experience with those in the next part. But how about you guys? When did you first play Doom? Was it recently? Were you there at the start? Let me know down below.

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#1 Posted by Justin258 (15693 posts) -

Before I really get started, there's a PC conversion for Doom 64 out there. You should probably seek that one out if you want to play Doom 64 in 2019.

I first played a pirated copy of Doom way back in middle school. Somebody had it on a flash drive (this would have been an early 2000's flash drive, so it wasn't holding much) and I got a copy, put it on my parent's computer, and played away. I'm pretty sure it was Final Doom and I had no idea what I was doing and I was complete garbage at it, so I didn't play it much and I have no idea where those files eventually went. I never finished this version.

Fast forward to high school and the 360 era, I had 400 Xbox points or whatever they were called left over from purchasing some Halo DLC and Doom was on sale, so I bought it. And I played a lot more of it, but still didn't finish it for whatever reason. I think I got stuck on the boxy warehouse level where ammo is super scarce and just didn't keep playing it.

Some time in early college, I decided to give Doom another try for whatever reason and got way into the whole series. I finished Doom 1 multiple times, so much so that by the time I got around to Doom 2, I just went into it on Ultra Violence and finished it that way the first time. I played quite a bit of one of the Final Doom packs, but never finished it. The other Final Doom level pack kinda sucked so I never finished it, and I've only barely played Master Levels for Doom 2. I was running out of classic Doom steam by that point.

I also played a lot of Doom 3. First, I got a hold of an original Xbox some time prior. Since I didn't have a gaming PC capable of playing Doom 3 at the time, I just got a copy of the original Xbox version and played it there. That version was pretty good for the time, but really there are better ways to play Doom 3. Later, I got the BFG edition for PC, played through it, then got the original version and played through it. And that was when I ran out of Doom 3 steam.

This series has certainly had an impact on my tastes in games. I had even less interest in playing more super-linear, cutscene-heavy, slow-moving 360-era shooters after playing all of the Doom games. I was already losing interest in those, but it was utterly lost after really getting into something that was just proud to be a video game. I found myself interested in dungeon-crawlers, actually, and I think Doom feels more like a first person dungeon crawler with vastly different combat mechanics than the first person shooter genre that sprung off of it. I played a lot of Etrian Odyssey, some Legend of Grimrock, and some Might and Magic X afterwards. Weird place to go after playing Doom, but exploration and difficult combat with a minimal focus on story were what I was looking for.

These days, I've been away from the 360-era style shooters long enough that playing one occasionally is entertaining and fun. As an example, I played through Singularity not too long ago and I really enjoyed it. But nothing sticks with me quite like an old-style shooter. I played Dusk over Christmas last year and that game is fantastic in all the ways that old Doom was, aside from a few levels where I got a little too lost. Currently, I'm playing Ion Fury, which just came out and which is also a lot of fun. Apparently Amid Evil is also supposed to be pretty good, but I haven't got around to it yet. Otherwise, I play lots of R6 Siege with friends and sometimes Destiny when I just want some easy grinding. All on PC, worth mentioning. Ion Fury has controller support and I tried it and noped the fuck out of that.

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#2 Posted by Igort (23 posts) -

@justin258: Yeah, I started out playing Doom 64 EX which was a great way to play that game, but then I discovered Doom 64 Retribution which runs in gzdoom so I switched over to that one because I felt it ran a little better. I had to jump through a couple extra hoops to get the original soundtrack running on that version but it was all worth it. I'm currently playing through the Steam version of Doom 3 and have wondered if I should jump over to the BFG Edition, though I'm a handful of hours in and not sure if I want to start over.

Your mention of Doom on the XBLA jigged some memories loose and I'm almost certain I had that version also. It appears despite never properly playing them I've always had a massive reverence for Doom which lead me to buy it at almost every opportunity! Insane that I waited this long to actually play these games.

I played a small amount of Destiny 2 and enjoyed it but couldn't find anything to quite grab me the way I wanted. I think I was hoping it would scratch that Borderlands loot-shooter itch, which I think it did for a few hours. I've been curious about this new wave of Doom-style shooters like Ion Fury and Strafe and such, haven't dived in yet though. Amid Evil is definitely the one that sticks out to me the most, it's super bright and colourfil and I wonder if my eyes can stomach it! I'll probably wait until after I've finished replaying the Doom series before jumping in to those games.

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#3 Posted by wollywoo (324 posts) -

I think Doom has aged quite well. Better, in fact, than some of the early 3D shooters that came after. It's so damn simple and satisfying. It looks quite nice for a game from its era, and the sound design is still incredible. Nice and chunky.

That said...

@igort said:

One of the first things that struck me about Doom was how wrong my old, initial impressions of it were. I always had the idea in my head that a typical session playing Doom would involve wandering around gigantic open ended levels aimlessly for several minutes looking for that one door or switch or keycard I had missed to advance.

This is my memory as well, and it still held up when I came back to it a year or so ago. The designs are very maze-like and everything runs together for me. Maybe that says more about me than the game - in real life I can get lost just a few blocks away from wherever I am coming from. But man, a Metroid-style map that shows shading of where you've been and where you haven't been would be lovely.

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#4 Posted by Justin258 (15693 posts) -

@igort:The BFG edition looks a little cleaner and runs a little better and gets rid of the flashlight in favor of a helmet light (which makes the Hell sections of that game much more enjoyable), but there's really not much reason to get it if you've already got the original version, unless you just want controller support and the lost levels expansion (there's no reason to play the lost levels expansion).

@wollywoo said:

I think Doom has aged quite well. Better, in fact, than some of the early 3D shooters that came after. It's so damn simple and satisfying. It looks quite nice for a game from its era, and the sound design is still incredible. Nice and chunky.

That said...

@igort said:

One of the first things that struck me about Doom was how wrong my old, initial impressions of it were. I always had the idea in my head that a typical session playing Doom would involve wandering around gigantic open ended levels aimlessly for several minutes looking for that one door or switch or keycard I had missed to advance.

This is my memory as well, and it still held up when I came back to it a year or so ago. The designs are very maze-like and everything runs together for me. Maybe that says more about me than the game - in real life I can get lost just a few blocks away from wherever I am coming from. But man, a Metroid-style map that shows shading of where you've been and where you haven't been would be lovely.

Classic Doom did have a map, though. I don't remember what button it was originally but on PC I always just push Tab and there it is. It's on the Xbox version as well.

Still, the maps are labyrinthine. Generally, they're laid out in such a way that they lead players through all of the bits they need to go through, but sometimes they're laid out in ways that make very little sense so you wind up getting lost. Ninety percent of the time, they're extremely well-done. That other ten percent of the time, it's infuriating and that's the ten percent people remember when they call Doom a keycard hunt.

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#5 Posted by fisk0 (6966 posts) -

I didn't play Doom when it was new, had a way too old PC at the time, so the closest I could get was Blake Stone and the Wolfenstein 3-D "ROM hack" Enigma's Nightmare (which was a full games' worth of content replacing the shareware episode of Wolfenstein 3-D) until years later. By the time I got Doom, Quake and Duke Nukem 3D were out. Possibly even Quake II, but I still loved it, and I always felt like the levels of Doom felt like tangible places which I could learn to navigate as if they were real locations - something I had a harder time with in Blake Stone/Wolf3D, to some extent even Duke 3D since even though its locations looked more like the real world, they were condensed in a way where they were harder to make sense of, in retrospect largely because the game engine didn't have to conform to actual euclidean space.

Anyway, Doom has been staying with me ever since I first played it, I've been dabbling with mods and maps ever since, and regularly check out whatever new mods have been uploaded to doomworld, play the procedurally generated slige megawads and all that kinda stuff.

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#6 Edited by wollywoo (324 posts) -

@justin258: I know it had a map, it just doesn't have one that shows where you've been and where you haven't been - so I always end up retracing my steps, not noticing that I've missed something.

Edit: I guess it does have a kind of fog-of-war system. But it was the doors and obstacles were never as clear as in a Zelda-style map for me and I'd still get lost.

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#7 Edited by DoubleCakes (37 posts) -

Doom 2 was an early childhood game for me. I played it when I was 8 or so until the family computer lost the installation and I didn't have it for years. I played through the Doom shareware episode a lot, I actually had that on floppy.

I got back into Doom in my twenties and got familiar with ZDoom. That was the first in what would become a huge part of my gaming life, Doom and the modding community around it. Although back then I didn't check out any mods aside from Deus Vult down the road, using ZDoom and playing through The Ultimate Doom, Doom 2, and Final Doom was awesome. It was special playing through the final episode of Doom 1 and Plutonia and seeing how tough that game could get, only to have those standards smashed when I played my first community-made wad, Deus Vult. If you want to see how wild some Doom wads can get look up the Deus Vult wad.

It wasn't until I tried the Hellbound megawad with the ProjectMSX mod that I had tried an actual gameplay mod (ProjectMSX is a monster and weapon conversion mod). Since then, I don't play vanilla much anymore and me "playing" Doom is exploring all these different gameplay mods. Doom is smacking gameplay mods like Doom Incarnate up against megawads. I don't roll the original campaigns or vanilla gameplay much anymore. I might have played Doom more than any other game.

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#8 Edited by Nick (1043 posts) -

i played DOOM back when it was new, i was 7 or 8 and it scared the shit out of me. i'm replaying 1 and 2 on the Switch and i'm loving it.

to the guy who wants a map that shows where you've been: DOOM does exactly this. it fills in as you explore. it's even colour coded, walls are red, doors/switches are yellow, etc.

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