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.