Retro Arcade: Doom

Bad graphics are off-putting to a lot of gamers and, as technology improves, older titles struggle. They often find themselves relying on a player’s nostalgia or the retro factor. Doom has aged well because of its pixelated graphics which is something that indie titles also benefit from. Unlike later games in that not-so-sweet-spot of the PlayStation 2 era, it does not have outdated attempts at realism.

Doom, one of the founding fathers of the FPS genre, was a follow-up to ID Software’s Wolfenstein and a predecessor to Quake. Because of ID’s FPS trilogy, we have great titles that vary from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to Half-Life to the vibrant and beautiful Far Cry. Despite Doom’s significance though, there is one thing that is asked time and time again: does it hold up? To put it simply – Doom has aged like fine wine.

The sprites have an infectious charm as they are remarkably detailed, brilliantly designed and rich with personality. This is partly because they were originally crafted as sculptures which were then photographed from multiple different angles. This lent its hand to their intricate appearance, making Doom a phenomenally beautiful game that, all these years later, still looks good. It may not be realistic, cartoon-y or blessed with amazing lighting and futuristic tech but, at its core, the simplicity and pixel-focused design stands up.

The Doomguy, baron of hell and cyberdemon were sculpted by Adrian Carmack. Gregor Punchatz built the rest of the models (the archvile, mancubus, revenant and spiderdemon).

https://doom.fandom.com/wiki/Models

The shooting is incredibly satisfying as the sprites explode outwards in a blood-red spectacle. As each foe has such a gory demise, it creates a sense of impact during combat. Although the beloved, famous and adored iconic double barrel shotgun has yet to make an appearance, the weapons provided in the original game are nothing short of sublime. They’re more than just responsive and fun to handle – they are iconic.

Whether you enjoy running down a corridor shooting everything point-blank, punching your way through crowds or standing back and admiring the view as you unload your clip of minigun ammo into the hordes of Demons, Doom is equipped to meet your personal playstyle. This way, the game has unbelievable replay value and, whilst not as in-depth as more modern games, it offers something for everybody.

The levels themselves were never visual spectacles with the game instead focusing on the aesthetic of the enemies and weapons but, in what they lack in appearance, they make up for in design. ID Software implemented a plethora of secrets, alternate paths and enemies to gun down. All of the secrets lend their hand to the sense of achievement crafted by the arcade-esc checklist that sprawls outwards upon completing each level.

Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.

John Carmack

The combat is great, the sprites are brilliant and the level design is intricate but what sticks around most after I’ve quit the game is the music. Doom sports an intense, action-packed metal score that makes the gunplay all the more bad-ass and reminiscent of the movies that ID Software were inspired by. Although Doom excels in all of the key aspects of a modern game, it falls short in one area: story.

However, at the time, John Carmack said the story doesn’t matter in video-games which may have been true for the FPS genre back in 1993. In Wolfenstein, the game was fairly simple as you ran along slaughtering Nazi’s in plain blue corridors and, in Doom, it was pretty much the same as you traversed Mars, curb-stomping Demons in metallic grey corridors. A story may work for Valve and Activision but, when ID Software tried to implement it into the Doom series during the third installment, it fell flat. A return to form was far more fitting in the later release of Doom 2016 where the story came last on their checklist. Some games relish in their movie-like narratives but mindless shooting is where Doom flourishes and so, it truly succeeds in being perfect.

-> FINAL THOUGHTS

There’s a reason this game has stood the test of time and that is because it was incredibly designed from the foundations through to release. The gameplay and the visuals are to die for. Whilst the FPS genre tilted towards story, it began as simplistic shoot-em-up fun which, even over twenty years later, remains charming and wonderfully enjoyable. There’s a reason this genre kicked off with ID Software’s work.

To this day, fans are still delving into the original Doom games and the modding community has yet to quit. Controversy did not kill Doom, time did not kill Doom, competition did not kill Doom.

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