Video game review entries
November 23, 2005
After Jon Romero’s enormously embarrassing Daikatana debacle that terminated his career as a videogaming rockstar, as well as the hundreds of ‘Quake Killers’ that were appearing out of the woodwork like crazy, it is hard to underline just how powerful and important Doom was. To some, it is difficult to remember the PC having any decent games before Doom. Doom was the videogame equivalent of Star Wars; an event that changed history for all involved, and not only changed the way games were made, but also how they were packaged, rated and how they infiltrated popular culture. It should never have worked. In 1992, Id software released prototype Wolfenstein 3D through a highly clever method of distribution called Shareware, whereby you played the first seven or so levels for free, and then purchased the rest via other ‘episodes’. It was successful, and despite a lacklustre retail performance for its sequel Spear of Destiny, Id software was tapping the bucks. Yet they were not regarded well in the industry; publishers and established games companies looked down on Id; Sierra tried to broker a deal with Id Software, but Id demanded $2 million up front as part of the deal. Sierra was appalled at the arrogance of the demand, and closed the deal. After Doom, nobody would ever say no to them again.
A revolutionary graphics engine designed by technical wunderkind John Carmack laid the track, and Id’s smart team of designers worked night and day on their masterpiece; it was going to be gory, it was going to be violent, and it was going to take in some taboo themes. Doom was unleashed in December 1993, and the world never saw anything like it. A thunderingly violent game that recalled the 1986 film Aliens, the story of Doom was simply a marine who ends up on a Mars base where everything has fallen strangely silent and finds that hell has been unleashed. Level after level of blood-splashed mayhem ensued, climaxing with the destruction of the Spider Mastermind in hell itself. With seven weapons to choose from in its hellish gothic design, the wondrous shooting maze that was Doom captured the minds of a whole generation. History had changed. Other companies desperately tried to copy, with more violent and destructive weapons and more evil looking bad guys, but to absolutely no avail. The menagerie of Doom was impossible to emulate; floating demons (Cacodemons) zombies (Former Humans) cybernetic hell beasts (the enormous Cyberdemon) and sometimes just the plain gross (Mancubus).
What set Doom apart from any of its inferior imitators however, was not the violence or enemies- although help the enemy design did, with the Cyberdemon probably being the finest boss ever created in any game, ever. What set Doom apart was its fiendish and clever-as-hell design. Id were precociously good at creating enormous booby trapped levels, such as ‘Tricks and Traps’ in Doom II where you open the door as soon as you start, to find some invincibility power ups, eighteen barons of hell (horned demon things, very tough) and one cyber demon (eighteen times tougher than the barons) waiting for you. Time to get powered up. Or Barrels Of Fun, where you have to sprint away from were you’re starting thanks to some zombie igniting one of the many exploding barrels exploding in a massive chain straight towards you. All of it classic, all of it clever, all of it brilliant. Doom II was the retailed one, and was cynically regarded by some as a cash-in add on; the first had the more compelling story and setting, it was argued. No changes, bar a new weapon and a few new enemies were added. Yet Doom II was where Id really let their imaginations run riot, creating a truly enormous game with some brilliantly fiendish levels – each level perhaps four times larger than any of the maps in Doom I. Admittedly, in today’s Half Life’s and Unreal’s, Doom is less highly regarded, despite an entertaining third instalment but it still stands up today as a bloody good fun game despite its age. You just have to remember; no Doom? No Quake, No Unreal, No Half Life, no Unreal Tournament, no Quake III Arena, No Return to Castle Wolfenstein, no Medal of Honor, no Aliens Vs Predator…its as simple as that really.
Oh yeah, and its out in a highly competitive box set; £10 for Doom I, Doom II and Final Doom – that's 120 levels of hell blasting action. FOR. A. TENNER. You'd be bloody mad not to buy it, frankly.