Hands on with Doom(1993)

Some games just stick with you. DOOM, the OG of the shooting genre, is one of those games. In my early days of PC gaming, I played four games:

  • Interstate 76
  • Crusader: No Remorse
  • DOOM
  • Sim City

I was trash at every one. Of course, with age comes skill, and after hundreds of hours building my skills in Goldeneye, COD, and Destiny I’ve become quite proficient when it comes to laying folks down. So what was it like to return to the game that gave me the most trouble?

I love playing classic video games. Partially due to nostalgia, but the main reason is that games from yesteryear are better games. Don’t get me wrong, today’s games are amazing, but they’re becoming too complex and convoluted. Old school games had to do more with less. In DOOM there’s no inventory management, upgrade trees, or precision aim. You just point, shoot, and pray.

The first minutes in the game required an adjustment. Doom guy doesn’t aim on a vertical axis. I only had to point in the direction of an enemy and the bullets did the rest of the work. Demon firing from above you? Just point and watch as bullets curve up the y-axis to hit their target. When human enemies shoot at you, there is no visual cue to dodge. Stripping away the polish and visuals leaves you to appreciate what the game does well – killing demons.

DOOM is as pure of a shooter as you can get. It’s the game you play when you need to learn the basics. You learn to shoot while strafing because you cannot jump, roll, or find cover. Clearing a room feels like a dance. You’ll peek around a corner, get a quick scan of room before taking a shotgun bullet to the face. Doom guy moves as if he’s on roller-skates, which helps you maneuver when a group of enemies rush you.

Playing DOOM made me appreciate the art of game design. Every element has to work together flawlessly or the experience falters. Shooting and movement feel great. But the game would become boring if enemies weren’t strategically placed to push you to master your play style. It’s why you’ll see demons who shoot fireballs paired with a zombie with a shotgun. The game is pushing you to think before you act. For example, You could dodge a demon’s fireball to get in close for a shotgun kill. But, if you don’t take into account the zombie with the shotgun, your plan will fail.

The game also teaches you level design. Each stage is designed for two types of play – speed runs or exploration. You can start each level with the mindset of sprinting to the exit after gathering any of the required keys to open doors to the exit. Or you can explore and find hidden rooms that reward you with health, ammo, and stronger weapons. Those rewards also come with their own risks, as hordes of enemies will rush you to keep you from collecting your prize.

DOOM is back to basics. It’s a look at the ‘good old days’ of video games. A history lesson for those who spend their days playing Warzone. For those of us who find ourselves jaded at today’s gaming landscape, DOOM is a welcomed palette cleanse.