Today marks a significant anniversary – it has been a quarter of a century since id Software revolutionized the first-person shooter genre with DOOM. And while in the intervening years we’ve seen the genre branch off into other avenues, it’s arguably only in the DOOM franchise that the first-person shooter has been at its most purely entertaining.
So with our buckshot reloaded and our chainsaw refueled, we get knee deep in the dead with a fond, gore-smeared look at one of the most legendary franchises the industry has ever seen.
And naturally, there’s only one place where we can start.
The godfather of the FPS genre, DOOM was a revolution in the absolute truest sense of the word when it released on a handful of 3.5” floppy disks for MS-DOS powered PC systems on December 10, 1993.
As a rugged space marine with a seemingly raging hard-on for blowing big ol’ holes into the anatomies of his foes on a Martian moonbase, DOOM had players punching, shooting, exploding and sawing their way through a mephistophelian nightmare of hellish invaders who were, well, hellbent on turning our reality into an absolute shithole.
DOOM then, was a game where shooting a demonic enemy could cause their guts to erupt up out of their mouths and over their broken corpse, or whereby collecting a berserk pack, you could literally punch a chap so hard he would literally explode in a shower of meaty chunks.
This was DOOM, and DOOM was glorious.
But what made it so very, very good wasn’t just its penchant for stylish first-person slaughter, but also its superb level and objective-based design. You see just one year before, id Software had released Wolfenstein 3D – a groundbreaking shooter that had you romping around various compounds killing Nazis, discovering secrets and collecting color-coded keys in order to progress through each level.
Emboldened by a brand new graphics engine that allowed levels to be designed with more than one floor, DOOM took this design manifesto and expanded upon it greatly, fashioning some truly fiendish maps that tested your skills of orientation, as much as they did your reflexive trigger finger.
Additionally, DOOM doesn’t get nearly enough credit for turning horror tropes on their collective heads; no longer were you some defenseless hunk of meat being torn to shreds by a slew of demonic terrors – as the horrendous empowered Doomguy you were the terror.
Then, of course, there was the multiplayer.
Long before the Halos, Call of Dutys and Fortnites of today dominated the multiplayer landscape, there were few thrills quite so potent as bombing around a map with a friend, using your knowledge of the map to its fullest as you nab all of the power-ups and decent weapons first before laying waste to them in quick, satisfying fashion.
From its thudding midi-metal soundtrack to the feeling of outright elation one had after firing the BFG for the first time, DOOM was, quite simply, a landmark effort that would shape an entire industry for decades to come. It’s also telling that next to Tetris, the original DOOM stands as one of the most ported games of all-time, ending up on everything from an ATM to a printer and beyond. So show some respect, yeah?
Releasing just a year after the original and much less of a sequel in the traditional sense and more of a full-bodied expansion with knobs on, DOOM II didn’t introduce any new mechanics, significant visual improvements or any other disruptive changes to the now established DOOM template.
Instead, id Software used the lessons learned in the first game and leveraged the availability of more powerful hardware to refine their in-house id Tech 1 engine. The result, was that DOOM II’s levels were much larger than before, which meant by proxy that you also had that many more monsters and secret areas stuffed into its hellish boundaries.
Despite basically offering more of what players had experienced already, DOOM II did bring some smaller changes to the table, nonetheless. Chief among these were a whole new range of monsters to blow apart, including the Revenant, Pain Elemental and towering Arachnotron for starters. Amusingly, two secret levels were also snuck into DOOM II which put players shotgun-to-face with the SS in a Wolfenstein 3D themed map – a nice nod to the progenitor of the FPS genre if there ever was one.
Ultimately then, DOOM II was more of the same – but when you’re talking about one of the greatest shooters in the history of the industry, was that really such a bad thing after all? Nah, it wasn’t – especially as DOOM II introduced the Super Shotgun; a weapon that quite easily boasted one of the most satisfying reload animations ever seen in a video game.
Released a good decade after DOOM II had hit the shelves, DOOM 3 was highly anticipated to say the least. Originally conceived at the turn of the new millennium as a high-tech remake of the original DOOM, work on what would eventually become DOOM 3 began in earnest once id Software had released the multiplayer-focused Quake III: Arena.
When it did finally release on PC in 2004 however, it’s fair to say that the response to DOOM 3 was somewhat mixed, to say the least. Built on the then pioneering id Tech 4 engine, DOOM 3 simply looked incredible. With full 3D environments (you could look up, down and all around!), super detailed character models and a range of new shadowing, particle and lighting effects, DOOM 3 was pretty much the best-looking shooter of its day from a technical standpoint.
Beyond its lush veneer, however, DOOM 3 diluted the furious run ‘n’ gun design that had made the first two games such grandly entertaining propositions. For the first time in the series, we had a DOOM game that introduced NPC characters and a fleshed out story which was exposed through audio recordings, video logs, and cutscenes.
The upshot of this was that DOOM 3’s pacing was nowhere near as violently brisk as the first two games in series – taking off some of that precious edge that marked DOOM as such a frantic affair in the first place.
Another issue was the multiplayer functionality that DOOM 3 encompassed. When DOOM and DOOM II were on the market there very few peers that could survive comparisons with id Software’s magnum opus, but in the ten years that had passed from the release of second and third games in the series, much had changed in this regard.
Not least was the fact that id Software had already created another stellar multiplayer affair with their new Quake IP, and in which the previously released Quake III: Arena was arguably considered to be at the zenith.
Further afield, it also didn’t help that DOOM 3’s thunder was also somewhat lessened by the fact that it had the poor luck of launching in the same year as Half-Life 2, with Valve’s sublime super-sequel laying waste to id Software’s threequel both critically and commercially. Sadly, it would be 12(!) more years before DOOM would return after its divisive third core series entry, but when it did, it would bring an almighty ass-kicking with it.
It’s a no less than a total fucking miracle that 2016’s DOOM turned out to be as stoat-bangingly great as it was. Originally revealed as DOOM 4 in 2008, internal struggles and a change in creative direction meant that the game would be flushed down the toilet and started again from scratch in 2011.
No longer a sequel, this new title would simply be called ‘DOOM’ and fittingly, was a reboot for the series that would introduce a whole new generation to the godfather of the FPS genre.
If alarm bells quite rightly rang at the mention of ‘new generation’ and ‘reboot’, then allow me to assuage your fears – this new DOOM was everything a good reboot should be; utterly faithful to the source material while bringing the whole affair up to date for contemporary audiences.
It’s almost as if DOOM 3 never happened. Except it did – and from it, this new DOOM developed a narrative inspired by that game filled with cutscenes, video and audio logs to act as a backdrop to the metal thrum of its relentless slaughter. Never invasive or overbearing, id Software injected *just* the right amount of plot into this new DOOM to keep things ticking over, whilst keeping players focussed to the furiously murderous task at hand.
Elsewhere, the new SnapMap feature allowed players to construct levels from a wide-range of pre-created level sections for play in either solo or up for four players in multiplayer; extending the legs of DOOM far beyond that of its single-player campaign and competitive multiplayer offering.
Perfectly encapsulating the frenetic combat and agency of the 1993 original, DOOM supplemented that timeless template with some stunning visuals, satisfying executions and some of the most appropriately featured music ever seen in a shooter (Rip and Tear is a stone cold banger – you know this).
From the relentless disruption of its musical score, perfectly timed to the frenetic beats of its shooter gameplay and the violent ballet of its encounters, DOOM has made a convincing case for itself as one of the finest shooters of this generation.
With the credentials of DOOM 2016 now firmly established in the minds of players, the likelihood of the forthcoming DOOM Eternal being a steaming sack of demon shite at this point would seem to be rather low indeed.
Set for release sometime in 2019, DOOM Eternal looks set to carry on the great work wrought by its 2016 predecessor by seemingly giving players more of everything. First off, that means more weapons – including the Crucible Blade (a massive energy sword) and a modified Super Shotgun that fires execution-friendly meathooks at the enemy, just for starters.
Of course, there’s little point in having a bunch of fresh bang-bang if you don’t have new enemies with which to use them on, and thankfully here too DOOM Eternal also looks to bring the goods. In addition to reaching back into its history and bringing us the likes of the Archvile and the Pain Elemental, DOOM Eternal also brings a range of totally new foes such as the Doom Hunter and Marauder, too.
Better yet, the new ‘Destructible Demons’ feature brings detailed damage modeling to the proceedings, allowing players to gradually maim and dismember their demonic foes in startling detail.
Of all the new features, arguably the biggest change to the status quo comes in the form of a new asymmetrical multiplayer mode called ‘Invasion’ (don’t worry, traditional competitive multiplayer modes remain), where players can invade the single-player campaign of other players and help them vanquish their enemies.
Though the awesome SnapMap mode from DOOM’s 2016 release will not be returning (instead, id Software has promised a generous amount of post-release DLC), DOOM Eternal is looking every bit like the essential sequel to the white-hot series reboot most of us thought would never happen.