Game Corner: Doom (1993; Xbox Series X)


Released: 26 July 2019
Originally Released: 10 December 1993
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Original Developer: id Software
Also Available For: 3DO, Amiga, Android/iOS, Atari Jaguar, Game Boy Advance, Linux, MS-DOS, Nintendo Switch, PC/Mac, PlayStation, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, RISC, SEGA Saturn, SEGA-32X/Mega-32X, Solaris, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series S

The Background:
First-person shooter (FPS) videogames existed before Doom but, thanks to having been ported to every console and format available, the genre was pretty much defined by Doom, which inspired a wave of FPS titles on the PC and home consoles, as well as popularising online “Deathmatches” against other human players. Doom owes its existence to its forefather, Wolfenstein 3D (id Software, 1992), and id co-founder and lead programmer John Carmack. Inspired by classic science-fiction and horror films and board games, Carmack joined forces with designer John Romero and lead artist Adrian Carmack to create Doom, though the process wasn’t all plain sailing. The small, five-person team disagreed about the importance of story to the game and certain gameplay features, such as a score tally and the expansive nature Carmack envisioned, and the limitations of the hardware available to them. Carmack wanted the game to be faster and more brutal than its predecessor, and to have more abstract level designs to separate it from Wolfenstein 3D, which upset designer Tom Hall and saw him replaced late into the game’s development.

Doom has been run on nearly every device, including in Doom itself!

Largely programmed in ANSI C, Doom was released as “shareware”; the first episode was distributed for free and gamers were encouraged to play it, share it around, and purchase the full game if they liked it. Although it was a late addition to the game, Doom’s deathmatches were so popular that the game caused servers to crash, and the game was such a success that it was said to have been installed on more computers than Windows 95! Accordingly, id Software were making $100,000 a day (!) from sales of the game as Doom topped 3.5 million physical copies sold and was banned from workplaces after employees kept clogging the networks with deathmatches! Doom was met with widespread critical acclaim; despite some criticisms regarding the presentation and difficulty, critics lauded the game’s addictive gameplay, and it has cemented its legacy by being regarded as one of the greatest games of all time. Naturally, Doom was the subject of much controversy due its graphic violence and Satanic imagery, but it success led to a slew of expansions, sequels, ports, ancillary media, and even movie adaptations, which more than speaks to the popularity and longevity of the franchise.

The Plot:
In the future, an unnamed marine (popularly known as the “Doomguy”) is posted to a Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) outpost on Mars, where a secret teleportation experiment has gone terribly wrong and opened a portal to Hell itself! Stranded on the Mars moon of Phobos with no backup, no way out, and armed with only a pistol, Doomguy is the only one left to face down the forces of Hell!

Surprising absolutely nobody, Doom is the quintessential classic FPS gameplay experience that eschews the modern gameplay mechanics we’ve become so accustomed to and is as basic as you can get. There’s no options here for strafing, no quick-turn, and you can’t aim the crosshair anywhere but left and right but, on the plus side, your shots will generally always hit your target no matter where they are as long as you’re shooting in their general vicinity. The Right Trigger fires your current weapon at a steady rate, with no worries about reload times or the amount of weapons you can carry at any one time; you can use the Right and Left bumpers and the directional pad to quickly switch between your available arsenal, though its important to remember that you’ll lose everything but the basic pistol and your trusty fists when progressing between the game’s four chapters.

Blast through the demonic hordes to find coloured keys and make your way to the exit.

You can either hold down the Left Trigger to sprint or turn auto-run on from the options (I recommend the latter) and, while there’s no awkward first-person jumping or platforming to worry about, you can interact with switches, levels, and doors by pressing A. Y will bring up a useful wire-frame map of the current level, but this can be a bit disorientating as it takes up the entire screen and I always found it difficult to figure out which direction I was heading. Your ammo, health, and armour, are all helpfully displayed in the heads-up display (HUD), and this is where you’ll keep track of the coloured key cards and skulls you’ve collected in each level. These are necessary to open the appropriately-coloured doors or activate coloured barriers, and function as the primary puzzle/objective of each area: wade in, dispose of demons, grab keys, and get to the exit, snagging new weapons, ammo, and power-ups along the way. While you don’t need to worry about submerging or swimming through water or hopping from columns, you will have to keep an eye out for poison, lava, and crushing traps and getting all turned around from teleporters. On the plus side, you can lure enemies into attacking and killing each other, which is a nice touch, and destroy explosive barrels to take out larger groups of enemies.

While levels quickly become bizarre hellscapes, it’s easy to get lost in the samey environments.

And make no mistake, the hordes of Hell are out for your blood. The game has five different difficulty levels, with the enemies increasing in number and aggression depending on how difficult you set the game, and enemies will skulk around in the dark, fly at you from the shadows, and teleport in to take shots at you. You can also take advantage of these teleporters to be instantly transported around the level, and the further you progress into the game’s story, the more prominent such puzzles will be. Equally, things start off quite linear and it’s not too difficult to make your way from the start to the exit and find secret areas and rooms hidden behind seemingly innocuous walls. However, it isn’t long before the levels get a bit bigger, a bit more open, and start to take on a maze-like quality; walls, rooms, and textures start to look the same and it’s easy to find yourself running around in circles, desperately trying to figure out how to get to the next key and open up the next door. Sometimes, this requires you to pull a series of levels to active a bridge, open a door, or open up an area and it’s not always entirely clear what you’ve done or changed in a level, making exploration that much more confusing at times.

Graphics and Sound:
I mean it’s classic Doom so you know exactly what to expect. I have to say that Doom has probably never looked better than in this high-definition version for the Xbox Series X; environments are as dark and foreboding and gothic as ever, and there’s some impressive and ominous use of flickering lights and darkness to help add to the claustrophobia and horror. While enemies are comprised of 2D sprites, giving the game something of a 2.5D look that’s often like blasting through a diorama at times, I’m not going to dump on the visuals because they speak to the nostalgia in my veins and add to the game’s charm. The game’s iconic soundtrack only bolsters the experience; while areas might be strewn with bloodied corpses, flickering candles, crucified souls, and Satanic imagery, a number of memorable beats help to keep the adrenaline up.

While the graphics are nothing special now, the nostalgia is strong, the gore is brilliant, and the soundtrack is fantastic.

Demons and other enemies growl and snort at you from the dark, exacerbating the constant feeling of dread at work in the game, but all the sound work in the world can’t change the fact that many of the game’s areas look the same and only add to Doom’s confusing, maze-like nature. You’ll explore space facilities and outposts, cargo holds full of UAC crates, and journey to gothic castles and medieval structures sitting amidst the burning lava of Hell, but it can be difficult to distinguish one area from the next after a while. Some odd colour effects also make some mountains look like they’re glitching out, though neat touches like pentagrams, drawbridges, blood fountains, and lava waterfalls help to make some areas more memorable. One of the most entertaining aspects of Doom is the HUD, which features a pixelated representation of the Doomguy reacting in pain when hurt or grin sadistically when acquiring new weapons, and there’s some really fun, gory death animations included to make blasting demons (and your friends) endlessly enjoyable. After completing each chapter, you’ll be presented with some small, very difficult to read text that gives you the low-down on the story, but I didn’t really pay much attention to this, and a cool little map screen shows where you are in each chapter between levels, which helps to make up for the limitations of the game’s graphics.

Enemies and Bosses:
As you make your way through UAC’s Mars outposts and into the fiery depths of Hell, you’ll come up against a handful of macabre enemies that are all out for your blood. There’s not much in the way of enemy variety, and you’ll encounter the same enemies in ever chapter, but they can take a few good shots to put down and often attack you from the shadows, from afar, or randomly spawn in to swarm over you. The weakest enemies in the game are the zombified marines, who shuffle about firing at you with either a pistol or a shotgun, and these are often found alongside or near to fireball-throwing Imps, the most common demon you’ll encounter. Things progressively get more harrowing when you’re attacked by the gorilla-like Pinky, which can also be invisible for added annoyance, and the bulbous, disgusting Cacodemon, but by far the most annoying enemies are the Lost Souls, flaming skulls that float about and fly at you in a suicide run!

Some huge, monstrous demons await you at the end of each chapter and double as sub-bosses!

Each of the game’s four chapters ends with a boss battle to wrap up the action. The first of these is the Baron of Hell, a huge demonic Satyr that plods around throwing balls of green, flaming energy at you and swiping at you when you get in close. You’ll actually battle two of these at once at the conclusion of “Knee-Deep in the Dead” and they tend to crop up at the worst time in the game’s later chapters as sub-bosses, of sorts, usually guarding keys, doors, or the level’s exit. The Barons are succeeded by the Cyberdemon, a gigantic devil-like monster that lumbers around a wide open arena firing rockets at you. Luckily, there’s loads of rocket launcher ammo nearby and columns to run behind for cover, meaning you can easily hit and run and stay on the move, but when the Cyberdemon randomly appears in later chapters as a sub-boss, your options for weapons and cover are severely limited! The game’s final boss is the Spiderdemon, a massive brain-like ghoul trapped in a mechanized, spider-like body that jerks around the place rapidly firing its chaingun at you and accompanied by Cacodemons. The first time you fight it, you can take cover behind loads of columns and structures, but then it randomly reappears in the last level of the fourth and final chapter, “Thy Flesh Consumed”, it’s proceeded by Barons of Hell, Cyberdemons, accompanied by far more enemies, and lurking out in the open. However, focus your fire on the cybernetic arachnid and you’ll be awarded with the final victory over Hell’s minions.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Doomguy starts out with nothing more than a pistol and his bare fists, but it’s not long before you get your hands on my go-to weapon of choice, the shotgun. There’s no Super Shotgun available here, but get up close to most of the game’s enemies with this bad boy and you’ll put the majority of them down in one hit. When surrounded by enemies, it’s best to bust out the chaingun or plasma cannon for some rapid fire action, or whip out the chainsaw to chew up demon meat into bloody chunks, but I would save the rocket launcher for the game’s bigger enemies and bosses. Of course, if you look hard enough, you’ll get your hands on Doom’s signature weapon, the BFG-9000, which will unleash a powerful green energy blast that obliterates any onscreen enemies and makes short work of the game’s bosses.

Grab some ordinance, protect yourself with armour, and power-up to make short work of demon scum!

As you explore your environments, you’ll find stimpacks and medikits to restore your health and pick up various armours to increase your resistance to attack. While your maximum health and armour is defaulted to 100%, you can increase it further with health and armour bonuses, and shrug off the damage dealt by lava or poison with radiation shielding suits. Poorly lit or darkened areas are a worry of the past with the light amplification visor, and you can unlock the entirety of the map, including seeing all the secret areas, with the computer area map. You can also pick up temporary powerups like the Berserk, Invulnerability, Invisibility, and Supercharge to help you dish out additional damage against enemies, full heal yourself, and shrug off any dangers you might encounter for a short time.

Additional Features:
There are nineteen Achievements to earn in Doom, with four of these popping after successfully completing every level of the game’s four chapters, others popping for killing a certain number of enemies in certain ways, and others awarded for beating every level of the game’s highest difficulty setting. There are a number of secret areas to find, and you’ll get an Achievement for finding one and then all of them, and you can also earn a few by finishing every level in co-op mode or getting first twenty-five and then a hundred kills in the game’s deathmatch mode. Although the game is severely cropped in this mode and your options are limited to setting how many kills equate to victory and the time limit of each match, it remains a fun and frantic little extra that can make or break friendships, and it’s nice to see a co-op feature included as I don’t think I’ve seen that in Doom before. You can also input a number of push-button codes to activate cheats, though being able to select every level right from the off and having a quick-save function makes this a little bit of overkill, and sign up to to download some additional add-ons to add a little more to your Doom experience.

The Summary:
Unlike so many other gamers, I didn’t grow up playing Doom; I was playing Duke Nukem 3D (3D Realms, 1996) instead and the closest I got to playing Doom was my tumultuous relationship with the Nintendo 64 version of Quake (id Software, 1998). Still, I have played Doom before, specifically the port included in Doom3’s (ibid, 2004) BFG Edition on the PlayStation 3, but I jumped at the chance to pick up the Doom: Slayers Collection (ibid, 2019) for Xbox One when I saw it going cheap so I could experience the game once more. I have to say, even some thirty years after it first released, Doom remains an almost timeless gaming experience. Sure, your control options are limited, the game quickly becomes quite repetitive as there’s little to do but collect keys and mow through enemies, and the game isn’t the prettiest thing you’ll ever play, but nostalgia is a powerful thing and there’s something very powerful about the simplicity of Doom. It’s such a fun game to play in short bursts or one quick-fire playthrough, and the feeling of blowing demon scum into bloody chunks never gets old. The game is tight as a drum and controls very well even all these years later; while the maze-like construction of some areas is annoying and really not my thing, I enjoyed having some bad-ass beats to nod along to, discovering secrets or bloody Easter Eggs, and the rush of adrenaline from a Baron of Hell suddenly emerging from behind a door! Obviously, Doom’s sequels and successors would tweak and improve upon the presentation, mechanics, and options but, in terms of the FPS genre, it all began here and it remains a rollicking good time even after all this time and a must-play for fans of horror, shooters, and videogames in general.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Are you a fan of the original Doom? When did you first play it? Do you have fond memories of playing deathmatches with your friends? Which of the game’s chapters and weapons was your favourite? Which boss was the toughest for you? How highly do you rate this version of the game? Whatever your thoughts on Doom, or FPS games in general, sign up to drop a comment below or let me know on my social media.

6 thoughts on “Game Corner: Doom (1993; Xbox Series X)

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s