Doom (SNES) review
"A game with a first personEpoint of view. As a 14 year old console gamer who had never owned a PC, the idea didn't even make sense to me. How did you move around? Still, something about the screens featured in my favorite gaming magazine haunted me during the weeks leading up to my 15th birthday, and as I stood in the store isle with my planned purchase (Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3) in one hand and the SNES version of the enigmatic Doom in the other, I made a last-minute choice that would change ..."
A game with a first personEpoint of view. As a 14 year old console gamer who had never owned a PC, the idea didn't even make sense to me. How did you move around? Still, something about the screens featured in my favorite gaming magazine haunted me during the weeks leading up to my 15th birthday, and as I stood in the store isle with my planned purchase (Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3) in one hand and the SNES version of the enigmatic Doom in the other, I made a last-minute choice that would change my life forever.
I'll never forget the first time I looked out the window in the opening level of Doom. There was a pool of glowing green acid. Nothing too special, but there was a power-up in the middle of it. So implicitly, I understood that this seeming backdrop was in fact a traversable part of the environment, and as the amazing fact that I was indeed not on rails in a fully realized 3D world continued to sink in, I was shot in the back by a shambling zombie.
All of these fundamentals of 3D gaming that I now take for granted then had me dumbfounded for a few hours, but once it all sunk in I realized that beyond the novel format that Doom had brought to perfection was an equally impressive layer of the much more important content--perfect action gameplay.
In Doom, you run through the dark, abandoned hallways of military bases and laboratories while fighting off and increasingly thick infestation of all manner of zombies and demons from hell. You run, and you run fast. By comparison, the marine in Doom 3 moves like a paraplegic, dragging himself along with his elbows. But your superhuman speed does not result in a gameplay imbalance, because your enemies make up for what they lack in speed and intelligence with numbers and determination.
The resulting Space Invaders-esque firefights are what make this game truly great. Once you memorize the cannon fodder enemy imps frames of animation, you can lure a dozen of them into a corner, dodging their fire all the time, before quickly making your way behind them and out of the room to go restock on ammo; then come back to dispose of them. The mid-level cacodemons will seem overwhelming at first, but once you learn to distract them by bringing them into lesser enemiesElines of fire and causing infighting you can joyously pick them off at your leisure. After you master circle-strafingE you will cut through seemingly impenetrable hoards of monsters with a surgeons precision. Unlike many forgettable modern games, its not what you do that makes Doom the classic it is, but how you do it.
The only ingredient potentially more important than the design in such a blazing white-knuckle experience is the interface, and I have never felt another game that achieves Doom's ineffable level of transparent control. Just moving around in the engine feels so comfortable that I would prefer empty levels of Doom to many clunkier modern shooters. The clipping is transcendently spot-on; I never have to think about where I am, and never feel constrained by the inability to look up and down to confirm it. I can jump full speed down onto a tiny platform, and stop on a dime by tapping backE I never felt like my failure was Dooms fault and the only other game about which I can say that is an 8-bit 2-D run-and-jump affair.
In retrospect, the severely limited SNES port was travesty of sorts, but as a testament to Doom's ingenious design, it still managed to enthrall me like no other game had before. The swallowing darkness, terrifying and outnumbering demons, and a flawless weapon balance made a perfect frame to house the visceral cat-and-mouse gameplay. The designers were viscous butchers, objectively trimming every vain morsel of fat from the design and leaving perhaps the leanest cut of pleasure gaming has ever seen--sparse puzzles and a sparser story left more room for running and killing, and that was all that was needed.
It pains me that I will never be able to experience Doom for the first time again. I literally grieve. I only wish I could go back and visit my naivety--back when I taught myself to use my grandmother's coffee maker because I couldn't stand the thought of sleeping at night when Doom was an alternative.
Community review by fustigation_aside (July 30, 2006)
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