Doom (PC) review
"Doom took the world by storm. You know the drill: all nine levels of opening episode Knee Deep in the Dead were released as a free demo, with network play included to boot. Videogame inspired homicides then soared almost as much as office productivity plummeted. And already I'm sure you've braced yourself for yet another tedious history lesson, the usual story about how we never would have had Halo or any of those other newfangled games without good 'ol iD Software laying down the foundations fo..."
Doom took the world by storm. You know the drill: all nine levels of opening episode Knee Deep in the Dead were released as a free demo, with network play included to boot. Videogame inspired homicides then soared almost as much as office productivity plummeted. And already I'm sure you've braced yourself for yet another tedious history lesson, the usual story about how we never would have had Halo or any of those other newfangled games without good 'ol iD Software laying down the foundations for us. Doom was it back in the early '90s, and we just have to pay it respect with 10/10 ratings across the board.
Not exactly. Doom may be a legend, but that's now the biggest thing working against it. When you've cooked up something so terribly novel, after all, you can't expect people to be good at it. iD didn't. And while I'd certainly never fault a game for starting off simply, what Doom has is less of a difficulty curve and more of a difficulty flatline. I only wish I were exaggerating when I say that most of the game is corridor after corridor patrolled by tiny packs of zombified soldiers and fireball-slinging Imps that are easily felled with the shotgun, the rocket launcher, and the plasma rifle that you will never--never--run out of ammo for. What few traps there are can't excite when the monsters lurking within them are weak and the ammo belt to your chaingun is nigh-limitless.
There is something so uniquely satisfying about the way Doom's shotgun makes your pixellated enemies groan and go stumbling backwards as they collapse into a heap, but point-n-shoot can only be fun for so long. It's easy to forget what all the fuss was about by the time you've battled to the depths of Hell and wasted your hundredth lone seargent. Knee Deep in the Dead? Hardly.
Not to argue that this wasn't just the slickest bit of software you'd ever seen back when it was new. Put yourself in the 1993 game nerd's shoes. You stepped into a courtyard and came face to face with the towering Cyberdemon, a goat-headed monstrosity with backwards knees and a rocket launcher grafted onto its arm. He stomped around faster than anything you'd seen so far--audibly--and fired off volleys of missiles just as quickly. One misstep and you were dead, whether it was walking too close to a pillar and getting caught in a rocket's explosion even if he missed or losing track of where you were just long enough for him to get off a nice clean shot and blow you straight to, uh, Hell? The whole thing just had to be intense.
Too bad it's 2007. Doom is no longer its own genre. Nobody loses track of where they are when they play first-person games, and nobody is dumb enough to stand near a wall if their enemy's got a rocket launcher. Shit, all a modern gamer has to do is circle around him. The armies of Hell just haven't kept up with the times. Even the final episode Inferno underwhelms; when it's at its most sadistic, you might have to fight as many as four zombie soldiers at a time! Only those who've mastered the ancient art of not standing still could ever hope to survive...
It's a shame, since the cash-grab repackaging Ultimate Doom adds a bonus episode Thy Flesh Consumed that offers the faintest glimpse of what could have been had iD's designers cut loose. Its demons aren't the only foes, as your ammo meter is like a fifth column that's always ready to pounce; forget worrying about whether or not you should use your plasma rifle or your rocket launcher to slay the legions of Hell, you might not even have enough fucking pistol bullets! Yet soon enough it's back to finding shotgun shells in every hallway and a chaingun in every alcove, and all that could have been is quickly pushed aside to make way for more of what sadly is.
I suppose that's the problem with practically inventing a genre. Doom is still ephemerally fun in small doses, while the midi-metal soundtrack and pixellated technicolor graphics are refreshing in a world of ever more immersive "experiences". But even its Ultra-Violence skill level is PG-13, and it's not worth sorting through the thousands of user-made maps for the rare handful that tap into the every-bullet- matters manicism of Thy Flesh Consumed's brilliant opening salvo. iD couldn't help but be lenient with Doom, and it's buried by time and dust because of that.
At least we were up for more of a fight when they dropped Doom II on us.
Featured community review by mardraum (August 01, 2007)
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