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Review: Doom (1993)





Table of Contents

Quick Information

Rating: Pretty Fun
Gore & Brutality Magic Sex Civility Religion
3 1 0 1 1
Additional Notes
Linux version available!This game is free!
Age Rating Suitable for teenagers
License: Shareware
System used: Martha
Available From: Various; See below

Game Screenshots


Meet the Bruiser Brothers


Some of the more mild gore


Bodies and a pentagram

General Notes

Doom is probably one of the most famous video games in history. Part of this is because it showcased a number of new innovations (such as elevation changes and dynamic lighting), but it's also because of the large amount of controversies that involve it.

During the original moral panic about video games, Doom was frequently used as an example of how video games were not suitable for children. This made sense, as Doom was at the peak of its popularity and few games could compete with it. These days, people looking for controversy have many other examples to choose from (including Doom's more recent sequels), so when someone ignores the newer (and more graphic) games it's often a giveaway that they are more interested in pushing an agenda than helping anyone.

That said, this is clearly not a game that little children should be playing. It's fair to say that Doom was never really intended to be played by little kids anyway. However, if you can handle the imagery and concepts shown in Doom, I'd highly recommend it as it's a piece of living history and is still more fun that many of the AAA games that come out every year.

Jargon specific to this game

BFG 9000
The biggest and most powerful weapon in the game, the Big F**king Gun is as much a signature piece of the franchise as Doomguy and the Cyberdemon.


Bruiser Brothers
The Bruiser Brothers are a pair of demons seen at the end of the first chapter of Doom. They are rather special in that they are the first real demons the player encounters. The developers of the game gave them the nickname, and fans have kept it circulating ever since.


Doomguy
The player character is a nameless rookie marine, only addressed as "you". The fandom however, has assigned him the nickname "Doomguy", as he's the guy from Doom.


Pinky
Technically, these bulldog like monsters are called "demon sargents". Everyone just calls them "Pinkies" anyway. It's fairly obvious why: one of the former human enemies is already called a "sargent", and these demons are very, very pink.


Source Port
An alternate engine for the game. Custom engines allow new features (like jumping) or fancier graphical effects. Since Doom's engine was reused for several titles, some of the better source ports can also run other games like Hexen, Heretic or Chex Quest.


WAD
WAD files are specific files where Doom stores its levels and other content. The name comes from their extension, which is simply "wad". Players can create their own WAD files with custom content, and these are frequently shared online.

The official WADs are known as IWADs, while custom WADs are known as PWADs.


Story Summary

Doom's story is fairly short and simple, though it's spread over four chapters (or episodes). Each chapter is run as a separate campaign, so you start over fresh at the beginning of each chapter. The first chapter is licensed as shareware, meaning that you can play it and distribute it freely. The other chapters are only available as a retail purchase. The fourth chapter was added with game's re-release as The Ultimate Doom.

Knee Deep in the Dead
This is where it all begins. A group of scientists were studying teleportation on the Martian moons of Phobos and Deimos when something went horribly wrong. A battle ready group of marines, one of which would become known as Doomguy, was dispatched to Mars to recon the situation and restore order. Upon arriving, they find Deimos is completely missing and the Phobos base is eerily silent.

Doomguy is ordered to stay behind and guard the shuttle, while the rest of the marines head inside the Phobos base. For a time, there were sounds of gunfire and screams from within the base, and then everything went silent. Now, without backup or communication with Earth, the last marine on Mars headed inside to find out what is going on.

Inside, he discovers the truth: the teleportation experiments opened a gateway into Hell, and now the demons are coming out. To prevent them from reaching the unsuspecting Earth, he must battle his way inside to the original teleporter and shut everything down.


The Shores of Hell
After defeating the Barons of Hell that were guarding the gateway out of the Phobos base, Doomguy finds himself in a place that looks like death and smells like rotten meat. Realizing that he's standing on the remains of the lost Deimos base, he begins to proceed the only way he sees possible: by carving a path through the monsters.


Inferno
The monstrous Cyberdemon defeated, Doomguy walked to the edge of the moonbase and made a chilling discovery. The Deimos moonbase is floating over the surface of Hell itself! Determined to be the first person to have ever left Hell, he enters the finale of the original trilogy.


Thy Flesh Consumed
An expansion to the original three episodes, this concludes the original game's story by showing what happened when Doomguy escaped the from the bowels of Hell. Back on Earth, he makes a grim discovery: he's not the only one that came back -- setting the stage for the sequel, Doom II: Hell on Earth.


Gameplay Summary

Being one of the earlier First Person Shooters, Doom's gameplay is about as stereotypical as it gets. Originally you controlled Doomguy as you would a tank: you could move forward or backward and turn to either side. Lining up your sights was a bit difficult, but doable. Eventually WASD became popular, and this made controlling Doomguy much easier and natural.

Unlike many of today's games, none of the levels are entirely straightforward or linear. Instead, they feature sprawling sections where you need to wander about, hitting switches and using keys to open up other areas you need to explore. Many of the levels also feature traps such as crushing ceilings or areas that conceal ambushes.

Pros

20 years old and still kicking
Let's be very blunt here. Doom came out in the mid-1990s, and it's still sold in stores today, 20 years later. That's a testament to quality that very, very few games could ever hope to achieve.


Quality of Source Ports varies
Some source ports are very high quality, while others could be improved. The official engines provided by the retail versions of the game are very high quality however.


Famous sound effects
Some of the sound effects that were used in Doom have become famous stock sound clips. Perhaps the most recognizable one is the sound for the doors opening.


Unique AI
Doom's AI is more intelligent than people expect. Back when the game was released, it was very rare for enemies to be even remotely smart, and the monsters in Doom were a big exception to the norm. One characteristic that's worth mentioning is that monsters will turn on each other if provoked, a feature called monster infighting.


Impressive (for the era) technology
Doom was one of the first games to feature things like changing elevations and dynamic lighting, two things we take very much for granted in today's games.


Active playerbase
People still enjoy playing deathmatches with one another, new content and engines are still being created for everyone to play with, and It doesn't look like it'll slow down either, making this a classic case of an oldie but goodie.


Classic gameplay
It's smooth, runs nearly everywhere (someone even managed to get it working on a printer) and doesn't feature a difficult learning curve. Just point, shoot, and watch what you're stepping in.


Scaling difficulty levels
Each difficulty level adapts the game in a different way. Some mode have fewer monsters, some hide the powerups, and others make the game unfairly hard for people that like the challenge.


Tons of secrets
Each level contains a number of hidden secrets for the player to find. These often contain powerups, so it's advised to look for them as much as you can. There are also a few hidden levels for players that manage to find their hidden entrances.


Cons

Some technical knowledge is required
With a few exceptions -- such as the versions that come with Doom 3: BFE Edition -- you're going to need to be a little computer savvy to play Doom. The original game isn't going to run on a modern computer as-is, and some of the source ports aren't very user friendly. It could be worse; when Doom came out it was still commonplace for games to have the user run a configuration tool that had them enter specifics about their computer's hardware. By any chance do you know what IRQ your sound card uses or how many "voices" it supports?


Very, very controversial
While Doom is a lot of fun, the sheer amount of controversy over it is staggering. Many of these complaints have merit, and many Christians are uncomfortable playing it or even allowing it in their household. Let your conscience be your guide here; try the shareware chapter, and back away if it's too dark or intense for you.


Concerns and Issues

Blood and Gore
There's quite a bit of both, unfortunately. Examples range from the bodies on the floor to the pools of blood decorating the areas, and there are a few times where the gore stands out. When someone is killed by an explosion, they burst into a pile of semi-solid chunks called gibs. Crushing ceilings will also turn bodies and people into pools of bubbling red goo. There's no way to disable the gore, and some engines actually increase it by featuring blood splatting on the walls when someone is shot.

Some of the levels that take place in Hell feature rivers of blood, piles of skulls, bodies of victims nailed to the walls and even a few crucifixions. It's the sort of place where you wipe your feet before going outside.


Moderate swearing
When you leave the game, a short message is displayed that mocks your cowardice. These statements are random, and several of them contain profanity. Not all source ports display these messages, but there's still some bad language peppered throughout. Examples include the f-word being used in the name of the game's most famous weapon and the story texts was words like "badass" or "bastards" sprinkled in it.


Monsters hate each other just as much as they hate you
If a monster's attack hits another monster, the injured party will turn on their own comrade. This is called monster infighting, and often results in one of the monsters being killed. Once the fight is over, the survivors will come after you again.


Satanic imagery
Doom's main storyline is about stopping Hell from invading our world, so this is sort of expected. Many of the enemies are demons of some type, and there's a fair amount of demonic imagery throughout the levels, especially in Hell. While most levels feature locked doors, the human bases use keycards while the demonic areas use colored, glowing skulls. Pentagrams are shown in numerous places as well.

Important note here: the demons and their objects are always treated as wrong and the bad guys. At no point are the demons or their things treated in a positive light.


Connections to school shootings
One of the darkest moments of gaming history came in 1999, when two teens opened fire on their classmates at Columbine High School. In the aftermath, the world discovered that one of the teens was extremely obsessed with violent games, including Doom, and is on record saying how the shooting would be like a number of his favorite games combined. He also designed several custom levels for Doom, some of which seem rather disturbing in hindsight. In addition to the levels we know about, there's a rumor that he made a level based on Columbine, though nobody has ever seen it.

As much as people want to point fingers at the games for the problems, these two teens had a lot of issues that went far deeper than what they spent their time playing. A brief reading of the wikipedia page on them shows them to have had issues with bullies, depression, anger control, some encounters with the law and an unsettling interest in events like the Oklahoma City Bombing and the Waco siege. In other words, the games they played don't seem to have played much of a role in the shooting, but they don't appear to have helped matters.

For more reading, I'd suggest having a look at the Doom Wikia page about the incident.


A small note on some rumors
Doom was at the center of many of the early fears about violent games, and many rumors were spread about the game and its contents. Two of these rumors may still be lurking about and troubling parents, so I felt they needed addressed directly.

The first rumor is that the player is aiding Satan take over the world. I've outlined game's story above in detail, and it's pretty clear that the player is trying to stop the legions of Hell rather than assist them. Obviously, a game that involves assisting Satan is one to be concerned about, but here the demons are always the bad guys.

The second rumor is that the player is encouraged to kill innocent people or other humans. While games like that do exist and were around during the original moral panics, Doom isn't one of them. There are no innocent people in Doom; the only humans you encounter are either already dead or are suffering in eternal damnation (which means they couldn't be innocent since they were already in Hell before this story began). The "human" enemies you fight are the demon-possessed dead bodies of your comrades, making them a form of zombie. In fact, the game calls them "former human" and "former human sargent".


Notes on Availability

Since Doom has been around for twenty years, it's not really surprising that it has also been re-released in different ways over time. Additionally, since Doom's engine and content are separate, you have even more choices for enjoying this game.

Doom's content is in the file doom.wad (or doom1.wad for the free portion of the game). All you need is that file and a source port of your choice, and you're good to go. I would suggest Zandronum, but there are many others.

Getting a copy of doom1.wad (the free chapter) is easy: a lot of places online have it. The Doom Wiki's page on it has a direct link to the file, making it the easiest method. Most of the places I checked offer the original DOS version of the game, and while this does have the file you want, it might be hard to work with. You see, the file you're getting is an installer, which you need to run in order to access the WAD. The problem is it's a 16-bit executable, which means that you'll need to either use a DOS emulator or an older version of Windows to run it. Newer versions of Windows can't run this type of program -- they traded this ability for some other, more useful enhancements.

For the retail version of the game, look for The Ultimate Doom at your favorite game store, or perhaps Doom 3: BFG Edition, which comes bundled with Doom & Doom II. You may also find a game called Final Doom at these stores, but this is a sequel, not the original game.