Since Team Fortress Classic was my first-ever multiplayer game, I’d actually never played the original Doom. Doom took the entire gaming industry by storm and forever changed the future of shooters. But thanks to the never-ending quarantine, plus getting addicted to speedrunning videos like the ones on Karl Jobst’s YouTube channel, I finally purchased and played through Doom and Doom II. While I know I’m not breaking any new ground with this incredibly-hot take, I think they may be two of the greatest games I’ve ever played.
It was truly eye-opening to go back and see these two seminal games from an inexperienced modern perspective. The first thing I noticed was that the Steam ports play just as well as I hoped, with crisp inputs and reactive controls. Doomguy’s movement is extremely fluid and the gunplay is punchy and visceral. Most of this can be chalked up to an ambitious September 2020 update that added a ton of modernization features including widescreen support. Yachtzee once pointed out that “you can’t really say a game holds up if you need to install a billion performance mods to even enjoy it.” Doom can now proudly point to itself working perfectly straight out of the box.
I’m gonna tend to talk about both games as a combined unit in this article, as they kinda feel like two sides to a complete experience. There were no major engine/graphical/gameplay changes between the two titles. Doom II only received new monsters and a kickass super-shotgun. So if you play one, you should go ahead and play the other to get the full experience. Dooms I & II are incredibly tight games, with very little to get in the way of fast-paced frantic action. Copycats have aped them so thoroughly that you’ll immediately recognize 90% of the guns/enemy types/map mechanics if you’re even passably familiar with the shooter genre. Which was why I was very surprised to come across two awesome core mechanics that I don’t understand why the FPS genre gave up on:
Enemies Fighting Themselves
Monster infighting is a fundamental strategy the player uses to bait enemies into attacking their own team. By aligning yourself so monsters shoot each other, you can trigger full-fledged friendly firefights that decimate a room without you needing to waste any resources. I played on Ultra-Violence difficulty, which often left me short on ammo. This tactic added a refreshingly cerebral element to clearing out rooms. So why don’t I ever see this mechanic in modern games? I can only think of a few titles with even sporadic or scripted infighting. Certainly nothing that utilizes it to the same degree as Doom. I personally wish this mechanic had become as common as all the other features the industry appropriated. Along with:
By the time you reach the later levels of Doom II, you’ll start coming across so many incoming fireballs that the levels turn into first-person bullet hells. I was surprised by how much I fell in love with this element to the gameplay. In fact, I needed to constantly maneuver myself to dodge incoming fire. It made me realize that there aren’t many first-person bullet hells on the marketplace. I think this is a missed opportunity. When the player can use their dexterity to avoid incoming damage, it adds a whole strategic element to the gameplay. You miss out on this if every attack in the game is hitscan.
Together, both of these elements added some serious depth to what was otherwise the purest FPS gameplay I’ve ever seen. I really feel like modern shooters are missing out by neglecting this sort of multi-dimensional approach to the player’s positioning. Shooters have a reputation for being relatively brainless. But I think that’s a byproduct of the sort of hitscan-only, cover-based systems that dominate the current market. I was just surprised to find fresh ideas rearing up in a title as old and iconic as Doom. If you, like me, have never played these old classics, you are missing out and I encourage you to get on over to Steam and fix that gap in your portflio posthaste.