OG Doom: Play it again
Doom burst onto the gaming scene at the end of 1993, but I wasn’t able to get my hands on it till a year or so later, due to the fact that I didn’t have a PC. Up until that point I’d spent my free hours hunched over a ZX Spectrum, followed by an Atari ST, and soon I’d enter the console world with the original PlayStation. But in the summer of 1994 the only machine I needed was a PC or, more accurately, my friend Steve’s PC.
As he was an amiable chap, he didn’t mind me popping over to see him, only to spend almost the entire time sat at the make-shift desk in his bedroom mesmerised by the game that had suddenly become the only thing people seemed to be talking about. The graphics, the monsters, the weapons, the speed. It was like nothing I’d experienced before.
Well, that’s not exactly true. I had played Wolfenstein 3D (at Steve’s again, cheers mate!), but id Software took all the lesson it learned in making that game and turned the dials up to 100 in Doom.
This was apparent from the first moment, as the loading screen portrayed a futuristic, lone soldier firing his rifle into the clawing demonic hordes, while the red mountains are Mars dominate the background and a floating face-monster closes in on him from behind. God, this was going to be good! And it was.
Beginning a new game (after choosing the level from the three options: Knee Deep In the Dead, The Shores Of Hell or Inferno), I found myself in a dark underground chamber, the carcass of a dead body in front of me, pillars blocking my view but suggesting rooms off in either direction, and a barrel of green goo sat on a vibrant blue floor.
A quick exploration found armour, health packs, but no enemies. All that accompanied me was a dark-themed synth music track. Then I found a door, hit the space bar, and the bullets started flying. From that point on it was a constant race to grab ammunition, shoot the soldiers and demons, all while looking for the exit at the end of the level.
Rather than the flat maps of Wolfenstein 3D, here there were stairs, elevator platforms that has to be activated by wall-mounted switches, pools of acidic poison that you could fall into and see your health immediately start to ebb away. Monsters would launch attacks from behind, on levels above you or suddenly emerge from secret compartment in which they were hiding.
Behind every door there was the potential for an onslaught or discovering a new weapon, such as the ever-faithful shotgun, chainsaw or BFG 9000. The level design was fiendish, with puzzles to solve in order to unlock doors that involved finding a button or weight sensitive panel in one location and then running as fast as you could to reach the door or platform before it reset.
The monsters grew in their power as you progressed too. With the simple soldiers and fireball-throwing imps being joined by pink, teeth-laden demons, the flying heads of Cacodemons, and the deranged satyrs that guarded the end of the first section.
It was fantastic. Fast, furious and actually requiring some thought if you wanted to find all the secret compartments and get 100% for each section. First person shooters had only really been around in a modern sense for a short time, but this laid down the template that many would follow for years to come, including multi-player deathmatch. Although Steve didn’t have the setup to allow us to play that bit. Thanks Steve.
Loading the game up in 2020 finds it still an exciting and fun experience. The graphics are definitely old-school, but such are the designs and simple animations that they just feel retro rather than decrepit. Doom offers the same, frantic experience, albeit not quite to the same extent as Bethesda’s 2016 reboot of Doom or the recent Doom Eternal. But the sound of the shotgun is still as thunderous as it was in 1994, the screams of the monsters just as agonised, and the smile on my face just as wide.
How can I play Doom today?
Doom is available to play for free in your browser at Play Classics, along great old titles like Wolfenstein 3D, Lemmings, Prince of Persia, The Oregon Trail and many others. If you prefer to buy it to play on your Windows PC, then it’s available on Steam for £3.99/$4.99. You can also fight the hordes of hell on iOS and Android for £4.99/$4.99.