Polished, beautiful dark mind-raping masterpiece
Doom is a game, made in 1993. It was groundbreaking in every possible aspect. The graphics were better than anything seen before. Sound effects were in full stereo, in higher quality than in any other game before (yet Doom had also decent support for the plain PC-beeper). It had networked multiplayer, with deatmatch and co-operative play (two forms of multiplayer that are, still, the most commonly used).
Doom was also very easily editable - unlike any game before, in Doom game editing was actually encouraged by ID software. Just by downloading some tools, anyone could make their own levels, create new weapons and enemies or just change the wall textures in the normal game. This, of course, led to a flood of 3rd party Doom levels, ranging from crappy single-level soft-porn trash to fan-made total conversions that were almost better than the original.
Doom's level design was very original and beautiful. First time ever the game designers had the freedom to truly express themselves. Doom starts off from a run-over space-military complex on the other moon of Mars, gradually degenerating from the ultra-modern claustrophobic computer hallways to hellish citadels, built from living flesh and furnished with dead bodies. The wall textures, that were mostly based on actual photos, are very beautiful. The artists of Doom clearly placed every single pixel with care. Some of this detail is sadly lost, because the 8 bit shading routines and low, VGA resolution. Still, Doom's texture art is very beautiful, something that many modern (especially console)games lack.
The sickening surroundings are filled with monsters of all sorts. There are zombies and demons, ranging from the puny, spiked and brown Imps to rocket-throwing Cyberdemons. Every single enemy is rendered with precision and detail, unfortunately somewhat pixelated.
And the barrier of sound surrounding the player was almost too real. The monsters roared and bellowed, the hydraulic doors hissed and exploding barrels boomed just like in the real world. Somewhy we never hear the player-controlled marine saying a single wort apart from his blood-freezing death scream.
Everything here is topped out by a haunting musical score, industrial and metal, yet pop enough to please the casual mainstream player. While some of the tunes are a bit repeative and boring, most of them would not be out of place even in Fulci's horror movies.
All this audiovisual beauty is spiced with extremely high level of violence and action, where peace is only for reloading guns and the carnage stops only when the player has finally left the battlefield - just to enter again some other day. Doom has the highest ever overall body count in any 3D shooter (except Doom 2), nearing 2000 kills in the end and delivering it's good bit of non-stop orgy of blood and gore that has led into too many lawsuits against the game. Unbelievably the controls never let you down. The game has close to perfect playability, that has only been exceeded in other ID's masterpieces (Quakes, not Commander Keen) and Half-Life.
The game's story, briefly mentioned in the manual, serves only as a backdrop to this huge killing feast. Still you see and know, without any words said or written, the cold, clinical and feelingless military operation turn into a revenge for your dead friends, friends that are currently out there, hunting you. And the player gets the same feeling that the nameless marine gets. In the first episode you just kill, because that is what they pay you for. In the second episode you first feel disbelief, and then comes disgust, in the form of hanged, mutilated bodies still twisting in their final agony. Finally you get your revenge in the third episode, with the BFG frying your enemies into red puddles of slime and you feel JOY for killing them. In the end there is the relief, that lasts only until you see the rabbit.
There is nothing bad in Doom, unless you count the storyline that has been abstracted to the point where all plot ceases to exist, except in the form of concept.
The Bottom Line
Still, almost nine years after it's release, I do play Doom now and then. And everyone should play Doom at least a bit. Just to know, where it all started.
The uncompromising combination of awesome gameplay, extremely powerful atmosphere and solid level design leave nothing to be desired for a shooter fanatic.