Way back in 1991 I saved hard and bought my first ever PC. A summer of work netted me just enough money for a 386DX40. The aim was to earn enough money for a 486SX25 and the reason was simple. The best games available at the time were undoubtedly on PC and the difference in performance between a 386 and a 486 processor was considerable. After a decade of side scrolling action the game that broke the mould back then was Wolfenstein 3D. Released on May 5th 1992 it heralded a new direction in video games and that direction was straight into the screen. It was the first quality first person shooter to hit the market and the thrill of playing the game from the perspective of the game character, seeing things as though through his eyes was tangible. I still remember the first time the pixelated Alsatians jumped out from behind a door and I literally recoiled from the screen.
The mastermind behind Wolfenstein 3D was a programming team called John Carmack and John Romero. Possibly without realising it they had pushed gaming forward, quite literally, into a new dimension. All of a sudden the whole rage was for 3D worlds that the user could explore at will. Although not equivalent to the free-roaming games of the current generation of consoles this game certainly started the market for exploring worlds from the perspective of the game character.
Fast forward to one year and Carmack and Romero gave me a reason to upgrade my 386 based PC for one with a 486 processor. The reason: Doom. Doom moved the goalposts so significantly from Wolfenstein as to be almost unrecognisable. Carmack and Romero has designed a completely new 3D game engine. That plus the fact that at that time processor power was doubling in speed approximately every nine to twelve months made this an exciting game to be a gamer on the PC platform. A relatively cheap upgrade brought access to the very latest games available and within twelve months they were a light year ahead of what had been achieved the previous year. All the talk at the moment of the imminent release of the PS4 and new incarnation of the Xbox heralding a next-generation gaming experience cannot compare to the fact that in the 1990s we weren't waiting eight or ten years for a development cycle to bring us next-gen gaming; we were getting next gen gaming within twelve months.
Doom brought with it two massive developments apart from the graphics and size of the game arena. Firstly and most importantly it brought online gameplay. Deathmatch was introduced to the world by Carmack and Romero in the first incarnation of the Doom franchise. Initially I wasn't connected to the Internet so multiplayer gaming involved driving to a friend's house with my PC, monitor, all accessories and a serial cable to directly connect the two PCs. We would sit with our monitors back to back playing for hours into the night and honing our skills ready for the yet to be released Call of Duty series. When eventually I connected to the Internet those games went global with joining an online clan of players from all over the world (well, mostly the USA to be honest) to play lag filled shooting fests that at the time only Doom could deliver. The second significant development was the ability to create maps. Carmack and Romero released the development pack, in essence letting the world loose on the 3D game engine. Users could apply their own graphics to the walls, create their own 3D models and build up a complete new game using the design tools released. This was a development locked to the PC community as console owners received only the raw game. PC owners had access to thousands of free downloadable addons, many of them exceptional quality.
With Doom 2 in 1994 and Final Doom in 1996, we could have been forgiven for thinking the franchise had run its course. By now, large publishing houses were financing big money entrances to the 3D world that Carmack and Romero had created and already the first Call of Duty game was on the shelves and wowing the world with its World War II setting. However, Carmack and Romero were not sleeping but working on the masterpiece. In 2004, after a significant break Doom returned in the form of Doom 3 and it was the upgrade, the development that fans had hoped. Whilst retaining the character of the original this game fully utilised the latest hardward and had PC gamers running once more to upgrade their processor and graphics card. Now however, many of those PC gamers of the early nineties had migrated to console gaming and so Doom3 was equally as important on consoles.
Enough of the history! 2012 saw a new release in the Doom franchise this time on consoles. To anybody who had grown up with Doom on the PC this was an exciting moment. The game that had shaped our enthusiasm for first person gaming, had driven us to connect for a multiplayer experience, was finally bringing us a new game aimed at the current generation of consoles and expectation was riding high. Part of the challenge would be to create something new without breaking the formula. Doom players have grown up loving the franchise so to deviate too much from their expectation would be a disaster. At the same time though players were expecting a development in the franchise; the market had moved on and 'more of the same' would have been seen as a lazy attempt to cash in on their much loved commitment to the Doom label.
Doom 3 takes place on Mars and as ever the gameplay immediately hits demonic pace with the most grotesque and terrifying creatures massing in numbers to aggressively bring about the demise of the player. This is the simple recipe for first person shooters that Carmack and Romero introduced twenty years earlier and happily, it still works.
The feel of 'being there' is even more enhanced than in any other Doom game. More so than in the earlier games you can now interact with the environment and doing so gives a great sense of place and reinforces the desperation of the situation you are in. This really is an instant lure into a game that enfolds you to the point where once again you will recoil from the screen, jump and maybe even if there is nobody around and the lights are low, let out a pathetic little whimper as the game drags you forcibly into the world that was initially created twenty years ago but that now, with modern gaming technology, feels oh so immersive by comparison.
The question is whether or not this game should ever have been reimagined on the current generation of consoles and whether by doing so the gamer is offered a new route into the Doom experience or a shameless cash in on a historically significant gaming title. The good news is that this reincarnation does bring something new to the table. Running at a blazing 60Hz with all graphical options set to high is something most of us could only dream about in the first days of Doom. Now though, the gaming technology of the day makes this possible which means graphically this is a treat in comparison to the original games of the early nineties. Add to that the sheer nostalgia of visiting a game twenty years after you first experienced it, a game so significant that it was driving PC sales at the time, and what you have here is a gaming treat. The fact that it is available now for such a good price means nobody with a real gamer's heart should miss this experience. I recommend it totally as a game that is enjoyable in its own right but also deserves its place in gaming history.