With the second installment of the Doom reboot franchise coming out this November, the series now has a grand total of five games in the core series, not counting remakes and expansions. The series has some amazing installments, with others not having quite as much of an impact. With that said, let’s take a look through the highlights of Doom’s long history.
For the longest time, games that aped the original Doom’s first-person combat and maze-like levels were dubbed as ‘Doom clones.’ However, Doom’s gameplay was built on the foundations of one of iD software’s previous successes—Wolfenstein. The culmination of the Wolfenstein franchise is a whole other story for another time. The first Doom was released in 1993 to great commercial success. The combat may have been similar to Wolfenstein, but the atmosphere and themes were completely different. The stylised World War 2 setting of Wolfenstein was traded for an over-the-top, demon-killing slaughterfest. This meant the introduction of a wider variety of enemies and weapons, a much more interesting design aesthetic, and a killer soundtrack.
The story wasn’t really a vital part of the game at all, but what little it did give away was that you were a guy called…. Doomguy. Also, the majority of the game is apparently set on the twin moons of Mars, but I could have been fooled on that one.
The second installment in the series was released a year later in 1994. There wasn’t much to set it apart from its predecessor, in the sense that the design choices and gameplay were largely the same. Nowadays it’s harder to get away with releasing a video game sequel that’s more of the same, but games were cheaper and harder back then, so getting more demonic hordes to pit yourself against could only be a good thing.
The Evolution of Doom
After Doom 2 the core series went on hiatus for a while, but there were still some notable releases. Final Doom, released in 1996, was a compilation of two stand-alone maps made with the Doom 2 engine. A year later Doom 64 was released for the N64, but the core mechanics still remained loyal to the original.
The big change to the series came with Doom 3, released in 2004. The game was iD software’s biggest seller at the time around its release, so it’s fair to say that it was a success. The game’s setting was the same (with demons from hell wreaking havoc in space), but the game embraced the survival-horror genre rather than the shoot ‘em up approach of the previous games. To recreate the sense of vulnerability that comes with survival horror, the game also had to swap the protagonist from the legendary Doomguy to a generic marine out of his depth. The game’s success led to an expansion, but after that there wasn’t much of a peep from the series again for a good few years. The only exception was a movie starring The Rock that I think we’d all rather forget about.
The New Reboot
After years of silence, the Doom franchise came back with a bang in 2016. Remaking the entire series from the ground up, this game kept the 3D environments of Doom 3 while simultaneously ditching the survival horror aspects. Instead it recognised what made the original games so successful—namely the wanton demon slaughter and badass soundtrack—and elevated it to a new level. Did you know that, apparently, the odds of dying on a space shuttle mission are 100/1? Well, whoever recorded those odds never played the Doom reboot, because in this game’s version of space those odds would be looking a lot lower.
Doom 2016 is one of my favourite games of all time, and I do not say that lightly. Despite the fact that I spent hours upon hours playing on the hardest difficulty, failing on the same fight endless numbers of times, the satisfaction I gained when I finally completed the game was immeasurable. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said before, but I’ll say it anyway. The combat is visceral and satisfying. The soundtrack is gritty and gets the heart pumping. The story is present but not invasive, and the game is clearly aware of this, with Doomguy constantly smashing plot devices and ignoring advice. If you haven’t played this game, do so soon so that you’re ready for the sequel in November.