System: PC (ports were made for Doom to most mid 90s generation consoles- Sega 32x, SNES, Jaguar, 3D0, Xbox, Playstation, Sega Saturn, Gameboy Advanced, Mac)
Game Summary: Doom and Doom II were the foundation forefathers of today’s modern FPS Shooters. While games like “Wolfenstien 3D” and “Blake Stone” were pushing the original gaming standards and subsequently setting us up for a future of gore-filled explosive action-packed arena shooters and corridor crawlers. Doom, itself, was originally going to be a 4 character realm crawler based on the ideas of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. With the creative minds of John D. Carmack and John Romero working on the project it would propel PC games into headline news with the violence and satanic depictions in DooM and it’s sequel. While we could fill this summary with the same boring by-the-numbers content from Wikipedia I’ve decided (as the author) to give you a more personal take on the game from the perspective of an 8 year old who got his hands on the game at an early age…
It all started at an Office Depot in 1993. My parents were shopping for a printer for the family business. I was walking past a teenage employee that was playing a game like I’ve never seen before. To me it was “Realistic”. The only games I had played was Commander Keen, Duke Nukem, Monster Mash, Mario Brothers, Minesweeper, Ski Free and a slew of simple cartoony sprite based games. This game was visceral and fast paced. The guy looked over and said “Oh, hey kid, go ahead.” and stepped away from the display PC. Looking back I realize he could have been fired for playing games on the job but by introducing the product to the customer ultimately he could claim he was “Showing off the system”. I played for a good 15 minutes before I was picked up and whisked back home. My console games were never the same. I felt empty..
A year later my uncle (may he rest in peace) gave me a copy of the game around my 9th birthday which was a hand-me-down but I didn’t complain. Installed it on the family computer at home and played when no one was around. I memorized every map in all the episodes like the back of my hand. Blasting demons away and strafing. Trudging through Hell and it’s denizens with a Shotgun, chainsaw and a plasma rifle for good measure (I forgot all about the handgun and chaingun through most of the levels). At age 10 I picked up Doom II at a Garage Sale and like a delicious fudge frosted chocolate cake it consumed my life until I had beaten it. To give a rough Summary of the story-line:
You get to Phobos, Demon attack apparent, wipe them out, go to Hell, escape only to find Hell came to Earth, kick them back to the place they came from, kill the bossdemon, stay there to make them pay for killing your pet bunny.
There have been memes of that to a great extent. One of the designers had been caught saying “Games are like porn and a Plot makes them boring.” but that was for the early 90s when limitations of hardware and cut-scenes were limited to a screen-wide dialog box to give some narration. It was the sort of “Man versus the Devil” story and a bit of “We made portals, we invited them, they came…” sort of feel. They even released novels which were subsequently made non-canon and a comic book that was more of a fever dream inspired riot rather than something informative. Doom was a phenomena for it’s time. Over the years the lore changed little, new iterations were born: Doom 64, Doom 3, DooM 2016 and even Doom RPG for cell phones. It all hearkens back to the room with the pillars, the weird blue floor, and the room off to the left with the guys who open fire without question and some armor up on a platform just beyond them.
Graphics: Compared to today’s modern standards Doom has aged a little but not excessively. When it was the newest software to hit the home computers through Dos and Windows 3.1 it was pretty much the magnum opus of that year for PC releases. Gore, explosions, creepy monsters, thematic atmosphere and even depth through your field of vision was spot on. Moonbases to Hellscapes in most cases and it fit the bill through the original episodes and Doom II. The console ports and sequels beyond that were their own creatures.
Music: At the time: slow, methodical, midi compositions were set to the varying levels throughout Doom. Some were dark, some were more power metal, some simply fit the atmosphere. The sound design, while simple, also contributed greatly to the game with obvious influence from bands like Metallica, Slayer and Pantera contributing to the mood with the music and the growls of the demons from below. You could hear monsters growling in the next room and the audio cues from attacks gave you a heads up on what to prepare for or how to mitigate the incoming damage.
Replay: Doom had a slew of difficulties. From “I’m too young to die (Very Easy)” to “NIGHTMARE (Insane difficulty)” with monster density, health, and various little tweaks like “Monster Respawn” and “Fast Monsters” which adds a whole new level of tactic and complexity to gameplay. Not to mention the Multiplayer part of Doom over classic LAN/Ip connections where you could play deathmatch or Co-op with your friends which pretty much BEGAN what E-sports are today. That’s right, kiddies, if it wasn’t for Uncle Doom you’d not be able to run around dystopian future battlegrounds and pop each-other in the face with digitally created Airsoft Rifles.
In the End: Doom is a giant of a creature today. While most people’s first foray into Doom was Doom 3 and 2016’s DooM modern incarnation there is a massive mod community for the original 2 games and dozens of active players at any given time across almost a hundred or more servers. Doom and Doom II are a must play for ANY gamer. If all you can get is a port or a copy off E-bay that’s fine but it is up on Steam and a few other direct download platforms. Get to your roots, play doom, RIP AND TEAR!
Mod community footage coming soon…
System: PC, 3D was ported to the N64 and the PS2
Overall: **** 4/5
Game Summary: Duke was the PC action game to end all side-scrollers. He had a bad attitude, loved women, and wanted to save Earth. The first game he faught Dr. Proton- some crazy wacko in a flying chair hellbent on killing Duke. The second Game and its episodes were fighting these crazy aliens abduct Duke and plan on keeping him locked up as they rule the world. Well to make a long story short- he kills them all. The Third installment (I feel the truly last installment despite the obvious sequels) was a port to a 3D FPS. Though it was not as revolutionary as Id’s Quake it still had a good story and interesting sequential puzzle system. The game was geared for adults. There were pixilated night-walkers, Erotic Film references, and to top it of the game was made to par that if you shot something that was alive- it died. Duke Coined quite a few catchphrases much like Bruce Cambell in the Evil Dead series and the game had some Political Satire with one of the common enemies (LAPD Officers mutated into Pigs). Duke wasn’t anything new in the industry but what it did do was push the envelope on Political and Mature aspects in gameplay. Mind you Duke came out about the same time as Tomb Raider…
Graphics: The first and second game were side-scrollers for the 386’s Dos and later Windows 2.6-95. The first game was alright with its sprite count when it game to standard VGA. As for the second they got better artists, worked more on the sprites, and made things much more vibrant (for a dark game). As for Duke 3D when first playing the game it had a different feel about it. Later on it was just a sprite driven 3D shooter. The only real 3D Aspect of the game was the Environment. At certain angles the enemies got larger and this problem was never really solved but who can blame them- the engine could only do so much.
Music: The first Duke- It was ok Midi format with simple midi sound keys chalking up the atmosphere of the game. Duke II- They had a little more knowledge at their fingertips of Midi Limits making the game feel quite a bit more adept with sound and music. The 3D Duke- Composed well with some actual voice acting and higher compressed music with a pop metal theme going. Sound and music fit in perfectly. From the odd feeling of getting to Earth and seeing a hyped up adult theater and having to go through it and clean out the Aliens- to fighting your way through a prison after being captured and that’s just the levels from the First Episode.
Replay: The Side-scroller games did have a difficulty setting and so did Duke 3D. Though Killing everything and finding all the secrets was fun you only had so many ways to do it. The games were made for fast paced action when a gamer was dreadfully bored. Heck, I remember Security Guard friends of the family playing this game at their posts when I was 13 at the Blizzard office back in the days when they did public tours and Westwood shared their parking lot.
In the End: Duke Nukem Forever…. was honestly bad. The Expansion that followed shortly after was fairly better than the core game but I don’t know would it be worth it to true fans? 3D Realms had to keep up with the ever evolving Id and Valve then was subsequently ruined by Gearbox in the end. Now even companies like EA who USED to be just sports and racing are doing FPS and GOUGE the fans. I’d like to see a release that didn’t age as badly as the modern incarnation.
Game Summary: You’re an allied spy. The Nazis caught you. You’ve made a shiv and you gutted your guard. Taking his gun you strike out against the oppressive captors and work your way out of this Swastika clad hellhole. Taking their ammo and blasting them to ribbons along with collecting their “Reclaimed” treasures you make your way to the apex. All the way to ROBO HITLER. At its time, Wolfenstein was one of the few games to be as gory, violent, and controversial. Packed with FPS action, little to no storyline, secrets, and a gorefest of killing Nazis and their trained shepards- this game when I played it as a child introduced me to the HORRORS of what guns could do to people because the few action films I saw back in the 90s were pretty tame.
Graphics: Greatest at its time. Sadly- gave me Resolution Sickness. It was eye candy and compared to what we have now- its not much to see. This game set a standard. Met and exceeded- and its legacy lives on today in ALL games that we play.
Music: Spooky, a little strange at times, and hidden in Morris Code W3D was up to par with the opening and closing of doors and sounds of gunfire and German screaming.
Replay: All things considered it had multiple “difficulties”. Most tapered off into just being hard or easy based on maps, enemy population, damage and ammo at hand. This game had some secrets to find and many people have seen some of it in the newest sequels to the game (re-imaginings to some)!
In the End: We are left with a Grandfather Game. If you are new to playing you’ve missed out on the gold of an early era. If you haven’t then go get your roots!