Doom is the best game ever made.
Once, a long time ago (and quite possibly 1994), Doom being the best game ever made was, quite simply, indisputable. To speak it was to merely state the obvious. "Doom," you would say, definitively, and those around you would nod and smile, knowingly, "Yes, Doom."
By the time 1996 had wound down to the coldest December nubs, a quiet legion of grizzled PC gamers were not only aware of Doom, but had completed Doom, had scoured every inch of Doom, had most likely thrown together a .wad file or two to be played in Doom, and had with absolute certainty used noclip on the 'Icon of Sin' level to see John Romero's head on a spike in Doom (2).
These were good times, and they were our times. No one can take that from us. Calm down. And also get excited.
Nowadays, however, anyone with fingers can enjoy the latest and loudest First Person Shooter, and scream homophobic garbles into their turnkey-operation internet communication devices. Nowadays, nothing is earned. Everything is given. Nothing is sacred. Everything is dispensable. Nothing is important.
It is now easier than ever to play video games of eye-blistering clarity and ear-sexing tenor. It is almost easier to play Call of Duty than it is to *not* play Call of Duty these days... and as for Halo 4, I'm all but certain Microsoft has extended it's ad campaign to now make me buy Halo 4 merchandise in my sleep. But still...
Doom is the best game ever made.
Nowadays saying Doom is the best game ever made would likely result in a concerned call to the police and a trip to Shutter Island, but for the doubters among you I feel it needs the re-utterance, if for nothing else than to pull the thing, snarling and frothing, from the depths of video gaming's past, and hold it under the spotlight once more.
See? I told you: Doom is the greatest game ever made. Wondrous in its simplicity. Unbridled in its purity, and unmatched in its clarity of player-purpose.
In these heady times of graphical whiz-bangery and orchestral maneuverings, there seems to be little room left in the average development schedule for that thing called gameplay. And that, fellow punchers of games, is a damned shame. It's a team-loss all round.
Modern Actiony-shootery titles have, over time, become over-simplified and almost idiot-proof, relying more on spectacle than player-interaction. Modern Warfare and Black Ops in particular would be more accurately described as blockbuster CG movies that occasionally let you control the pacing and outcomes of certain scenes. But don't get it twisted, video games they are not.
If leaving control with you runs the risk that you'll miss the F18's as they dramatically fly through the Mushroom cloud, its the gameplay that gets the axe, not the blockbuster set-piece.
Before we go too far down Contemporary Combat hate-speech lane, let me be clear: The COD's and BLOPSes of the world have their place in the market too -- especially in their triumphant multiplayer modes -- just ask the 11 or so million unit sales they enjoy every year. But don't view them as successors to Doom, like they are two separate blips on the line of one genre's evolution. There are two different genres here.
The term FPS connotes that shooting will happen in the first-person perspective. To that end, Modern Warfare and BLOPS fit that bill perfectly.
Doom, however, is a platform & puzzle, exploration game that involves shooting a hell of a lot of monsters. There are differences there both subtle and obvious.
Doom is all gameplay, all the time. The story is minimal, and is just enough of a morsel to provide context and a rough goal. No explanation is offered regarding the red, yellow and blue skulls and keycards, or why a science facility would leave acid-proof suits in acid. Doom's levels are video-gamey to a fault, eschewing reason and common sense in level design for impossible spaces built specifically to leverage the mechanics at your disposal in fun and inventive ways
100ft-tall towers of skin and sinew rise and fall unpredictably, over impractical rivers of blood. Giant-sized brains with mechanical spider-legs fire plasma rifles at you from across an outdoor arena covered in blue carpet. 12ft-tall skeletons run in close to deliver a quick punch to your face, before backing off and firing heat-seeking missiles at you from their shoulder-mounted launchers. Floating, brown, one-eyed 'Pain Elementals' spew flying, flaming skulls from their huge, gaping mouths. This preposterous assortment forms a small, grotesque and hilarious chunk of the overall Doom experience.
There is a purity of purpose to the Doom games that sets it apart from modern FPS'es. There are two key tenets at play: Exploration and combat.
Doomguy runs at approximately 50mph everywhere, only slowing down to warily check corners or navigate narrow walkways. The sense of speed and character control is sublime and never works against you. it never resists. You do what you want, when you want. There is no animation priority to consider here, no stuffy physics engine holding you back and killing your reaction time.
The risk/reward balance is perfect and timeless. The weapons selection is delightful and varied. The levels are inventive, devious and downright sadistic at times. Always encouraging in the right way while beating you over the head at the same time, the difficulty curve can be somewhat unforgiving, especially to the younger recruits among us who cut their teeth on Halo, but the difficulty challenges you to do better, and very rarely feels utterly un-winnable.
Doom 4 needs to be a lot like Doom 1 and 2 if it stands a chance of being successful. Arguably the chief failure of Doom3 lied in its stoicism and grimness.
Explore a series of monster mazes. Find keys to open doors. Kill hundreds of monsters along the way. That's it. Oh, and try to beat John Romero's par times.
That is Doom. And Doom is the best game ever made.