1993's Doom was suddenly given a port on the Nintendo Switch Friday afternoon, with no previous announcement or build-up, allowing gamers to revisit the generation-defining first-person shooter once again. Costing gamers only five dollars, and also releasing on Playstation 4 and Xbox One, Bethesda's unannounced reissue of the immensely influential monster-shooter gave fans of the title and newcomers alike a chance to revisit its monumentally important campaign, reminding everyone of just how cemented the title stands in the history of shooters, and how, despite sitting at a ripe age of twenty-six years old, it still holds up as an entertaining, immersive experience to this day.
Know Your Roots
To truly understand and appreciate the influential scope of Doom, it's important to revisit the game's development, reception, and ultimate legacy. After missing its original release date, the creative team behind the shooter worked day and night to distribute the game by December 10th, 1993, and several employees found themselves spending nights at the office in between work days. Programmer Dave Taylor claimed that he had passed out several times while running initial tests on Doom, and the id Software team worked for thirty straight hours leading up to its release date.
Inspired by the board game, Dungeons and Dragons, as well as James Cameron's 1986 sci-fi thriller, Aliens, game designer John Romero explained that they had fully expected Doom to create the biggest drop in day-to-day productivity the world had ever seen. The cutting edge Intel 386 microprocessor had given them the capability to create a game that utilized revolutionary 3D graphics, providing for action as fast and as intense as Aliens. On top of that, the innovative sci-fi themes of martian bases and demons from Hell provided for a basis of content unheard of at the time, resulting in the title being banned by several universities, and boycotts from numerous organizations, as they claimed the game contained grotesque violence and satanic imagery. In a way, this only helped cement the game's legacy, as the publicity contributed to its continuous growth into becoming the cultural phenomenon that we recognize it as today.
Return To The Year 1993
At its core, Doom is the same game that it was in 1993. You play as an unnamed space marine, colloquially nicknamed, "Doomguy," as you make your way through military bases on Mars and in Hell, mowing down any demon or possessed soldier that gets in your way. You're given the option to play on five different difficulty levels, appropriately named, "I'm Too Young to Die," "Hey, Not Too Rough," "Hurt Me Plenty," "Ultra-Violence," and "Nightmare!," with each level increasing the number and speed of the enemies you'll encounter.
Although the graphics remain the same, the movement and animations seem to run slightly smoother on the Switch, preventing the experience from feeling overly dated. You're required to create a Bethesda account before you start playing, which will certainly annoy some gamers. Unfortunately, I also encountered a few bugs, including the game freezing when reopening it after putting my Switch into sleep mode, and Doomguy refusing to respawn while being stuck in a pit of toxic waste, forcing me to close the software and reboot it again. Upon opening the game after first downloading it, I also encountered a frozen black screen before reaching the main title screen, an obstacle I wasn't able to get past until restarting the software a couple of times. Although these bugs were certainly annoying, hopefully, they're just a side effect of playing the game on its first day of release, and an upcoming update will solve the issues.
Despite Doom being twenty-six years old, it still plays as entertainingly as any first-person shooter you might find today. Enemy encounters are always intense, and you've got to time your attacks and movements perfectly, otherwise, you'll have a tough time getting through the game, especially on the legendary nightmare difficulty. You're given access to a slew of weapons throughout your playthrough, including pistols, shotguns, chain guns, rocket launchers, plasma guns, chainsaws, and the iconic BFG9000. The weapons feel incredibly powerful and badass, making you feel like you've been teleported into an 80s action film. Each weapon works better for specific situations, requiring you to master when or why you might pull one out instead of another.
You're tasked with obtaining key cards, avoiding pits of toxic waste, flipping hidden switches, navigating moving platforms, and defeating any and every enemy in your way until you can find the exit room that leads to the next level. You can rush through each zone, killing the minimum amount of enemies, or take your time and explore the impressive amount of secrets and hidden rooms available. Its dark, uncomfortable sci-fi aesthetic is absolutely iconic, as it really allows players to experience that sense of escapism that they're constantly looking for in games. Bobby Prince's MIDI-produced, 8-bit soundtrack even further contributes to Doom's aesthetic, plunging you into the game's demonic world as effectively as ever. The game's overall production design, especially for one of the very first 3D games, is just downright impressive, which is probably why it has served as a model for first-person shooters ever since its release.
The game expertly utilizes the element of surprise, preventing it from ever falling into the monotony of repetitive or overly simplified gameplay. Just when you think you're comfortably handling a level with ease, a horde of enemies will emerge from an unseen corner and ambush you to the point of barely surviving, or you'll fall into a strobe-lit labyrinth completely surrounded by a barrage demons, requiring you to attack with total precision to avoid death. There are very few instances where you're given enough time to take a breath, and the intensity that defines Doom, a game from 1993, works better than so many first-person shooters released since.
A Great History Lesson For The Next Generation Of Gamers
Doom serves as a staple of 90s nerd culture with its Aliens and Dungeons and Dragons influence, and it's easy to tell that the game's creators wanted to create a truly iconic sci-fi experience. They accomplished just that, and did so in such an effective manner that dozens of shooters tried so hard to mimic its gameplay aesthetic for years to come. It's a wonderful surprise being able to revisit this experience on its first handheld console since the Gameboy Advance, and playing through the game simultaneously serves as a reminder of just how far we've come in video games, as well as where our influences came from, all while providing an experience that is just as entertaining today as it was in 1993.
4.5 Out Of 5 Stars
A copy of Doom (1993) was purchased by TheGamer for this review. The game is available now for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.