The Doom 3 BFG Edition arrived on store shelves (and in online storefronts) this week. This remastered version of 2004's Doom 3 looks grand and supports fancy future tech like head-mounted displays. It takes the classic franchise off of the PC and onto the Xbox 360 and PS3, and even adds new levels.
But what of Doom's beginnings? The game that not only launched a franchise, but also cemented the future of its genre, leapt into the world as shareware in December, 1993—nearly two decades ago. Doom was, of course, incredibly well-received by players and took the world by storm, with a sequel arriving less than a year later.
If the Metacritic era has taught us anything, though, it's that reviewers and the audience do not always agree. Many of Doom's early reviews are lost to the mists of time, having appeared in print-only publications that don't have accessible online arcives. Many of those publications have since shut down or changed hands. Thanks to services like Nexis and some old scans drifting around, though, we can still find some traces of early game reviews buried in the depths of the internet.
So what has a wee bit of time travel been able to dig up? Doom was, indeed, a hit with reviewers at Christmas, 1993. Let's have some highlights!
Computer Gaming World, July 1993 (preview)
We don't know what nasty sludge is seeping into the Texas water table, but whatever it is has given these boys some strange visions, and what's worse, the programming sorcery to carry it out. Doom is the name of their next creation, and unbelievable graphics technology is their game. Doom is, not too surprisingly, another 3-D action game based on Id's award winning game engine. But what is surprising is how far they've taken this new incarnation beyond Wolfenstein. Doom is not the typical next generation technology jump. It's a high-altitude, wind-aided, Carl Lewis of a leap ahead.
The Age, December 23, 1993
Although it contains a hefty level of graphic violence, I found it to be a technically superb and thrilling 3D adventure. The very nature of Doom makes it a harrowing experience since the player must explore a maze of rooms and corridors that may conceal a demonic ambush at every turn. There are some games that let the player know what to expect; but with Doom, a chilling snarl is the only warning that you will ever get.
San Jose Mercury News, January 2, 1994
If you've played Wolfenstein 3D, you'll be on familiar ground with this new game from Id Software. The shareware version offers one episode: "Knee-Deep in the Dead." Folks who register for $40 get two more versions. You decide what level you're at, ranging from "I'm too young to die," the novice level, to "ultra-violence." The hero is a hand holding a gun, and, using your keyboard, mouse, joystick or a combination of them, you navigate your way through a hellish scenario of metal doors clanging open and shut and nasties trying to get you before you get them. The sound track is as ominous as the scenario, and the sound effects include firing weapons and nasties getting what they deserve. Fully installed, the first episode takes up 5 megabytes of hard drive space. Look for DOOM1-1.ZIP on your favorite bulletin board.
The Guardian, January 13, 1994
The follow-up to Wolfenstein 3-D is even more brilliant, but even more disgusting. Again you view the world down the barrel of a gun, but you can also use your fists, a chainsaw, a machine gun or a rocket launcher. Doom is distributed as shareware, but the mail-order version also adds a plasma rifle and a BFG9000, whatever they are.
Like W3D, Doom has fast three-dimensional graphics, but the world isn't as "boxy": walls can be at any angle and ceilings at any height; some are animated. Texture-mapping on surfaces and diminishing lighting effects provide far more atmosphere. There are lots of undead humans, monsters and aliens to kill. The result is far more blood and guts. Strategy Plus described the game's four intensity settings as "ranging from the namby-pamby 'I Just Want to Kill' to the suicidal 'Ultra-Violence' level".
Doom can be played by up to four people on a network, and a later shareware version will enable two to play via a serial or modem link. Players can work together, sometimes seeing the carnage from the other's point of view, or shoot each other in DeathMatch mode. Either way this is not a game for children or anyone sensitive to violence.
Edge, April 1994
It's just a shame that the number of enemies is fairly limited. After a while, the multiple pump-action, blood-sprating demise of yet another pink monster is only marginally satisfting. If whenever you turned a corner you could be met by some new, more grotesquely deformed creature than the last, then at least Doom could boast that it had replaced gameplay with real horror.
As it is, once the power of Doom's graphics has worn off (they're amazing, so give that at least a week or two) you'll be longing for something new in this game.
If only you could talk to these creatures, then perhaps you could try and make friends with them, form alliances... Now, that would be interesting.
Score: seven out of ten
The Advocate, June 17, 1994
Doom could probably be considered mid-level virtual reality. It's not like putting on a fancy helmet that pumps information straight to your eyeballs and ears, but the graphics and movement on the computer screen are excellent. At first you might even feel a little motion sickness running through colorful passageways. You'll get used to it.
This is run-and-gun arcade action that takes you on a long journey through dangerous corridors, radioactive ooze and up against mean, ugly monsters that all want you dead.
Usually we wrap up with the Kotaku review, but we only just turned eight this weekend, and Doom predates us by eleven years. Still, without it, we wouldn't be able to play, or write about, half of what we enjoy today. Kotaku's own Kirk Hamilton and Mike Fahey requested to add one final word:
(DOOM images via Moby Games)