If you play games today, you owe a lot to Doom. This seminal game wasn’t the first first-person shooter, but it was far and away the most popular one for quite a long time. Developer id Software’s masterpiece of fast-paced, gun-toting mayhem set a template for the genre that is in many ways still in use today, and it pushed forward both gaming technology and the very concept of PCs as gaming machines.
And yet, in spite of the game’s massive influence, it’s only gotten two sequels in over 20 years – the last over a decade ago. But at long last, a new entry is about to join the franchise. Simply titled Doom, this reboot looks to bring everything magical about its predecessors into the modern day, amping up the blood- and flame-soaked majesty of its forbears with the cutting-edge technology that has been a hallmark of the series since the beginning.
While we count the days to its release, let’s take a look back at the legacy that Doom draws on.
The year was 1993. Wolfenstein 3D had hit the scene just one year earlier, introducing the first-person shooter pretty much as we know it today. But, not content to rest on their laurels, the folks at id Software followed up their previous success with the game that would up the FPS ante in every way. The impact that Doom had on the PC gaming scene cannot be overstated; its blistering pace and gleeful death-metal imagery made an instant impression, and its canny level design kept players coming back again and again.
The first game sold well over a million copies – already an impressive feat for the time – but thanks to the shareware release of the first third of the game, it reached an estimated 20 million players, a virtually unheard-of number in the early days of PC gaming (and still a very impressive number today). With little in the way of plot, the game was all about the raw experience of blasting through waves of demonic creatures. To this day, the gameplay is fiendishly addictive; how else to explain the fact that Doom has been ported – sometimes officially, more often unofficially – to virtually anything with a screen? And this is not an exaggeration; you can play Doom on a calculator.
The earth-shaking success of the original prompted a quick follow-up, 1994’s Doom II: Hell on Earth. While it offered little in the way of substantial changes to its predecessor, the sequel delivered dramatic increases to the size of the first game’s levels. Capitalizing on players’ desire to explore the fairly nonlinear maps of the original, id packed Doom II with off-the-beaten-path secrets and surprises.
But the biggest change was improved support for multiplayer, allowing players to easily connect over phone lines and LANs. While the original offered rudimentary multiplayer capabilities, Doom II’s native support made it much more accessible for the average player – meaning it was, in many ways, the dawn of the multiplayer FPS. So, you know, if you enjoy playing Halo or Call of Duty or Battlefield against other humans, you have Doom to thank.
After Doom II, id would move on to focus on the similar Quake franchise, which set a lot of FPS standards in its own right. So it was a full decade before Doom would get another sequel.
It was worth the wait: 2004’s Doom 3 took the infuriatingly addictive gameplay of its predecessors and set it in gorgeous, atmospheric environments that drew comparisons to survival horror titles. While remaining a showpiece for id’s nefarious level design, it also showed off the studio’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of technology. In some ways it felt like a game from the future. That may explain why it’s taken over 11 years for the studio to unleash a fourth game in the franchise.
The Expanded Universe
But don’t think the Doom franchise was entirely dormant in all those years between sequels. For one thing, the series enjoyed a healthy number of spinoffs and adaptations, from 1997’s Doom 64, to the 2005 cell phone title Doom RPG, to 2009’s iOS adaptation Doom Resurrection.
The franchise has also made appearances in entirely separate media. For example, “Doom: The Boardgame” enjoyed a limited run in the mid-2000s; the franchise has also been adapted into two separate series of novels. And of course, 2005 saw the release of “Doom,” a feature film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and “The Lord of the Rings” star Karl Urban. It… was not well-received.
But that hasn’t stopped the franchise from continuing to exert its influence beyond the gaming world. In one form or another, Doom has made an appearance in TV, films, and even music. Characters on shows as diverse as “Friends,” “E.R.,” “The Simpsons,” and “Seinfeld” paid homage to the game. It was seen in films like “Grosse Point Blank” and “Breakdown.” Sounds from the game were used as samples by the Smashing Pumpkins, and the franchise is a popular reference point in metal and industrial music.
But the biggest impact is, of course, in games. Not only did Doom blaze the trail for multiplayer, it’s actually the origin of the term “deathmatch.” Its success popularized the use of shareware to promote games, now seen in digital form in demos and other try-before-you-buy formats. It cemented the first-person shooter as a technology-driving powerhouse of a genre, leading to the development of some of the greatest games ever made.
It’s a franchise with very, very big shoes to fill, but this year’s Doom is certainly going to try. By unabashedly drawing from its predecessors, Doom looks like it could be the perfect blend of modern and classic, marrying addictive pick-up-and-play gameplay with cutting-edge graphics and top-shelf design. id Software hasn’t shown any sign of slacking in the 22-plus years since Doom first hit the PC… and there’s no reason to think they’ll start now.
Want to relive some of these moments (or experience them for the first time) for yourself? For a limited time, you can pre-order Doom and receive Doom I and Doom II. Pre-order now to also receive the Demon Multiplayer Pack, which includes one, unique Demon-themed armor set with three skin variations, six Hack Modules – one-use consumable perks – six exclusive metallic paint colors, and three id logo patterns that can be applied to weapons and armor.
Doom arrives for Xbox One and Windows PC on May 13.