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Home bullet Games bullet Doomed

Doomed by FullAuto Written on 2nd May 2005

Click to enlarge
New, Improved Imp!
I bought Doom 3. Because I’m a sucker for such things, I got the collector’s edition, complete with nice shiny box.

Once I’d stopped keening softly to myself, I put the game on and started playing. Doom 3 disappointed me. It disappointed me the same way about half of my girlfriends have, by being all show and no substance. How can something that looks so good be so empty, I asked myself, drumming my fingers on the nice shiny case.

The environment is nice, all machinery and pipes and technology, bulky boxes and protrusions everywhere. The lighting is lovely. The characters and enemies look good, except for their dying sequences, which are shockingly shoddy.

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Boo!
But the game annoyed me. It wasn’t fun. The stupid game mechanic of being able to use a gun or the torch, but not both, made me want to defenestrate someone. The fact that the makers decided to take every cheap scare and chance to have an enemy spawn behind you is retarded. And such encounters fuck you up big time unless you know they’re coming (trial and error gaming, mmm, taste the 80’s), and this just bypassed anger and made me sigh, like you do at four in the morning after a big row with your other half. Apart from those stupid stupid ambushes (why in the name of Christ would a demon from Hell lurk in a wallspace?) the game’s a piece of piss, and this is on the hard setting.

Glumly flicking through the extras on the disc, I noticed a ‘Classic Doom’ option. Hiking one eyebrow in the traditonal fashion, I had a look. Ultimate Doom and Doom 2, apparently.

Hmm.

I had a go.

Yay verily, it was Doom.

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Pinky Demon
Its looks would make a graphics whore cry. The sprites (sprites! Pretty soon whenever I mention sprites some whippersnapper is going to think I’m going on about soft drink advertising in games) are quite clearly collections of coloured blocks up close. The levels are well constructed but ugly, some of them just make your eyes ache.

The controls. You can’t aim up or down. You can’t duck. You can’t reload, your weapon’s magazine seemingly expands to hold however many bullets you’ve got.

You can’t zoom in to snipe at long-range enemies. It took me a good half an hour to get used to the controls all over again.

The gameplay. ‘Puzzles’ are limited to finding blue/red/yellow keys and opening doors with the corresponding colours. But the shooting…the shooting is still fun, and it makes up nearly the entire game. Chainsaw, pistol, shotgun (pump-action and double-barreled), minigun, rocket launcher, plasma gun, and of course, the BFG.

This is your entire armoury, against all the legions of Hell. Fireball-flinging Imps, phlegm-throwing Hell Knights, shrieking Lost Souls, babbling Cacodemons, and the titanic Cyberdemons. Not to mention the hordes of former humans now zombified and dedicated to blasting a hole in you.

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Imp
One thing I noticed is that the Classic Doom games do not attempt to drop you into a realistic environment, structure-wise, not even at first. Hell is loose and it has corrupted everything, leaving vestiges of the former bases, but no more. Doom 3 falls down on this count, attempting to give you a stereotypical base but still packing the closets with monsters. Stupid.

So I played on Classic Doom. It’s still bloody good fun. There’s no intellectual challenge, just running and shooting. Rooms thick with mixed groups of enemies, who can be induced to killing each other if you can just dodge that shotgun blast so it hits the Imp, who will turn and chuck a fireball at the zombified sergeant.

It’s amusing to lure the different classes of demons into conflict with each other, especially when there’s thirty of them shooting, clawing, screaming, groaning and splattering everywhere and ignoring you. Low on health and ammo, still grinning, you quickly collect medikits and bullets, ready to rock ‘n roll again.

The combat is fast and unrelenting, especially on the higher difficulty levels, which ramps up the enemy count something chronic. There’s the slow rhythm of the shotgun (“It’s like shagging, isn’t it.” A friend once said. “No.” I replied), the clattering stuttering assault of the minigun, sniping with the rocket launcher, hosing down an entire room of with the plasma gun, and the last resort when really up against a terrific shit kicking, the BFG. When you absolutely, positively, have to kill every evil fucker in the room.

The joy is still there. Giving an Imp both barrels at close range and watching his pixellated arse fly back. Spraying a dozen shit-soft zombies with the minigun, cackling as you cut them down. Spilling a Cacodemon’s guts with the rocket launcher. Watching the representation of your character’s face, (a nice little touch included in the HUD, nowhere near as intrusive as Doom 3, which pisses all over the immersion you usually feel in FPS games by pulling the camera back to a third-person view and showing your character’s ugly pallid face in the first minute of the game). His eyes shift from side to side warily, he grimaces when hit and he bleeds like a haemophiliac when badly hurt. I can but smile.

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Fried Pig Beef!
Unlike Doom 3, which can only be played in a style best described as ‘scrappy’, the Classic Doom games can be played at warp speed, preferably while listening to something stupidly fast to keep your pulse and twitch reflex at their very highest (for devotees of speedrunning, a par time for each level is given). Or you can creep through them slowly, carefully, hoarding ammunition and health, eradicating the forces of Hell by searching out every nook and cranny and finding every secret section and hidden enemy (of which there are many).

The only truly bad thing I noticed about the Classic Doom games is the soundtrack. The music, if I’m not mistaken, has been changed, and it’s still low quality, but now it’s shit. It just doesn’t fit the game. Gone are the dirges, the haunting echoey low-key tones. Now we’ve got some stupid tunes that are almost upbeat. A bad mistake.

Doom 3 feels like a FPS survival horror trying to be faithful to its roots. It’s stilted, and too much attention has been lavished on its looks. Classic Doom feels like what it is, an unpretentious shooter that’s aged well, because of its purity.

For once, I went back and wasn’t disappointed. Nostalgia took me in her arms and lived up to her words. She has her flaws, but she doesn’t hide them. She still has lots of substance, character, personality, call it what you will.

Just call me old-fashioned.


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