Does Doom really live up to expectations? We asked the 1993 UK champion
The original Doom is one of the most significant and influential titles in video-game history. When it first arrived on the scene back in 1993, video games were a different beast. Instead of sprawling role-playing games in the vein of The Witcher 3, or city-wide playgrounds like those in GTA V, you had multi-user dungeons (MUDs) and text adventures to tide you over.
Fast-forward 23 years and Bethesda Softworks’ new
Fast-forward 23 years and Bethesda Softworks’ newDoom has a lot to live up to. Since it came out in May, we’ve had enormous fun romping across Mars, punching demons in the face and hoovering up all the collectibles, but what does a Doom veteran make of it all? Is it an evolution of the Doom they loved from day one, or is it a blasphemous mess made for a generation spoon-fed on Call of Duty and Battlefield titles?
We asked James Tye, CEO of Dennis Publishing. He wears a suit, sits in lots of meetings and makes decisions that may or may not result in us being fired. But back in 1993 he was the UK Doom champion. That essentially means that for one whole year he was Mr Doom, as least as far as the borders of the United Kingdom are concerned. When we discovered this, we challenged him to play with us.
What was it about Doom that drew you in?
I’ve been playing multiplayer games for a long, long time, although they were almost all text-based. At the time, shooting games were all very two-dimensional and had no multiplayer aspect so, for me, Doom moved everything on graphically and in terms of gameplay. It also introduced the idea of fighting other people, and it was a really good experience. It wasn’t laggy, it didn’t crash a lot – to me, this was like “okay, now gaming makes sense”. [In Doom] it was your skill pitched against someone else’s.
Playing games in the old days, you’d always think about pressing the “A” key [on the keyboard] to go left. The journey Doom took me on was that you’d think about moving and your hand just pressed the keys. You became a part of the avatar. It was a big change to the genre because, with Wolfenstein 3D [id’s previous game], you just didn’t feel like you were in the game. With Doom, you felt as if you were there. It was very atmospheric and you were playing against other people who were equally as smart as you. You felt a real sense of victory when you killed someone and loss when you died. It just mattered more.
How did you end up becoming the 1993 UK Doom champion?
In those days [multiplayer gaming] was really limited. We used to play [Doom] a lot after work, and one day Toshiba held this tournament where they invited along a load of Doom players. It was a four-player deathmatch played across three maps, and whoever got the highest score won the whole thing. It wasn’t [a tournament] like it is now, but back then Doom was a new game and people didn’t really know what multiplayer gaming was.
Going in with no knowledge of what’s to come, what would you expect from a Doom game in 2016?
I’d expect surprise and atmosphere with some visceral action. Doom has always been about visceral action, I mean it had a chainsaw! Back in the day that was like, “okay, this is a really interesting weapon”. It wasn’t a power fist or something, it was a proper up-close and messy weapon.
I’m also expecting less linear levels, as that’s really how you expect an FPS to move on. [Nowadays] you don’t expect that you have to go through the map in a certain way. Honestly, I’m hoping it doesn’t have loads and loads of technical and precision jumps. I don’t want it to have fallen into the trap of copying things like Uncharted, because that wasn’t ever part of the ethos.
I do hope that it has a really nice multiplayer [mode]. I don’t want it to be too frantic; Call of Duty’s multiplayer is too frantic, but I want [Doom] to capture the elements I loved of the original. The last game I seriously played was Far Cry 2, four, maybe five, years ago. While the graphics were fantastic, I doubt Doom has much better gameplay then that. I mean, the logo’s the same isn’t it…
It was at this point we let Tye go hands-on with Doom. After talking him through the various sections – such as the best levels to try, custom SnapMaps and the secret original Doom levels – he opted to start at the beginning before letting us drop him into a later level to show how things progress. Naturally, he died a few times in the warmup process, lamenting the loss of his skills circa 1993 as he went. But it was clear he was enjoying himself.
It wasn’t until he jumped into Doom’s original levels, complete with low-resolution textures, hidden doors and secret weapons, that the former champion emerged. His memory of maps and their intricate corners was uncanny, and within seconds he was tracing familiar locations of rocket launchers and health packs.
Now you’ve had a taste of the new Doom, how did you find it?
Good, heart-racing. It was great, but I don’t know if it’s really moved things on that much. Sorry, that sounds so old hat, but the gameplay is still essentially dodge, shoot, dodge with a bit more level complexity. It’s just like a refined version of what came before, but I suppose that’s what [id] is trying to achieve…
Were you expecting the new Doom to move the shooter genre forward as the original did?
I think it was only ever going to be an evolution. It’s borrowed from the original game and [modern] titles in a good way. I guess that’s partly due to the market they’re trying to get to. They’re trying to appeal to people like me, and hit the current generation of game players too.
What didn’t you like about your Doom experience?
What confused me the most was just the sheer variety of ways you can use the weapons. Traditionally they’re quite simplistic, which is one reason I like the Classic Maps mode – the weapons are the same, give or take. The pistol is still crap, but the Glory Kill thing is quite interesting, very different. Is there still a BFG [in Doom 2016]? Because that was really shit in the original. There’s also no sniper rifles, but Doom doesn’t really encourage [ranged play]. It’s clear that it wants you to get in up close, and the introduction of Glory Kills goes to show that.
So, all in all, you liked it, right?
Yeah, it’s pretty faithful.