In the first 10 minutes I spent playing DOOM for the iPad I felt like I had returned to 1993, playing the hottest new 3-D video game, in my slovenly bachelor pad with the sticky carpet, on my Macintosh LC. With apologies to Wolfenstien 3D fans, DOOM was really the first immersive, mass-market first-person shooter (FPS). It was like nothing before, and set the stage for an entire genre that ate PCs, then consoles, and finally… iPads. Those of us who have wasted more hours than we’ll admit with a PS3 controller in our hands and Call of Duty on the big screen owe a debt to the creators of DOOM, id Software. In those days before multi-player, my co-workers and I bragged about high scores, and shared cheat codes we copied from Usenet newsgroups (ask your Dad).
For the uninitiated, let me set the stage: you play the part of an unarmed space marine that finds himself in a space station, seeking to survive alien attacks, and find his way out of the station through an almost-endless series of mazes. You confront bad guys, steal their weapons, and walk around picking up ammo and health packs for when you’re all shot up (which is often). You also need to pick up keys that open doors that lead you out of each level, and into the next. If you survive, you find weapons of greater and greater firepower, starting with a weak little revolver, to shotguns, to machine guns, and ultimately to the “BFG” which stands for… well, you get it. You need these guns to dispose of the tougher and tougher bad guys you encounter while wandering around the mostly empty space station. On the original PC title, your finger was always poised over the command-S option, to save your progress in case you died, which you did with startling regularity.
So, how does the translation to the iPad hold up? Surprisingly well. The game was designed for a keyboard and mouse, but the on-screen joypad sticks work well enough to guide your marine and to look around and aim. The graphics are decidedly 1993, but with 8-bit games making a retro-resurgence, the rough graphics didn’t seem to phase me. I found myself looking past the old-school graphics and still being immersed in that dank spaceship, listening intently for the sound of monsters I’d have to blow away. And the sound of that big chain-gun coming unwound as you splatter a room full of monsters still brings on the grins.
This experience only reinforces my belief that top-shelf graphics and sound are always to be sought after, but immersive game play conquers all. Even if you weren’t yet a glimmer in 1993, DOOM for iPad is worth a look. ($4.99 in the app store)