Doom History: Doom et cetera (3/4)

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Doom History: Part 3 – The spin-off projects

Somewhere in between the evolution of Doom in newer generations and the eventual reboot of 2016, several spin-off projects occurred taking Doom to platforms it has never been before including mobile and VR platforms as well as the silver screen.

(Click here to view part 2 of “Doom History.”)

Doom RPG (2005)

The popularity of Doom over the years spawned a handful of spin-offs and side projects within the franchise. After being available on consoles and PC over the years, Doom didn’t miss the opportunity to bring its demon-slaughtering mayhem to the mobile platform just before smartphones were starting to take off.

In conjunction with id Software, developer Fountainhead Entertainment brought the turn-based RPG doom experience to Java-supported cellphones. That’s right kids, in an age before apps, social interactivity, and all of the wizardry that smartphones can perform today, we had beefier cellphones with smaller screens with a physical numerical keypad to get the job done. This is the exact platform that Doom RPG landed on.

Imagine playing games on this puppy. Photo courtesy of id Software

The game hailed back to the retro graphical design of the original games with the classic sound effects. Instead of controlling the famous Doom marine in a free-roaming manner as past games, movement was relegated to moving space by space. No diagonal or strafing existed here as the player would only be able to turn and move in 90-degree patterns. Actual combat with demonic forces was turn-based upon approach and not the glorified shoot-out the series had been known for. Essentially, everything fans had known about Doom was flipped on its head and was presented mechanically from an entirely different angle.

Photo courtesy of Doom Wiki

Narratively, the game shared the same basis from prior Doom titles. The marine is sent to Mars to help the UAC beat back the hordes hell. While the game shared the same visuals and sound effects of the earliest Doom titles, it was more story-driven. Non-player characters (NPCs) dotted the campaign to add context and help the player progress.

Doom II RPG (2009)

In 2009, Doom II RPG was developed by the same studio. This time, however, it also made its way to the iOS making it playable on both the iPhone and iPod Touch. As one could guess, the game was a sequel to its predecessor Doom RPG. The marine was tasked with eliminating the demon horde in UAC facilities located back on Earth’s moon in the beginning and, later, Earth as well.

The Holy Water Pistol in action. Photo courtesy of Gamespot

The turn-based and movement mechanics remained the same as the first RPG title. A lot of the same weapons and demons returned as well as expanding the rosters of both. The Holy Water Pistol was new to the series in Doom II RPG. The player could spray the water to cause demons to fall back in fear. Tactically, this would help prevent the player from being surrounded. The player could also choose to drink the water to gain health. Additionally, the Sawcubus enemy also was exclusively introduced in Doom II RPG. Its design is exactly as it sounds, an incubus/succubus armed with a chainsaw.

The Sawcubus. Photo courtesy of Doom Wiki

Doom Resurrection (2009)

Id Software didn’t want to leave anything to chance when it came to the mobile market. As the mobile games industry was just starting to take off, the studio ensured it was taking its share with the Doom RPG games as well as Wolfenstein RPG and a rail-shooting Rage title. But it also commissioned the production of an actual shooter experience for Doom on mobile platforms. Enter Doom Resurrection for the iOS.

Doom Resurrection maintained similar visual design to Doom 3. In fact, the story runs simultaneously to the main storyline of Doom 3. The plot involves another lone-surviving marine from a different unit than the one presented in Doom 3.

Photo courtesy of Cnet

The game was a rail-shooter, meaning no actual movement was required of the player other than aiming and shooting as the marine carried himself forward on his own. The player met other NPCs along the way adding to the narrative with details of the sinister activities within the UAC.

Doom (film, 2005)

Gamers and industry acolytes have, over a few decades, learned the hard truth of video game licensed movie adaptations. They don’t work. They haven’t worked since the atrocious cyberpunk Super Mario Bros. film in the early 90’s, and Doom did not change this trend in the slightest.

Doom (2005) Movie Poster

The hype for Doom 3 in 2003 and 2004 was palpable, and film studios sensed that among the video game industry. Universal studios quickly snatched up the rights to the franchise in 2004 and fast-tracked a supposed film adaptation of Doom 3. If a film adaptation of Doom 3 is what we actually received, then I think our recollection of the cinematic blunder might be more favorable. Therein lies the problem with most video game adaptations. Fans want Mario and Bowser, but what they get is an inter-dimensional traveling plumber who enters the world of Blade Runner covered in snot run by a corrupt mobster-like politician called “Koopa.” With Doom, we received Aliens’ awkward kid-brother.

Let’s forget for a moment that Doom is about destroying the hordes of Hell. Wait, what? Somewhere amongst the producers, that line must have either been said or inferred. Fans did and should find that appalling. Hell played no part in this sci-fi horror film’s plot. Instead, the monsters were the result of genetic experimentations within the evil UAC. Does this sound more akin to Resident Evil? If it does, that’s because it is the same plot but executed far worse.

Photo courtesy of Business Insider

The plot of the film revolves around a marine unit that is dispatched to rescue survivors in the monster outbreak. The team, led by Sarge (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), discovers that the enemy forces are the very people they were sent to rescue, only mutated. Spoilers for a 13-year-old movie lie ahead. But, the plot eventually reveals that the mutation affects people differently. In simple terms, the noble, heroic individuals are gifted with superhuman abilities and the evil, psychotic, and more violent individuals are transformed into horrific monsters. Apparently, the entire UAC staff fell in the latter category. UAC Human Resources were either terrible at their job or are the true villains here.

Unfortunately, The Rock couldn’t save this movie despite his more fortunate turnaround in modern cinema. In fact, he even became the film’s final villain. Those who played Doom 3 probably saw this coming as the marine protagonist’s commanding officer also turns villainous following demonic possession. Despite entirely disregarding the video game’s theme, the filmmakers still tried to reel in Doom’s fanbase with a heavily-contrived first-person action sequence as well as easter egg shout outs to the game’s history. For instance, fans would instantly recognize that the main scientist of the first act, Dr. Carmack, was named after the franchise creator, John Carmack.

The Rock looks a bit unwell.

The film grossed $56 million globally. Since the movie cost $60 million to produce and market, it was classified as a box office bomb and deservedly so. So, let’s all forget about this unfortunate stain on an otherwise solid video game franchise and move forward, shall we?

Doom VFR (2017)

While I’m jumping forward in our Doom history a bit, I felt it was appropriate to include this side-bar item here as part of the spin-offs since that’s what this is. Following the Doom reboot of 2016 – which we’ll discuss further in part 4 – id Software released a VR experience within the world of Doom entitled Doom VFR. This experience is available for both PC and PSVR players.

Doom VFR puts players in the shoes of the last UAC survivor of the demonic invasion taking place on Mars. Unfortunately for this lone UAC employee, the luck runs out and the survivor is killed. Later, the survivor’s consciousness is transferred to an “artificial brain matrix.” Players can then take on demons and zip around the field of play by teleporting. Demons who are stunned and prepared for a finishing blow can be eliminated if the player teleports directly into them.

The control scheme is primarily using facial movement to aim and a controller for just about everything else. While I’ve experienced VR, I’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying Doom VFR. Dan Stapleton at IGN has provided glorious insight, however, in the form of a Doom VFR review. He states that “motion-tracked controllers dramatically improve the immersion of aiming and firing a gun, and the sticks on the Aim controller work especially well for controlling teleportation.” In the gameplay video below, you can see that players use a targeting laser-like feature for teleportation. Players can also use the controls to leap a few feet at a time or enable entire smooth movement when going to the options menu.

Stay tuned for the final part of our look at the legacy of Doom. In part 4, we’ll tackle the modern reboot that spawned the Doom VFR experience we discussed in this spin-off portion as well as all of the tantalizing prospects for the upcoming sequel Doom Eternal. Join us as we discuss the current and future standing of this legendary franchise!

(Click here to view part 4 of “Doom History.”)

Chris Hinton
Accountant by day, video games enthusiast by night.  Somewhere in between all of that, I'm a husband, dad, and generally a giant man-child, too.  If a game is all about action, there's a safe bet I'm playing it.  I started laying waste to virtual worlds as a youngin' on the ol' Atari and haven't stopped since.