Video games: nowadays, when you hear these words, you probably think of either the Grand Theft Auto series or the Call of Duty series. You think of these for good reason. They sell extremely well and have a mind-blowingly large following. Many who play the Call of Duty series aren’t aware of the first-person shooter genre’s rich history and who brought about the genre in the first place. That’s why I’d like to draw attention to a developer who can be credited for bring first-person shooters to fruition and eventually, the mainstream. That developer would be Id Software. Ever hear of Wolfenstein? Doom? Quake? Then you may already be familiar with Id Software.
Back in the 1990s, video gaming was far away from becoming the phenomenon that we know and love today. A little game called Wolfenstein 3D was released and the public took notice. You play as William “B.J.” Blazkowicz during World War II and based on that, you probably know what your mission is. Yes, to take down the Führer, Adolf Hitler. You used a variety of weapons, from pistols to chainguns, to move throughout levels while frantically eliminating opposing Nazi soldiers. Although it wasn’t the first FPS, it was the one that the public had the most exposure to up to that point. It also pushed the envelope for its level of violence, which at the time was realistic and well-depicted.
Id’s next big release was the game that they’re best known for, and one of my absolute favorite video game series: Doom. Doom’s release blew open the doors for FPS gaming. The graphics were vibrant and colorful, the levels were intricately designed, the weapons were powerful and fun to use and your enemies were vicious and frightening. You play as an unnamed space marine whose mission is to fight an onslaught of demons that were released from a Hell portal on Mars. You’re all alone, but you’re tough; after all, you are a space marine. Both Doom and its direct sequel, Doom II, sold incredibly well and brought about the “Deathmatch,” something that FPS games being released today still utilize. It was the first time you could hop online and wreak havoc on your friends with an FPS. You can still play these games by downloading them on Xbox Live or purchasing Doom 3: BFG Edition for the 360 and PS3.
Id’s next big series, Quake, followed Doom. The premise and set-up was very similar. You are an unnamed protagonist that fights through level after level of monsters using heavy weaponry to eliminate any resistance. The Quake series has had four games in its direct series, with the last being completed by a different developer, Raven Software. All three Id-developed Quake games were well received and moved the genre forward. Once again, violence was an issue, but as time has told us, that which people were offended by in the past doesn’t even cause them to bat an eye today.
After the Quake series, Id updated the Doom series with Doom 3. Shying away from the large environments and numerous enemies of the first two, Doom 3 focused on tight corridors and up-close-and-personal encounters with a handful of enemies. It was violent, it was scary, and most of all, it was beautiful, even on the Xbox port. Although detractors disliked the separate flashlight and extremely dark environments, I believe they served as interesting game mechanics. Instead of running through the game firing blindly, you had to check your surroundings carefully and switch between weapons and the flashlight, which made every encounter extremely rewarding as you progressed.
Id’s newest release, Rage, wasn’t met with as much critical or monetary praise, despite having solid game mechanics and some of the best graphics in gaming. This leads me to my point about Id: say what you will about their reluctance to exit their comfort zone, they make solid games. If you want a tight, aesthetically-pleasing non-military themed shooter, then Id is your developer. In addition, their tech, the Id Tech engines, have been used by numerous games and elements of Id’s work has been used in the Call of Duty series. What I’m saying is, don’t count them out. Just because Id Software may not be as relevant as they were in the 90s doesn’t mean they don’t still do amazing work. With Doom 4 on the helm, I’m anxiously awaiting more Id action for my console. Give one of their games a shot. You can still download the first nine levels of Doom legally for free. As you’re playing, remember that without Doom, we wouldn’t have the Call of Duties and Battlefields we love today.