Few games are as iconic and influential as id Software's classic first-person shooter, DOOM. Or Doom. Or DooM. However you stylize it, Doom has stood the test of time as one of the greatest examples of first-person monster-blasting action.
With the recent reboot/sequel/re-quel, confusingly also titled DOOM, shattering expectations, I felt it was worth taking a look back at some of the series' equally iconic box art.
Released in 1993, DooM...or Doom...or DOOM...or possibly even dOOm's eye-catching cover art is undoubtedly one of my favorite pieces of video game artwork ever. A lone space marine blasts away are hordes or demons, threatening to overwhelm him with their sheer numbers. In the background, a second marine - possibly a nod to the game's multiplayer component - desperately runs toward his compatriot, arm outstretched. In the lower left corner, a single demon faces the consumer, as if to say, "You're next!"
It's a fantastic, horrific piece of art that perfectly captures the spirit of the game. A single marine with a small arsenal of weapons fighting for his life against overwhelming odds. That's Doom in a nutshell, and the game's title makes no bones about your likely fate.
Speaking of, the giant, angular block letters embellished with machinery are a clear nod to the game's levels, especially early on while you're still in the UAC installation. Computer panels and machinery are everywhere, and even enemies later become a mix of biological nightmares and cybernetics.
Due to its massive popularity, Doom was ported to nearly every video game system at the time. Many of them retained the original cover art, sometimes cropped for space, but the Custom PlayStation Edition was an exception.
Here we have a sort of Bruce Willis look-alike blasting a hole through an imp with the fan favorite shotgun, as a Baron of Hell closes in on the side, and a Lost Soul flies up behind him. It's not bad, but the depiction of the game's hero couldn't be further off from the in-game model. Sure, Doomguy's face in the status bar is displayed, but everyone knows that the space marines wear bright green armor and a cool helmet. They most certainly do not wear a tattered vest, a white t-shirt, and cargo pants. It is worth noting, however, that the player character's representation features the zigzag haircut that would be featured on the sequel's box art.
DOOM II...or DooM II... or... you know what, forget it... The sequel eschews the original's massive battle shot for a one-on-one showdown between the space marine, sans helmet, and the Cyberdemon, one of the game's massive boss monsters. The marine's armor is in tatters and skulls line the floor of what is presumably Hell itself.
Again, it's a wonderful and grotesque painting. It's somewhat ironic that it focuses on a one-on-one encounter, however, since Doom II's battles were much larger than the original game's. I guess they wanted to showcase the extremely large nature of some of the new enemies, and it works. The Cyberdemon certainly cuts an imposing figure with his huge rocket launcher arm dwarfing the marine's tiny chaingun.
Surprisingly, many people don't realize that Doom 64 is not a port of any existing Doom game, but an entirely new title exclusive to the Nintendo 64. In the years since its release, it has been heralded as a better third entry than the actual Doom 3 because it retains more of the frantic action and relies less on atmospheric jump scares. Its box art, however, is...well, boring.
Kudos to Nintendo for allowing a vaguely Satanic image on a game cover, but there's little else of note for Doom 64's box art. The logo alone takes up 50% of the real estate, so I guess Midway were banking on people simply recognizing the logo and buying the game regardless of what else was on the cover. Not that a box should ever be the determining factor in a purchase, but given the strong presentation of the other Doom covers, this one falls flat. I suppose the machinery in the red sidebar is a nice touch.
This also started a downward trend for Doom games. As publishers became content with slapping a render onto the box rather than commissioning meticulously detailed paintings, Doom 3 was something of a marriage of the two.
It's a Hell Knight and a logo. It still looks hand-painted, but it definitely lacks the punch of the first two PC games. The colors are comparatively drab and other than the creature's face, there isn't much detail. Notice the whole torso is covered with inky blackness, which I suppose is evocative of the game's graphical style, but it also seems like a cheap cop out to avoid having the draw more details. Even the logo itself has lost some of its detail. While there are still cybernetic flourishes, it's no longer two distinct segments.
But nothing - and I mean nothing - compares to the atrocity that is the DOOM reboot's box art.
Look at that hideous thing. It looks like Halo and Call of Duty had some kind of mutant baby. It couldn't possibly be any more generic. A boring render of the space marine, an even more toned down version of the classic logo, and boring colors in the background. DOOM's newest entry is everything wrong with modern game covers, but it's also a good example of why you shouldn't judge a game by them.
The excellent game inside the awful case deserves better, and it seems someone at Bethesda knew that because the standard version features a reversible cover that is so superior in every way it actually stands up with the classic games.
As you can see, it's very evocative of the original game, with a large number of beasties closing in on a lone space marine. The logo still lacks the old details, but the painting itself is marvelous. This comes with the standard version of the game, so unless you just have some weird obsessive-compulsive thing about all your games having the blue PS4 or green Xbox One stripe on the spine showing, there's no reason not to display this on your shelf.
What I particularly love about this cover is that it features most of the game's standard enemies. Cacodemons fly towards the player, imps rush on the ground (including one looking back at you, like the first game's art), revenants leap into the fray, a mancubus can be seen towards the back, near the spine there's the iconic pinky demon, and beyond that on the back there's a Baron of Hell in the foreground and a lost soul screaming in. It once again captures the feel of your impending death at the hands of all these creatures, and serves as an excellent updated version of the original game - much like the game itself is to its forefather.
It's also worth mentioning that the limited collector's edition of DOOM contains yet another cover, in the form of a steelbook case showcasing the Revenant enemy. It's still just a render, but the monster is still a step up from the generic marine cover that the standard edition comes with.
From an artistic perspective, Doom's covers haven't always matched the games - which have usually had stellar graphics, regardless of what you think of the gameplay - but the first two games in particular have remarkable artwork that has stood the test of time just as well as the games themselves.