In the Fall of 2011 I decided to revisit one of my old favorites: Doom. I wanted to review all the console versions of the game and update my previous Doom reviews. As I started posting these reviews a reader named Martin began sending me feedback filling me in on the history and technical details of these games. It was very interesting stuff but too much to incorporate into the reviews. I informed Martin that I planned on creating a "Doom Special" which would consolidate all of my Doom reviews into a single page along with his in-depth commentary. It took over a year, but the page is finally complete. My reviews are in yellow, and you'll recognize his expert commentary in white. Enjoy!
If I was overly critical in my original review of this game, it was due to my perception of Doom as being a very basic first-person shooter. I failed to realize that Doom was actually quite demanding for the consoles of its time. After playing several versions of the game I have finally calibrated my expectations properly. This is a respectable port. At the very least
you have to give this version credit for making use of the entire screen, as opposed to other versions (3DO, 32X) which crop the display with an ugly border. Despite some modest slow-down the frame-rate remains decent throughout (unlike the 3DO edition). The game only supports the three-button controller, so you'll need to use the C button to strafe. It's not optimal but the game is certainly playable once you get the hang of it. If you've played other versions of Doom you'll immediately notice the lack of music. While some may consider it superfluous, I always felt that the moody soundtrack added to the intensity. The sound effects also come across as a little flat compared to other versions. One advantage the Jaguar edition has over the others is its two-player modes (coop and death match). They require you to hook two Jaguars together (a pretty rare occurrence) but from what I hear it actually works pretty well. There are better versions of Doom out there, but this one certainly gets the job done.
The 32X, Jaguar and 3DO ports were the first console ports of Doom and all were made around the same time, the 32X and Jaguar ports by ID and the 3DO version ported from the Jaguar by Logicware, from the same branch of the Doom engine. All three feature heavily simplified and retextured levels from Doom 1 (some textures from the just released Doom 2 on PC were added as well) in one continuous episode (rather than the three separate episodes of the PC version and also SNES version). All three of these ports are missing the Spectre, Cyber Demon and Spider Demon foes and Light Amp and Invisibility Power up's. As a result, all three ports lack a final boss; all three ports feature the Fortress of Mystery, renamed to Dis (the name of the final level on PC), as a final map.
The Jaguar version features 22/27 levels from the PC version and two new maps (confusingly given the same names and placement as two of the PC maps that weren't ported), making 24 altogether. Unlike the 32X and 3DO (and also SNES) versions, it has no music in game at all (instead formerly level music, plays on the intermission screens). The Jaguar version is also the only port of the three to run in full screen. The Jaguar version also features two player Deathmatch and Cooperative play (with the Jaglink accessory).
Allegedly the Jaguar Version source code (the source code for the Jaguar version of Doom has been released; the only port to have its code released), features slots and map information for another two maps; Dis (the real one) and Warrens, indicating that ID did at one point plan to include the Spider Demon final boss. The Jaguar's level warp cheat also apparently goes up to level 26 (naturally, any attempt to "warp" to levels 25 or 26 will cause the game to crash).
System: Sega 32X
The more console versions I play of Doom, the more I appreciate this 32X edition. The bad news is, the screen is cropped, and that stone border looks cheesy as hell. I find it appalling that this is not
reflected in the screenshots on the back of the box. Shame on you, Sega. The good news is, ten seconds into the game you won't even notice the limited visibility. This is arguably the most playable non-PC version of Doom of the pre-Playstation era. For the uninitiated, Doom is a hellish corridor shooter with demonic creatures, multi-tiered levels, and satisfying gore. The 32X graphics may lack the sharpness of the Jaguar version, but the silky smooth frame-rate more than compensates. The action moves along at a brisk pace and the controls are spot-on. You do have to use the C button to strafe however, since the Genesis controllers lack shoulder buttons. Still, I love how you can quickly and easily navigate each stage without even having to use the run button. The monsters are always facing you in this version, but frankly I wouldn't have noticed if no one had told me. The stereo effects are clear and despite what you may have heard, the bass-heavy soundtrack isn't bad at all. Looks aren't everything, and this 32X version of Doom excels in the fun department, and that's the bottom line.
The 32X version was made by ID along with the Jaguar and 3DO ports, all built off the same branch of the Doom engine; feature simplified and retextured levels (some textures from Doom 2 were added as well), one continuous episode (rather than the three separate episodes of the PC version and also SNES version) and all three are ports of Doom 1. All three of these ports are also missing the Spectre, Cyber Demon and Spider Demon foes (the SNES version included the later two).
The 32X version features a mere 17/27 levels from Doom 1 (these 17 maps are the same as those from the Jaguar and 3DO ports), all from the first two episodes (it has no maps at tall from episode 3). Because of this, you will never find the BFG9000 weapon (it only appears on the third episode), though it is coded into the game (minus it's missile graphics, which have been replaced with Barron fireball graphics), a number present for it on the hud, mentioned in the manual and given with the weapon cheat../...
Another knock against the 32X version is that it only features front facing bad guys and has no infighting. At least it features textured floors though. It is also missing several sound effects.
An interesting quirk of the 32X version is that if the player cheats, then instead of the game ending, they will be presented with a DOS prompt (apparently ID developed a mini OS for the 32X port of Doom). Some claim this as a bug, some claim this as deliberate (i.e. you cheat, you don't get to see the ending).
Of all the versions I've played of Doom (and I've played most of them) this 3DO edition has got to be the sorriest. The first thing I noticed was how the screen was severely cropped, despite the fact the screenshots on the box provide no indication of this! That goes beyond false advertising - it's a boldface lie!
The lack of full screen support is bad enough, but the 3DO even struggles to render the action on the small screen!
My friend Scott exclaimed, "I'm already
seeing slow-down, and there aren't even any monsters yet!"
The textures look alright, but the uneven frame-rate is enough to make you queasy
. When ambushed by a band of imps, the game practically comes to a stand-still
. Intermittent disc accesses throughout add additional hiccups. I expected the 3DO to excel in the control department, considering its controllers have shoulder buttons to facilitate strafing. Sadly, the controls feel mushy and unresponsive. Certain levels feature high-octane music, but those blazing guitar riffs are entirely too fast and upbeat. What is this, an 80's rock video? Doom on the 3DO is a lost cause. I find it interesting that a console billed as the "ultimate multi-media player" couldn't even handle the premiere first-person shooter of its time.
The 3DO version is very similar to the Jaguar version, but it has a few notable differences and major performance issues.
First the good point about the 3DO version over the Jaguar version; it features music in the maps. The music is slightly remixed though, so it doesn't sound exactly like the classics.
Otherwise the Jaguar port is pretty much superior in every way; firstly the 3DO completely lacks the 2 player multiplayer from the Jaguar version. But the big issues with the 3DO version are that it doesn't run full screen (it actually has four screen sizes available by default, all with thick borders), but inspite of this it has a terrible frame rate. These two issues make it widely considered to be one of the worst, if not the worst port of this generation of consoles.
There is actually a cheat code that one can enter to enable two larger screen sizes, but these only magnify the frame rate problems.
Final Doom certainly has the look of a money-grab, reprising the original Playstation Doom with a new set of levels. It's targeted at those who played the hell out of first Doom (literally) and crave even more first-person demon-shooting mayhem. I guess Final Doom serves its purpose. Not only does it contain a whole new set of stages, but the difficulty has been ratcheted up to the max!
The levels are jam-packed with enemies and the elaborate stage layouts expose you to constant danger. If you feel like a sitting duck, it's not your imagination. Complicating matters is the fact that armor and health packs are in very low supply. One thing you do have in your favor is firepower. Heck, the chain gun and plasma gun are available in the very first level
. You'll need them, because to these demons you're like a walking McRib. Completing any of these levels is a monumental achievement. Final Doom uses the same graphic engine as the first, and since the action is more intense it sometimes struggles to keep up with the chaos. The mouse controller is supported and a two-player mode is available via the link cable. A password is provided between levels. It's bad enough the first Doom didn't let you save your progress to memory card, but there's absolutely no excuse for it here. Final Doom is a respectable extension to the series but I think its audience is fairly limited.
The PS1 also got a port of Final Doom, which is almost identical to the original PS1 version feature wise, aside from added support for the PS1 mouse. Though calling it Final Doom is a bit misleading as it only has 30 levels, only 17 of which actually come from Final Doom, which featured 64 levels on PC. The other 13 levels that make up the PS1 version of Final Doom are actually from the Doom 2 Master Levels. The Doom 2 Master Levels was an official add-on for PC Doom 2 that consisted of 21 new individual maps and also came with "Maximum Doom", a load of levels badly downloaded from the internet. The PS1 version of Final Doom also doesn't feature the Spider Demon foe; it appears in the roll call at the end of the game however.
Doom is a classic first-person shooter that originated on the PC but later appeared on many consoles in the mid-90's. This Saturn edition is seriously weak, especially compared to its Playstation cousin. The graphics look washed out and the sound effects lack punch. Why in the heck does it sound like I'm taking damage when I walk down steps? What really hurts the game however is the lousy frame-rate. After a few levels the slow, jerky visuals can give you a massive headache. And when the frame-rate slows, the controls become sluggish and inexact. Even opening a door looks choppy. The back of the box claims the game is "deathmatch-ready with two-player link capabilities" but as far as I can tell that is completely false. As is often the case, Saturn owners got the short end of the stick.
The Saturn version was built off the PS1 version and features the same maps, redone audio and missing Arch Vile and SS Guard. However it loses the coloured lighting, flaming sky and features less music tracks than the PS1 version. The Saturn version also lacks the Death match and Cooperative play of the PS1. The boxes for the U.S and E.U Saturn versions also show screenshots from the PC version of Final Doom rather than the Saturn version. The Saturn version is also slower than the PS1 version.
System: Super Nintendo
Trying to play Doom on the SNES is a lot like trying to play Warcraft II on the Saturn. You can do
it; it's just not recommended
. The screen is cropped, although since the border is black it doesn't stand out as much. The textures look washed out and the monsters exhibit a degree of pixelation on par with the Atari 2600. The animation is choppy and your movements (especially strafing) tend to lag. It's hard to make out enemies in the distance, so you'll often wonder what's shooting you. Doom probably has no business being on the SNES, but it's still playable. The bleak audio soundtrack is effective and the stereo sound effects are crisp (although slightly delayed). Between stages there's a nifty "you are here" map screen that you won't find in any other console versions. Did I mention the game comes on a nice shiney red cartridge? A candy-like
red cartridge. This is Doom stripped down to its bare essentials, and my friends were fascinated by it. It probably makes a better tech demo than a game, but this is a neat cartridge to have in your collection.
The SNES version isn't actually built on the Doom engine (all other console versions of Doom were built off the Doom engine); apparently the developers developed the port without ID's knowledge and when they were nearly finished, they submitted it to ID who gave them the green light to finish it and released it.
Because it isn't actually built on the Doom engine, it feature a few notable game play differences to the original game, including the shotgun behaving like a rifle, the removal of monster infighting and considerably more powerful rockets.
This version of Doom contains near completely faithful re-creations of 22/27 levels of Doom 1 (quite an achievement when you consider the levels had to be heavily simplified for supposedly more powerful consoles like the 3DO) split into the same three episodes as the PC game, complete with their respective bosses and maps. However the port only features front facing bad guys and has no floor textures or lighting variation. It also lacks numerous sound effects due to cartridge space.
In an interesting twist, higher episodes can only be selected on higher skill levels (i.e Knee Deep in the dead is available on all skill levels, but Inferno is only available on the highest skills). Apparently this "limit" was removed in the later Japanese version (and apparently the bad guys in the U.S and E.U versions do actually have skill level flags set for all skills).
The port also supported 2 player multiplayer over XBAND. Though given XBAND no longer exists, the option no longer works. Apparently it featured no sound effects though, only music.
System: Nintendo 64
Finally, Ultimate Doom and Doom 2 were released on the Xbox 360's online service, Xbox Live, in 2006 and 2010. They are built off the Xbox ports, but run at a much higher screen resolution. Their 4-player multiplayer can be played over Xbox Live or split-screen. The tempo of the music and sound effects have been notably lowered, making the audio a bit slower than on the PC. The Xbox 360 version of Doom 2 also comes with a new 8 map mini episode called "No Rest for the Living". They aren't the same 8 new maps from the PS1 and Saturn version, but 8 all-new maps.
It may be worth noting is that between the releases of Ultimate and Doom 2 on Xbox 360 the Red Cross was able to trademark the red cross symbol. Therefore in the Xbox 360 release of Doom 2 the various health pickups had their sprites changed to appear as red and white pills.
The recent BFG edition is based off the Xbox 360 version and has been updated to be a cross-platform engine named the "Doom classic" engine (i.e the same engine is used in the PC, Xbox, and PS3 versions). The Xbox 360 version's multiplayer is the same as the original 360 version, while the PS3 version uses new netcode based off ID's latest game, Rage. It includes the above mentioned altered health pickup sprites and also removes all Nazi symbols and SS Guard bad guys from the Wolf3D secret maps in Doom 2, as well as renaming both maps and changing their music. This is probably so the game can be sold in Germany; German law forbids the display of Nazi symbols and Wolf3D is banned in Germany; the German version of DOS Doom 2 had the Wolf3D levels removed. Some PC Doom fans were not happy at the censoring; indeed one might comment about why they bothering to keep the Wolf3D maps in the release at all.
Achievements and trophies were added to all versions, which may explain the cheat codes have been disabled. It also marked the PC and PS3 releases of the formerly Xbox 360 only "No Rest for the Living" episode.
Following the release of the BFG edition, "Doom classic complete" was released on the Playstation 3 network. Using the same engine as the BFG edition, it includes Ultimate Doom, Doom 2, Final Doom, and the Master Levels (the Doom classic engine has hooks for all the classic Doom games, though the BFG edition didn't include them all). It features the same censoring as the BFG edition.
Note that the 'Doom classic complete' on Steam PC is not the same as the PS3 release; there has been a bundle release of the original DOS versions of Doom on Steam for yonks. But when the PS3 release was made, the Steam release was renamed to have the same name as the PS3 release.