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The Video Game Critic's
Review Special

Updated January 11, 2013


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!

Doom (Atari,1994)
System: Jaguar
Grade: C
screenshotIf 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).

Doom (Sega, 1994)
System: Sega 32X
Grade: B+
screenshot As one of the earliest first-person shooters, Doom feels decidedly raw, but that simplicity makes it all the more appealing. I love how you can effortlessly navigate each stage without a run button. You simply walk over items to collect weapons, ammo, armor, and colored keycards. There's no jumping and you don't even have to aim upward to hit enemies on high ledges. Each stage is ideal in size, and your goal is always just to get out alive!

The graphics are good but compromises were made for this 32X edition. Eerie lighting conveys atmosphere, but some wall textures look muddy. Your view is cropped, but you won't notice once you get "in the zone". Monsters are always facing you, but it would have never occurred to me if I wasn't told. The frame rate is quite smooth, but controls do become laggy when things get hectic. Unfortunately, these are the situations when you're frantically trying to escape!

During the early 90's blood was a valuable commodity in video games. Parents hated it so kids loved it! Watching enemies spit up blood makes their death animations all the more satisfying. And when you ignite a barrel, the bloody guts of a nearby imps splatter all over the wall, accompanied by a gross sound effect.

Another thing I love about Doom is its gradual ramping difficulty. Think the imps are bad? Check out these demons! Think it's pretty cool to take out two foes with a single shotgun blast? Wait until you get a chance to mow them down with a chaingun! This game just keeps upping the ante.

The music is sparse at times but conveys the proper sense of urgency. Unnerving snarling and growling (in stereo) gives the impression that monsters are breathing down your neck! Stages become more complex as you progress, but getting lost is not an issue since an overhead map is available at the press of a button. There's no password feature, but you can start on any one of the first 15 stages.

The default skill level "hurt me plenty" is challenging enough, and when you die you restart the current stage stripped of weapons and armor, making it even harder. This is when you realize the beauty of the game, as you must painstakingly ration your items while taking calculated risks, keeping a wary eye on your health. Far more than blood and guts, Doom is a primal, often terrifying exercise in survival.

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).

Doom (Id Software, 1995)
System: 3DO
Grade: F
screenshot Of all the versions I've played of Doom (and I've played most of them) this 3DO edition may be the sorriest. I can't get over the fact that the screen is severely cropped, despite screenshots on the box that provide no indication of this "feature"! 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 noted "I'm already seeing slow-down, and there aren't even any monsters yet!" The textures look fine 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! Random, intermittent disc accesses also disrupt the flow of the game. I expected the 3DO to excel in terms of control, considering its controllers have shoulder buttons to facilitate strafing. Sadly the controls feel mushy and unresponsive. Certain levels offer high-octane music, but those blazing guitar riffs are more suitable for 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.

Doom (Midway, 1995)
System: Playstation
Grade: A-
screenshot Boasting over 50 hellish stages, this is a superb translation of the classic PC title. Doom is first-person shooting at its purest. It's satisfying to shoot demons in the face with a double-barreled shotgun as you navigate multi-tiered fortresses. The antiquated graphics look chunky but the frame-rate keeps pace even when you're being ambushed by a gang of fireball-throwing imps.

Doom conveys a harrowing atmosphere that often borders on terrifying. Its ominous soundtrack makes you wary of impending... uh... doom, and the resonating sound effects are alarming. Colored lighting is used to good effect. Flammable barrels are the equivalent of water coolers in hell, so If you spot several possessed soldiers congregating around one, blast it to splatter their guts all over the floor. Doom is packed with memorable sights and sounds, from an imp spitting up blood, to the digitized mountain backdrops, to a demon snorting his final breath.

As an early PS1 title, the analog controls are not supported, so you'll need to use the D-pad. I'd recommend reconfiguring the controls to use X to shoot instead of triangle. The lack of a jump button is actually refreshing considering jumping always sucks in an FPS. Most stages are relatively short but numerous secret areas add replay value. It's nice how text displays on the screen alerting you to what item you've picked up.

If I have one complaint, it's the inability to save your progress to memory card (the game provides a password instead). Two-player modes are available, but only via the link cable which nobody owns. With its compact stage designs, clever puzzles, and frequent surprises, Doom is more than the sum of its parts. There are plenty of versions of this game available for various consoles, but this is the one you really want.

The PS1 version, built from the Jaguar version, features 28/36 maps from Ultimate Doom and 23/32 Doom 2 maps, as two episodes. The Doom 1 maps have come straight from the Jaguar version and also include the two new maps made for it and the 3DO port. The Ultimate Doom and Doom 2 maps were converted especially for this port (being the first port to feature content from either), Given the increased power of the Playstation over the earlier consoles, the Ultimate Doom and Doom 2 maps weren't as simplified as the Doom 1 maps were for the earlier ports. But the developers were apparently too lazy to re-convert the Doom 1 maps and just reused the Jag ones, though they did spend time adding some Doom 2 bad guys into the Doom 1 maps for this port.

Also included are 6 all new maps and the 2 new maps from the earlier console ports. 5 of these are dotted in between the original maps and 3 are new secret maps. The PS1 port also does away with the 8bit colour limitation of the Doom engine, though since none of the in game art work (the sprites, wall textures etc) was redrawn, it's only really noticeable in the distance shading and all new coloured sector lighting feature. Though much of the coloured lighting is just thrown around randomly rather than used well (i.e. the start area of E1M1 features yellow coloured lighting for some reason).

The PS1 version also features a new smoothly animating flaming sky for Hell maps and more notably, completely redone music and sound done in a more ambient style than the metal of the original audio. It is rumoured, though completely unconfirmed, that the new audio was added because ID had fallen out with Bobby Prince, the guy who made the original audio for Doom, at the time. Opinion is divided as to whether this redone audio or the original audio is "better".

The Arch Vile, SS Guard and Icon of Sin bad guys were removed from the PS1 version on account of the former featuring too many frames for the PS1 to handle and the later two because their maps don't exist in the port (like the port it's based off, the PS1 version doesn't feature a unique final boss). A new bad guy, the Nightmare Spectre was added to the game however; don't get too excited though, it's just a tinted double health spectre.

Game play wise, the PS1 version makes a couple of small changes; Revenant's have been slowed down and health Potions and Armour Helmets now give 2% each instead of 1%. Finally, the PS1 version also features two player Deathmatch and Cooperative play via link cable.

Final Doom (Id Software, 1996)
System: Playstation
Grade: C+
screenshot 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 (Id Software, 1996)
System: Saturn
Grade: D
screenshot 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.

Doom (Williams Entertainment, 1995)
System: Super Nintendo
Grade: D-
screenshot 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 shiny 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.

Doom 64 (Midway, 1997)
System: Nintendo 64
Grade: C-
screenshot I showed this game to a few friends, and their initial response was always the same: "Wow." Most console versions of Doom are derived from Doom 1 and 2 (PC), but Doom 64 is a whole new animal. You might call it Doom 2.5. By leveraging 64-bit technology it delivers the same style of first person shooting with better graphics and silky smooth animation.

The stages tend to be very elaborate and the monsters have a sharp "clay-mation" look. A few new creeps have been added to the mix including the "pain elemental", and old standbys have been redesigned. Weapons include a double-bladed chainsaw that's not very practical for logging but mauls bloodthirsty demons like a champ. Doom 64's haunting music and echoing sound effects are effective. At first glance Doom 64 seems too good to be true, and it is.

This is an incredibly dark game, and even with the lights out it's a struggle to see the corridors. Every now and then you'll locate a pair of "light amplification goggles" which brighten things up considerably, but the effect is short-lived. Excessive darkness combined with a slew of invisible monsters will result in you wondering why in the heck you're incurring damage. The high-tech stages are maze-like, and you end up moving in circles trying to figure out where to go.

The default controls are unwieldy. Due to the N64 controller design you can't effectively use the trigger to shoot while using the shoulder buttons to strafe. A password is provided after each level, and you can also save your progress to a controller pack. Doom 64 may be a treat for fans looking for a brand new challenge, but casual players will find it more aggravating than fun.

The N64 version of Doom, is a completely new version of Doom developed by Midway, with completely redrawn art, audio (though the sounds are from the PS1/Saturn version), graphical features, levels and features, notably coloured fog and triggers capable of performing several actions, leading to a more dynamic game world. Much like the new audio in the PS1 and Saturn Ports, opinion about whether this versions new audio and art work are better than the original, is divided.

However, it loses several bad guys due to cartridge space; the Chaingunner Zombie, Arch Vile, Revenant, Arch Vile, SS Guard and Icon of Sin do not appear in Doom 64. The Zombie Man and Zombie Sergeants also use the same sprites (with slightly different palettes) rather than each having their own unique graphics. There is however a couple of new foes added; the Nightmare Imp, which like the PS1 versions Nightmare Spectre is simply a double health Imp and all new final boss, the Mother Demon. Fireball shooters are also added. Also added is an all new weapon, the Laser Gun, a weapon that was at one point planned for PC Doom, but dropped. In a unique twist, it can be upgraded throughout the game with special pickups found in secret levels. These same pickups can also be used on the final boss map to make it easier.

Doom 3 (Id Software, 2005)
System: Xbox
Grade: B+
screenshot I've been anxiously awaiting Doom 3 since it was released for the PC last summer (2004). I even purchased the Xbox "special edition" which contains Doom I and II. If only its tin gray box didn't look so butt ugly. And while I'm on that subject, there's something fishy about the fact that the "extras" are included on the same disk as the game. If they don't require an extra disk, why not let everyone have them? Oh, because then they couldn't charge an extra ten bucks!

Doom 3's claustrophobically dark environments offer an experience that's like nothing else I've played. You can use a weapon or a flashlight - but not both at the same time. This "feature" has been subject to much controversy, and I still can't decide if it's idiotic or brilliant. Obviously it would be easier to use both at once, but it could be argued that this limitation heightens the tension and encourages a more careful, deliberate approach.

The game is set in an industrial complex on Mars where all hell breaks loose - literally - as demons begin spawning from portals. Is the game scary? Hells' yes! When the lights go out suddenly and you hear a loud crash, you can't help but jump out of your seat. Weird noises that emanate from rooms ahead will make you think twice before entering. Besides the hideous monsters, eerie sights include corpses that suddenly levitate and float out of the room.

Doom 3's controls are crisp and responsive to the highest degree, and I love how the D-pad is used to quickly switch weapons. The weapons themselves are similar to those in past Dooms (chain gun, shotgun, plasma gun, B.F.G.) but their reload times are considerably longer. Doom 3 offers a few "find the key" and interactive puzzles, but for the most part it's either "kill or be killed". One element I'm not crazy about are the "PDAs" you collect from dead soldiers, containing both emails and voice clips. It's tedious to examine their contents, but sometimes necessary to uncover critical clues like lock combinations.

Doom 3's graphics are as good as I've seen in a first-person shooter - even better than Halo 2. I couldn't help but notice some slight pixelation when you're right "up on" the scenery, but the texture mapping and lighting is fantastic. The environments are detailed to an almost photo realistic degree, but there's not much variety. You'll spend most of your time wandering the dark, narrow hallways of industrial facilities with steam pipes and control panels all over the place.

The human characters look good but not remarkable, and their pale skin makes them look like zombies even before they're dead. The surround sound is impressive; the crystal clear moans and footsteps build a sense of paranoia (are those footsteps mine?) There's no auto-save feature, but you can initiate a save at any point, and there's even a handy "quick save" button.

My biggest disappointment came when I attempted to play the much-ballyhooed two-player cooperative mode with a friend. Sadly, there's no split screen version, so you'll need two copies of the game. Otherwise, I really enjoy playing Doom 3. It may lack the variety and long-time play value of Halo, but you can't question Doom 3's sheer intensity and top-notch production values.

The collector's edition of Doom 3 for the Xbox comes with ports of the PC versions Ultimate Doom and Doom 2. This port is the first one to not make any cuts due to console power; the games are, a few less menu options aside, there in their entirety. Like the PC version, it also features 4 player multiplayer support (in the form of split screen; no Xbox Live support), which unlike the original PC versions, where multiplayer had to be started via the command line, is accessible from within the game itself. This port also features two all new secret maps, one in Ultimate Doom and one in Doom 2. The two new maps are actually copies of PWAD maps the programmers of the port made back in 1994.

Unfortunately, when they ported them into the Xbox version, they introduced bugs into them, that could break them if certain areas weren't done in a certain order../... they are also pretty rubbish maps and poorly placed and accessed (one of them can be accessed from pressing a wall on Map02 of Doom 2 and features every bad guy in the game../...).

The Xbox version of Doom 3 Resurrection of Evil comes with the same ports of Ultimate Doom and Doom 2 as the collectors version of Doom 3 for the Xbox and adds 19/21 of the Doom 2 Master Levels.

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.

Images courtesy of Doom Central and Doom Wikia