You might have played it on your PC back in 1993, or on one of its many, many ports since. Now the Doom trilogy is available on the current generation and we are looking at all three games in order.
Doom as a game vs Doom as a port
Doom, as a game, is something that is rather fundamental when it comes to first-person shooters, as well as level design in general. In 3D games before this, rooms were boring box shapes with tiny doors, nothing but rectangles everywhere you looked. Everything was static. Then id Software came along and some of the finest video game designers turned everything we knew about level design and shapes on its head. Say goodbye to small doors, rectangle shapes and the like: Doom had various shapes, height difference, windows, moving platforms and so much more.
Doom, as a game, is something that is rather fundamental when it comes to first-person shooters, as well as level design in general.
Changing the way rooms worked allowed for brand new designs, and a whole bunch of special tricks too. Floors, ceilings and walls could move thanks to the way Doom was designed, allowing for new-found freedom in levels and surprises. Finding a new weapon or a stash of power-ups generally meant you were about to be surprised by a wall opening to reveal a tiny enclosure full of enemies, or the floor would give way under you, taking you into an arena or in some cases the ceiling would move in, smashing you to bits. You could never take anything for granted or as not having some form of price, but that just added to the pace of the game. In Doom you have to be quick or dead, always moving to try and mitigate the damage you take as you move through room after room of enemies. Back then, Doom was a video game triumph. Playing it now it is still easy to see those levels and think back to seeing some of these things being done for the first time, level design that we take for granted.
But now, before I gush about Doom 1 and how much time I spent playing it on my MS-DOS machine, let’s talk about this port. A few things are at odds here that make this port of a game that has been ported to pretty much anything capable of running instruction sets rather… middling.
Last week I was without internet and thought I could at least work on my review of Doom, a game from 1993. Turns out I couldn’t. Bethesda has decided that these games require a server connection to run, meaning that I couldn’t get beyond the very first screen. This authentication issue also leads to problems if you put your console into sleep mode, leading you to get an annoying pop-up notification at regular intervals until you kill the game and load it up again. The authentication isn’t even for online features, as this port is missing the deathmatch mode, opting for a couch-only multiplayer. Internet issues aside, there are a few things that are wonky here…
Bent out of shape
Several details of Doom have been… distorted in this port, which will offer differing mileage based on how much you notice them or if you played the original game back in the day. As someone who played the game way back then, some of these were downright jarring, while others honestly I only noticed later, because I thought I was losing my mind a little bit.
You might notice that everyone looks a bit… short and fat here. That isn’t something wrong with the way we saved the screenshots, the whole game looks like that.
You might notice that everyone looks a bit… short and fat here. That isn’t something wrong with the way we saved the screenshots, the whole game looks like that. Doomguy is a bit chubby and all the enemies are squat because someone messed up the aspect ratio when porting the game. While it makes some enemies easier to aim at, it does result in some odd-looking doors and the pinkies are almost a large pink square of pain rushing at you.
Continuing with visual issues, you might notice a tiny stutter as you strafe around the map. This is thanks to the game running at 35 fps, rather than 30. 35 fps on a 60Hz screen just looks… wrong as things judder and wobble. It is worth pointing out that other ports got around this, changing the game from its default 35 fps to something that works better on a 60Hz screen.
Visual issues aside, it was only a while later that I noticed what was odd about the sounds. The veil of old memories can warp things, so I had to go and find gameplay from the original game to work out what was going on. Things just felt… less lively to me and I wanted to know more. The reason for this is that soundtrack, a banging mix of midis that are made to get the blood pumping, all play slightly slower than they should. While the songs are still great, the sensation of experiencing life as if it is moving a tad slower than it should is very disorienting, and it loses some of the punch and energy. It was then that I noticed something about the monster sounds. Everything sounds slightly lower pitch, which again takes some of the edge and punch out of what is happening. With the many secret monster dens inside the walls, lights dying as enemies attack you, the sounds of their roars and attacks just don’t have the same impact. I thought this was me being older and having seen much bigger jump scares, but it was the pitch dropping the demonic power away from the shrieking, monstrous sounds