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Doom (Doomsday Engine port)

PC (original game by id Software 1993)

The big G-S-G-S-G

General opinion: The best FPS ever, now even better
Story: Simple, but fun enough
Graphics: From dated but nostalgic to pretty cool
Sound: Great, even if the quality is rather dated
Gameplay: Lots of fun, with much improved controls


The Review

Doom should need no introductions. On the other hand, there could conceivably be youngsters out there who don't know about the history of the games they play. Doom, released in 1993, wasn't the first ever first person shooter, but it was the game that really defined the genre and made it, arguably, the most popular genre today.

In 1997 id Software released Doom's source code. This made it possible for the game to be ported to many modern platforms, and also to make significant changes and improvements to the game engine. Doomsday Engine, available for Windows, GNU/Linux and Mac OS X, is one of these ports, and among the most advanced ones. It supports such modern features as hardware-accelerated OpenGL graphics, optional 3D polygon models in place of the original sprites, dynamic lights and improved wall textures.

Doomsday Engine is free, but you still need the data file from an original version of Doom. The engine supports just about any version of Doom, Doom II and even Heretic and Hexen. I'll focus on the original Doom in this review, though, as that's the only one of the games I'm really familiar with.

Perhaps most importantly to modern gamers, Doomsday Engine supports mouse control similar to most modern FPS games. The controls, like most features in the game, are quite configurable, so all players should be able to set up their favoured control scheme.

There's not a lot of story in the game itself. Most of the background is found in the game's manual. You play a space marine stationed at a secret research centre on Phobos and Deimos, the two moons of Mars. Research into teleportation between the moons releases creatures from Hell, which overrun the base and turn the personnel into zombies. Only the player is left alive, his objective simply to escape, but his journey only seems to lead him deeper into Hell itself... Although the story is told only through short written descriptions after each of the three episodes, it's actually not half bad, and there's even a nice twist or two.

As mentioned, the graphics in this port have been significantly improved by modern technologies. The graphics are pretty good, although naturally not up to the standards of modern commercial games. The stages are fairly simple, of course, as they haven't been changed from the original. You can also use the original sprite graphics, if you want a more nostalgic retro experience. A decent machine is needed to play with the best graphics. On my MacBook it runs pretty well, with minor hiccups when there's a lot going on. A better 3D card would probably take care of that. The original soundtrack still kicks ass, even if the sound quality of the midi music is pretty dated.

Gameplay is quite simple, but addictive and fun. Find the exit of the current stage and kill everything that moves (before it kills you). To reach the exit you'll usually need to find keycards and operate switches. You can find better weapons, ammunition, armour and health power-ups to help you on your way. This port also adds the optional ability to jump. In some stages this may allow you to cheat by taking shortcuts not available in the original game. It's up to each player whether they want to use this ability or not.

The game isn't overly long, but there's plenty of stages to go through. Some are very maze-like and can take a while to crack if you aren't familiar with them. There's a good variety of skill levels to choose from, as well, so the game shouldn't be too tough for beginners, but offers plenty of challenge on harder settings.

While the gameplay and most of the stages are pretty simple compared to later FPS games, Doom is still one of the most addictive and cool action games ever made, and the 'source ports' have breathed new life into it in many ways. I'm not a big fan of most FPS games in general, but Doom is just too much fun, and too huge a classic, to ignore. It's a game you can always come back to and replay, even if just a few levels at a time.

Ben B. Bainton, 14 July 2008