DOOM is one of the greatest games ever made. It certainly is one of the most influential games ever made, and was so big of a phenomenon that every console known to man from the Super Nintendo onwards has found itself with a copy of DOOM in its lap. The Game Boy Advance even had DOOM as a launch title in a kind of ‘hey look at us we can run DOOM on this tiny little handheld’ gesture. And a decent transition it made. It is almost as impressive as seeing it run on the Super Nintendo, which to this day is still one of my greatest gaming memories. Ridiculous really, given I had access to the PC version at the time – but that really is the joy of retro gaming, finding pleasure in the strangest of things.
Not all DOOMs are made equal though. The aforementioned Game Boy advance had green blood, was missing the larger more complex enemies and had a slightly amended HUD. Even weirder was the SNES version which always had the enemies facing the player. All minor changes relatively speaking, particularly when considering the Nintendo 64 version creatively named DOOM 64, which was a far cry from the original featuring all new levels, new character models and a new weapon. All of which feels incredibly strange when all of the sound effects as far as I can tell are the same as the original game.
Whichever way you look at it, I could play pretty much any version of DOOM ’til the cows come home and be pretty content doing so. But like a parent who has a secret favourite child, I do have a favourite version of the game. And it is an unlikely and unpopular choice given that the PC original (and those based on that version including XBLA and BFG edition versions) is widely considered the best. Not surprising really. And I would agree that when all is said and done it is the best version of the game from pretty much every angle. But best and favourite don’t always equal each other. Just ask my parents.
The Playstation version is in a word unique and because of this it holds a special place in my heart. That and it is probably the version I played the most growing up. It is still DOOM, you are still killing Imps, Shotgun Guys and Cacodemons and you are still a UAC space marine in one hell of a predicament. But the main difference, and the reason I like it so much, is that game took a different tonal approach which I think resulted in a far more atmospheric game than the original. The lighting, while still a far cry from what we see today, was more advanced and used to great effect to make the game feel darker and more in line with the evils that the game is trying to convey. That may be in part due to the fact that it came out after DOOM II (and in fact includes both games) and was able to take advantage of some of the more ‘advanced’ effects and textures featured in that sequel. Combine that with the fact that it had a lag of 2 years from the release of the original and you’ve got more time to make it the quintessential DOOM experience. It was more brutal, darker and more scary. In short it felt more late nineties as opposed to early nineties. Even the box art was more edgy than the original.
From a gameplay perspective not a lot has changed. The maps are slightly different and seemingly more open, something which is apparent even in the opening minutes of the game. Some of the textures are slightly different, resulting in less ‘advanced’ looking walls full of circuitry and LEDs and more monastery style bricks. Even some of the sound effects have changed. Gone are some of the death cries of the enemies (notably the high pitched death of the human enemies) and the pistol has a more refined sound to it making it sound like an actual gun. Unfortunately it is just a pissweak as ever and you’re better off defaulting to the chainsaw in desperate times. Probably most noticeable though is the change from the classic Robert Prince DOOM soundtrack to more atmospheric ambient sound. Love it or hate it there is no denying that it makes it a more tense experience. I happen to love it.
Technically though the game has its issues. The frame rate isn’t as high resulting in an experience that is far less frenetic than the original, and textures are just not as clear. But all of these things do nothing to detract from what in my view is the ultimate version of the classic shooter. I even found using the PS1 controller strangely fitted for the game, particularly with strafe being mapped to L1 and R1. The only thing I’ll knock the Playstation version for is the unfortunate omission of the arch vile enemy from DOOM II which honestly is one of the greatest video game enemies of all time.
Of course this is all semantics and in the unlikely event that you haven’t played DOOM it is as close to essential as any game gets. The brilliance of the game is that it even close to 20 years from the game’s original release it is as playable now as it was then. It is still the fastest, most simple first person shooter around. And that’s what makes it great.
Do you have a favourite version of DOOM? The Super Nintendo your first experience with the classic shooter? Let us know in the comments below!