Classic DOOM is still a masterclass of game design and brutal satisfaction

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DOOM Classic (3)

I’ve played DOOM. You’ve played DOOM. That dude outside my window screaming at the clouds for being so fluffy, he played plenty of DOOM back in the day. Heck, even your dear old gran played DOOM and she just wants you to know that she spanked your speedrun on Halls of the Damned E2M6 because you still have noob skills.

What I’m getting at here is that DOOM is iconic. It is nearly three decades of adrenaline and damnation, wrapped into a single package that wants to rip your face off and jab your ears with its iconic heavy metal soundtrack. So how well does DOOM still hold up then? In an industry where the run ‘n gun style of the mainstream granddaddy of first-person shooters are seen as a nostalgia act, does the pixelated pain of ripping a demon in half still manage to grab your attention with its ancient visuals and keycard-heavy gameplay?

DOOM Classic (1)

You bet your hot buns that it does.

With a recent re-release of the original trilogy, it was time to head back to the past. Back to an age where looking up or down was a luxury, where music was rendered in beeps and demons would gush squares of crimson whenever you recycled bullets into their torsos. The original pair of DOOM games may be twins in all but name, but their ancient DNA is still incredibly strong.

They’re still unrelenting masterclasses in level design, prioritising speed and brutality as you weave between demons and deliver surgical bullet strikes. It’s that template for savagery, that blueprint for brutality which still sparkles and makes them stand apart even from games that have the advantage of decades worth technology and game design evolution behind them.

DOOM Classic (2)

There’s something to be said for games which can still render a swampy mess of moisture within your armpits at a basic level, something that DOOM 1 and DOOM 2 shines at. On a technical level though, these remasters are a bit of a mixed bag. Hopping into the first DOOM, you can’t help but feel that something is…off. If your DOOM-senses were tingling like mine were, you wouldn’t be off the mark as Digital Foundry recently did a deep dive and discovered plenty of issues beneath the hood of this demonic engine.

It’s a fascinating read here, but the long and short of it is that these versions of DOOM suffer from uneven rendering resolution scaling, uneven pixels and an overall squishy aspect ratio. DOOM 1 and DOOM 2 will still run fine, but the fact that the online multiplayer has been murdered in its sleep while Xbox One users can’t even get their hands on the now delisted Xbox 360 version is a crime against pixels.

DOOM Classic (4)

And yet, even with this uneven polish, DOOM still shines. The level design is a masterclass of winding corridors that lead you into various gunfights and contain everything from demons wanting to strike to John Romero’s head on a pike. The agility that ol’ Doomguy has makes for a tense game of tag with bullets, the music is still chef’s kiss good and the super shotgun is still one of the most satisfying weapons to use in all of video games. Point, shoot and reload some more pain into the smoking barrels. Perfection.

There’s a good foundation here for fans, but the truth is that Bethesda and port studio Nerve shouldn’t have released such an unpolished remaster. DOOM fans deserve better than an updated classic whose skin-deep aesthetics hide a range of sub-par sound, messy lighting and a frame-rate cap that is embarrassing in this modern day and age. These are issues which Nerve can hopefully fix in the weeks and months to come, if Bethesda wills it.

DOOM Classic (6)

Id Software’s original first-person shooters that became a household name may prove that DOOM truly is eternal, but its sloppy remaster shouldn’t be. Its successor DOOM 3 on the other hand, is the complete opposite with a port that sets the bar staggeringly high. More on that later though, because more than 15 years after it was released, I finally manned up and started playing it properly this week. Yes, I am having a great time with it. Double-yes, I am going through pants like a competitive eater at a table filled with nothing but beans, hot sauces and regret.

Last Updated: August 7, 2019

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