The Ultimate Doom is a re-release of the original Doom and features an entirely new episode on top of the three that were previously available. In addition it know supports modern controls of “wasd” and mouse support, though you are still unable to look vertically like in the original. It is the spiritual successor to Wolfenstein 3D and is credited for popularizing the FPS genre. This time around you’ll be facing the forces of hell instead of Nazis and their dogs. The tone for this game is much more morbid and disturbing than it’s predecessor’s endless blue and gray hallways. You’ll often times find your fellow space marines dead or still alive and twitching if they are unlucky. Rooms can now be pitch black and you will have to slowly inch yourself forward, toward your objective in fear of being caught by surprise in what may be lurking in the darkness. Without the awesome metal soundtrack blasting in the background, Doom would be pretty unsettling at times.
Unlike Wolf 3D this now has floor and ceiling textures, which make for far more immersive environments. But there is no mistaking that these are indeed graphics from 1993 and what may have seemed impressive back then like vertical environments , flickering lights and gore, are typical these days and will no longer impress anyone. Where Doom stands the test of time is in it’s gameplay and level design. It’s rapid movement and maze like environments to explore are likely to be strange to those that have not experienced an old school FPS, but they do insure ensure fluid, exciting gameplay and replay value as you seek the hidden goodies like extra levels that you didn’t find your first time through. There is no iron-sites or reloading here, instead we have an auto-aim feature that will see to it that you hit an enemy if you are facing it, though it does freak out at times when fighting on a vertical plane.
Starting off you will be able to choose any of the four episodes to start off with though I highly recommend starting from the first as to allow the game to introduce weapons, enemies and game mechanics. There is no story to keep track of but if you are to start on the later episodes without a firm understanding of the weapons and how to fight demons, you will surely fail. Then you will chose from five difficulty modes that change the type and amount of enemies you will encounter throughout the level. And as soon as you pick one it’s straight to the game. No story and no explanation, just you and a pistol. You will soon come across the body of a deceased marine that is facing the door and you will be able to hear a monstrous gurgle beyond the door. Meeting an enemy for the first time is always an epic encounter and you will not have any time to gawk at it. You just have to try to gun it down and hope that strange creatures goes down before you do. It is scenarios like these, that make me highly advise starting on anything other than episode 1 your first time around.
Unlike Wolf 3D most enemies are not hit-scan and usually have projectiles that you can avoid if you react fast enough. It makes it feel like a really deadly match of dodge-ball as you zoom across the levels, avoiding multiple projectiles and gunning down all in your path without a single scratch. If you do get hit your characters face shown in the bottom of the screen will get bloodier and bloodier, until the point that he is near death and in tears. This is one of the small details that frightened me as a child, seeing your badass space marine bloody and in tears is something still not seen in many games and reminds you that our hero is indeed human, even if it has no gameplay effect and he still moves faster than Sonic the Hedgehog. If you are injured you will have to find a medkit to restore your health and if you are lucky you may also find some armor to absorb some damage. There are also power-ups hidden across the level like a Berserk orb that causes your fists to cause much more damage for the entire level. Some are necessary to progress though like the Hazmat suit that allows you to walk on lava and other hazards.
Thinking outside the box will sometimes be necessary in your search of the three keycards you will need to escape the level. Like in E4M6 there is a teleporter that will teleport you to different locations depending on which side you step on it, it may seem like a simple puzzle but you have to run across lava to access that tiny teleporter. If you quick-save in certain locations like that, it is possible that you will doom yourself to death if you already used the hazmat suit and don’t have enough health to run across that much lava. In that case hopefully you had another save or you will be put on the start of that level with just a pistol. Most of these instances are found in Episode 4 as they tried their hand at some light “platforming” but with Doom’s inability to look up and down, crumby auto-aiming if you are not on the same plane as enemy and lightning fast movement, tiny platforms that you must traverse are quite an annoyance. It is also the first Episode in which you ever have to use the run key and it overall felt like the weakest link out of all Episodes.
Weapons are usually hidden throughout the levels giving you yet another reason to explore areas carefully. These can range from chainguns, rocket launchers and the legendary BFG-9000. You will have to find ammo for them as well and as you can tell by now scavenging for supplies is very important. Ammo backpacks are very will hidden but if you find one they will allow you to carry more ammo at once. The zombie grunts will drop either pistol or shotgun ammo but neither of these will do you much good against the more powerful demons. Demons are very aggressive and this can be used to your advantage. If a demon accidentally hits another demon they will fight to the death and you can use this distraction to either sneak away or to easily take down the victor of that skirmish. They are quite varied and have different methods of attacking, so dealing with each one is requires different method and learning how to identify your largest threat is a must. Confidence can also lead to your downfall, you may think you have taken care of every enemy in the level and spot a powerful gun in the open, only to be ambushed by demons that were hiding. Be it creepy noises, distant groans or evil looking background, this game does a great job at making sure you rarely feel safe.
I did have a problem with the Steam version of this game having distorted colors and flickering. I was not able to fix it, though I am not sure if this is a common issue so buyer beware. If it turns out it is a common issue I will update this review. With that said, this game should last you around 6 hours but it does have decent replay value and plenty of secrets to find. After each level it tells you the percent of enemies killed, percent of secrets and the time it took you to complete, which may lead you to want to do better. Most levels before Episode 4 have a unique song that plays throughout that further helps differentiate the levels from one another. The environments are mostly brown and gray, so they start to look the same after a while but thanks to excellent level design, no two levels feel the same. If you ever get lost, there is an in game map for each level, though it can be confusing when levels have some verticality to them. While Doom’s graphics are now laughable and can be run on most consoles or even your local ATM, it’s now extinct form of gameplay is still as fun as ever. I wouldn’t recommend Doom to those that need a plot to drive them forward or to those that hate exploring. Those that don’t mind the lack of narrative and want fast, unrelenting gameplay, are more likely than not going to have a heck of a time with this title. While it is starting to show it’s age, good old grandpa Doom still has plenty of fight left in him.