John Romero’s E1M8 is a Doom 1 mod that seeks to replace the entirety of that level. The original E1M8 wasn’t much of a level as all you would do is blow up a stack of barrels next to a few pinkie demons and be on your way to the first memorable boss fight of Doom. Not so in this revision. You start off in a corner of a room that is cracking apart and seeping lava. Do not think it’s just a set dressing as standing on it more than a few seconds will damage you. It is quite a tough start as there are plenty of enemies in the room and lots of hazards that can easily be the end of you like pits of acid. You will require quick and precise movement to avoid standing on the lava filled cracks too long and not running directly into a pit all while under enemy fire. I skipped all the other levels and jumped straight into the 8th with only my pistol at hand and it was perfectly doable. Like all other Doom levels this mod still retains the design decision of being more than able to send every demon back to hell even with the weakest of gear.
It isn’t easy though. Even if you do get the shotgun earlier on, enemy placement is fiendishly placed in a attempt to catch you off guard when you think it’s safe. Just because you cleared a room doesn’t mean you should be any less cautious of your surrounding as walls can drop down revealing a horde. Looking through the windows you will see that this building is in the middle of a sea of acid with small patches of land outside. It is rather dangerous to go outside as the land mass is small and while dodging enemy projectiles it is easy to step into the acid. Enemies do not take any damage from environmental hazards so one may be casually strolling through the sea of acid and striking you in the back while you were certain you cleared the area. This is the type of level where you want to take your time instead of going in guns blazing. Finding the first keycard is quite obscure and reminds me more of Doom’s 2 sometimes cryptic level design over anything else found in the original.
It is still very good level design that makes the most out of every area and it is quite interesting to see how they interact together to create new areas to explore. Honestly, it may have been a bit too much to wrap your head around if this was included in the first episode as it is rather complex and a bit too challenging for such an early level. I would rather wait until Daikatana until John Romero tried to make me his b*tch. Overused jokes aside, this level still has that epic moment of first encountering the Barons of Hell and this fight has been cranked to 11. Instead of “only” having two Barons to worry about tons of other enemies will spawn into the dark, barrel filled room and it is quite a sight to behold. Sadly once they are defeated the walls no longer lower to reveal a pentagram though you still get the awesome ending that is burned into the memory of any one that has played the shareware version of Doom or Doom in general. While this may have been a bit too hard for an episode one level there is no doubt that it is a very enjoyable map for those experienced in Doom. After 21 years since last working on a Doom level Mr.Romero has released a mod that proves that his legendary level design skills are still intact and haven’t dulled a bit over these past few decades.