DOOM Xbox 360 Review
Here we are. 2006. We've seen the arrival of HD gaming with massive special effects and disgustingly high polygon counts. We're spending $400 on game consoles that have wireless capabilities and hundreds of times the processing power of computers from just ten years ago. And what are we doing on these things? Playing DOOM.
Activision and id Software surprised us this year at Microsoft's X06 event with the sudden announcement that the classic DOOM was available over the Xbox 360's Live Arcade service. I had to have it - I plunked down my 800 Points ($10 US) and within minutes I was in the now legendary E1M1 level. With my trusty 360 controller, it wasn't long before I was enjoying DOOM almost as much as I did back on my old 386 back on the original release date - December 10, 1993. Let's think about this for a minute here: without DOOM, dozens of games as we know it would have either never existed or would have come out years later in probably a totally different format. While DOOM didn't exactly create the FPS genre, it was leaps and bounds ahead of anything in the past, changed the way 3D graphics were done, and certainly brought the idea of a first person shooter into the limelight.
This port of DOOM, brought to the 360 by id Software friends Nerve Software keeps it simple. Overall, I think it was a pretty smart move. The controls are adapted to the two-analog-stick standard that is used for almost every console action game out there nowadays, but the graphics are just as chunky and blocky as they were in 1993. Got an HDTV? Welp, aside from the corners not being quite so sharp as before, this game won't be taking advantage of it. No widescreen modes or other effects are included - this truly looks and plays very similar to the PC classic (minus the keyboard and mouse, that is). And I think this is actually a good thing. They could have started adding things like smoothing for the textures on the walls, which has come standard in almost every 3D game made since 1996, or thrown in extra blingy colored lighting or a dozen other things, but this is in its pure, raw, original format. Much like some of the best Live Arcade games out there, this one brings the glory days back instead of drowning them in today's eye candy. One exception: 5.1 surround sound works now.
All four episodes and five difficulties from Ultimate DOOM are included here, and even some of the old, minor bugs that were still remaining in the final 1.9 version of the game. All the music, weapons, levels, well, pretty much everything are here without any enhanced engine work that has gone into DOOM by amateur programmers since id Software released the source code many years ago. Luckily, there's one area that Activision and id Software have been working on for the Live Arcade version: online multiplayer.
Two to four people can play together in both of the original game's modes - cooperative play through the single player campaign, or a deathmatch showdown - and they can do this either with split-screen mode or go online. That's right: online co-op. And when you do jump into a multiplayer mode, be prepared for warp speed, because DOOM is a much faster first person shooter than most are nowadays, and it's probably faster than you remember too. Just hold down the left trigger to run, and sidestep as you run forwards at an angle (which is a bit of an exploit of the game's rudimentary player movement and physics code) and you will be seemingly moving faster than the speed of sound - until someone plants a rocket in your back, that is. Probably my only real complaint is that you've got to hold the left trigger to run, and once you realize how important moving fast is, you'll be holding the trigger all the time. That trigger's going to become a pain to hold after a while, and there's no way to change any of the controls, either.
Even the original version of DOOM didn't support real online play, and id Software didn't bother to ever include it even with the huge rise in popularity of the internet in the mid 90s. Enhanced versions, which were released later, did enable full online play on the PC, but you still couldn't go online with a store-bought copy. As far as I can tell this is the first time we've seen real online play for a console version of DOOM, homebrew or not, and it's the only official version released with true internet play at all. Unfortunately, the connection issues that plague many of the 360's online games (which mostly seem to be related to people hosting games without having their ports forwarded - I think we can blame Microsoft for not dealing with this problem) are the same here in DOOM on the 360. If you know your stuff is set up right, just host games and you'll find it's much easier to deal with.
For those who have never played DOOM, you might be wondering what all the hoopla was about once you see the game's blocky walls and sprite-based objects and monsters. It helps to know what we had been playing before that (SNES games, 2D sprite-based stuff, and the much more rudimentary Wolfenstein 3-D), but if you can get over DOOM's lack of vertical aiming or jumping and its insistence on making the player locate colored keycards, you'll find that even though DOOM is nearing its thirteenth birthday, this game holds up better now than many games that only just made it to the bargain bin.
This would have been a ho-hum port of a game that's already been ported to at least a dozen platforms over the years, but it's DOOM's online action which really makes it soar. With the classic look, sound, and feel intact (notwithstanding the 360 controller, that is) along with the new Xbox Live-based fragging, DOOM junkies will find themselves right at home. Whether a new generation of gamers will embrace this truly classic game, I don't know, but I think the younger FPS fans out there should definitely give it a few hours of action to see if it grows on them. For the rest of us, this one is a no-brainer: the ten bucks is worth it for the online play alone.