I’ve been playing Doom for decades now. Having started with the original version that was put out more than 25 years ago on my very first computer, a 386, and having to install it from a handful of floppies in order to play it on my then brand new Sound Blaster audio card, I have since dabbled with both Doom and Doom II every now and then through their many, many iterations. Be it Doom II’s excellent Xbox 360 port that spawned one of my most fun to write reviews I have ever turned into a publication, or the rare time when I got to sit down with my older brother, and we tore through the first game on the original PlayStation, those incredibly influential shooters have been part of my life in a way that I would have never imagined when I first lock and loaded in that dingy overrun military base on Mars as a little kid who probably had no business playing it in the first place.
It’s hard to imagine a gaming world without id Software’s influence, the way that they practically invented a genre and coined words (and cusses) that are still used to describe game mechanics to this day with a seemingly senseless distraction that when seen from the outside, looked like the product of a metal head’s disturbed dreams, but that in the moment you actually played it, you were hooked. Level design complexity that was never seen before, along with ideas and a level of polish previously unseen in computer games. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out David Kushner’s fantastic book Masters of Doom since it chronicles the creation of id Software and the beginning of the careers of the two Johns, Carmack and Romero in incredible detail.
Aiming to spotlight Doom Eternal’s launch in a few months, Bethesda surprised fans with a sneak release of all three of the Carmack-era Doom games for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and the Nintendo Switch during last month’s Quakecon in Texas. I’ll be touching on Doom 3’s port in a separate review since it’s its a beast of its own, and will instead focus on the two original games. Let’s get one thing out of the way: yes, Bethesda was no doubt very sloppy in the way they implemented those games’ integration with the Slayers’ Club, an online perk system that will unlock bonuses in Doom Eternal. Having to log into their servers the first time you boot both games up and not being able to play them without interrupts unless you enter some information is annoying, yes, but it feels like people have overblown this a little too much thanks to the sheer vitriol Bethesda has been getting online after the continued mess that Fallout 76 has been since its release. While they’re certainly deserving of some criticism thanks to the way they have been treating that game, folks have been taking things a little too far. And heck, you probably might not even see it when you read this since they’re going to be patching it out of the game at some point, anyway. Still, that whole fiasco shouldn’t be forgotten for any future re-releases.
With that out of the way, Doom and Doom II are very much playable in any of the three platforms you choose to pick them up on. Their technical issues have been reported by way more tech-savvy analysts than me, listing a whole bunch of shortcomings that are part of these ports, like uneven pixel sizes thanks to a weird stretching of the game screen that flattens the graphics a little and imprecise sound emulation that slows down the music and makes the sound effects… well… sound different than they did before. Not to mention the lack of online multiplayer and some of the bonus episodes that were present in both games’ previous re-releases.
Outside of those oddities, if you’re looking for an easy way to pick up and play these classics on your modern systems, these current ports, while not technically perfect, still play like you’d hope Doom to play. I received a PlayStation 4 key for all three ports for review, and on an HD screen, both games look pretty damn crisp. The biggest perk for these ports is obviously the portable factor that comes with playing them on the Switch, though, and for all that I could gather from reports, they look and perform admirably on Nintendo’s hybrid console. I haven’t finished either of these again since picking up this review key, but I’ve played enough to feel that they are serviceable if you want a fast way to dive into Doom.
For as convenient as it is having these re-releases, I still hold hope that in the future there will be some sort of ultimate collection that includes more emulation options and bonuses for these deeply influential classics. Not only as a first day fan of Doom, but also as someone with an interest in preserving videogame history, there’s not a doubt in my mind that they deserve better treatment.