Are you an aging gamer, like me, and do you find yourself pining for the days of gaming yore occasionally, when the sound and fury of the latest warporn deathsim Medal of Duty and Honour: America’s Bullet Pride game, fun as it might be, has left your head ringing? Yearn for some simple sprites and some chiptuney soundtracks? Is your computer a bit crap and does 11,000 frames per second† sound like something you might enjoy?
Well, read on, friends.
†Note: actual performance may vary.
The easiest way to get your hands on the Doom series is Steam. id games are scandalously overpriced on Steam, I reckon — I blame John Romero and the lingering fiscal legacy of his insatiable hunger for ever-more-expensive hair products — and are pretty much never on sale, but the buy-once-have-forever Allure of The Steam is a strong incentive. Best value: the id super-pack, which includes the entire series (including all expansions such as Final Doom, Master Levels, etc), Heretic, Hexen and even the Wolfenstein games if you’re feeling particularly retro, as well the Quake games and all their expansions, and Doom 3. Also, snausages. It’s not cheap, again, but that’s a whole lot of gaming history in one neat package, and most of the games have dozens (if not hundreds or literally thousands) of maps and mods to play. And don’t believe what they say: snausages aren’t just for dogs!
If you’re feeling cheap or hate fun or something, you’ll just want Doom 2, since that’s what the majority of mods and maps require. Considering all the mods and maps below, it may be the best value for money you’ll get out of a big virtual box of first person shooting (Orange Box notwithstanding).
This is where Doom shines to this day. A large and active coding community continues to upgrade and enhance the old engine after all these years. Probably the most commonly used one today is ZDoom, or its 3D-accelerated (Coloured lighting! Transparency! Other shiny things! Whee!) offshoot GZDoom. Unless you want to play in locked 320 x 200 at 30fps, then this is probably the one to get for all your singleplayer and LAN needs. In fact, a lot of the more impressive mods and campaigns require ZDoom. (Some even require the latest SVN builds.)
You can get the very latest (officially unsupported, but I’ve had no problems with them) ZDoom/GZDoom builds here.
For easier loading of mods, WADs and PK3 files, you might want to get ZDL, a Z/GZDoom front-end. Alternatively, check out ZDLSharp, a modern update/continuation of ZDL.
For online play, you’ll want Skulltag, though. Based on a slightly older version of GZDoom, but with completely rewritten netcode and a proper multiplayer master server with browser. It also includes a co-op survival gamemode, called Invasion, along with a bunch of Deathmatch and Invasion maps to play. Tons of features, but the core engine it runs on is a little out of date.
For a look at what GZDoom and Skulltag can do, this trailer just about covers it all.
All the above engines run every Doom-engine game, which includes Dooms 1 and 2, Heretic, Hexen and Strife.
An interesting little offshoot of the general doomery is Scoredoom. Essentially, it’s GZDoom with an arcade-style scoring system built in (bonuses for fast times, multikills, combos and such), along with semi-randomly chosen new enemy types and a variety of whizbang powerups to collect. It’s a good choice if you just want a quick and easy way of freshening up the familiar old Doom gameplay. The Aeons of Death mod (see below) does similar things, but on a larger scale and without the score-attack elements.
There are plenty of other engines, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll leave them to the reader to investigate. If you have a favorite, add it to the comments for others to discover!
Most modern mod projects recommend/require ZDoom or some variant of it, though: it’s a powerful, open-source engine that is still regularly updated.
Only one choice that I’m aware of to pretty up old Mr Nukem and his porcine police pursuers, but it’s basically all you could ask for in terms of Duke Nukem actually being, er, Forever. You’ll be wanting EDuke32. It largely does for Duke what GZDoom did for Doom. Higher resolution, more control, potential for editing and scripting and more.
Plus, it means that you can actually run it on modern systems without hours of fiddling.
Making it Prettier
One of the cooler things about EDuke32 is that it supports a lot of nice, prepackaged graphical enhancements. Some obsessive-compulsive Duke fans out there have gone and redone almost every texture in Duke 3D, and it shows. At a distance, the textures look almost identical to their low-res versions, but up close, the detail is much more impressive.
There are also 3D replacements for all the weapon and enemy models. Dukes sprites were always just slightly too blurry, and the models manage to capture the style of the source material perfectly. Yes, including the boobies. I knew you were wondering about them. Here’s some video:
Slightly NWS, of course. If you don’t like the 3D models, you can always disable them and just use the textures.
Heretic was Doom with elves and magic and glittery pretty enchanted ponies, more or less. Larger, wider maps, weirder creatures, fewer lashings of the old blood and guts and a variety of magical equivalents to Doom’s soon-to-be-canonical weapons, including the requisite Shotgun, Chaingun and Rocket Launcher equivalents. The slight variation on the theme didn’t stop it from being a very good game, though. Even with the pretty ponies.
Where to get it
Steam, again, duh. It’s in the id super-pack too. Even better, it includes the expanded release — much like Ultimate Doom, Heretic eventually got a re-release with more levels for more wizardy monster-slaying action.
Same as Doom, for the most part. Z/GZDoom is probably the quickest and easiest way of going about it.
The sequel to Heretic, Hexen ratcheted up the fantasy adventure side further than its predecessor, and came with slightly prettier visuals and great honking big wands that shot magical goo and sparkles. No ponies, though, sadly. There were three character classes to choose from, each with their own unique abilities and weapon set, and a less linear layout to the levels. Each world you travelled to had a central ‘hub’ area, branching off into a series of roughly interconnected levels.
Where to get it
Steam once more is the go here. Like Heretic or Doom, it comes with an expansion, although this one has a separate campaign, rather than being another ‘episode’ added to the main menu.
Same as Doom, for the most part. Z/GZDoom is again probably the quickest and easiest way of going about it.
PC users had Doom, but just a few months after Doom came Marathon for all the Mac users to squeal and love and coo over like a pretty little puppy.
The game has sometimes been called Halo Jr. THERE IS NO KNOWN EXPLANATION FOR THIS. TRUST ME.
Well, OK, a lot of what went into Halo got its start in Marathon, which was Bungie’s training wheels, and broken up into 3 games. Marathon, Marathon 2: Durandal and Marathon: Infinity.
Marathon was a portal-based engine, like Duke’s, which allowed for room over room geometry. Trust me — that was pretty cool engine stuff back in your grandpa’s day. It also featured actual z-axis looking, unlike the original-engine Doom.
But the thing at the time that set Marathon apart from Doom was its story. The game is told via computer terminals in the levels, from which the player could get information and delicious snacks from A.I.s. Marathon is full of secrets, hidden messages and mysteries. And snacks.
The first game in the series, takes place on the U.E.S.C. Marathon, a colony ship from Earth bound for Tau Ceti. The ship is actually the Martian moon Deimos, which has been retrofitted into an enormous colony ship. You are a security officer who barely escapes into the Marathon. At the same time, an alien race known as the Pfhor have attack the Marathon. It’s all very dramatic.
You can download Marathon in it’s original 68k Mac goodness, if you actually have a Mac. For the PC crowd, there’s an official open source engine that can run a fan created remake. You can get it here: http://source.bungie.org/get/
Marathon 2: Durandal
The sequel to Marathon got a major boost in graphics, engine and plot. The Marathon 2 engine found its way into several other games of the time (Damage Inc, ZPC, and Prime Target).
The game starts you out on an alien moon. This time, Durandal is calling the shots. He wants you to find an alien weapon, presumably because he likes alien weapons a lot. Instead of the claustrophobic Marathon, this world is large and open, although there are considerably fewer snacks.
This is the third in the series, and perhaps a bit bewildering. It involves you going back in time to fix what didn’t go right in Marathon 2. It was created by Double Aught, a Bungie splinter studio. Built on a modified Marathon 2 engine, it features about the same quality of graphics as the previous installment, which is to say, well, yeah. The levels are enormous, complex and can be confusing. The story is also enormous, complex and can be confusing. This is the way of things, youngster. Get used to it.
One final taste of the old skool: System Shock was in many ways the best of the early FPS games, in my opinion. Its graphics were a bit rough, even for the time, but it added layers of complexity and depth to the genre that in some ways still haven’t been bested. It was at the time and remains one of the scariest games ever made. System Shock 2 took the awesome and made it sing in a creepy falsetto, and made me pee myself a little, more than few times.
The SS2 rebirth project is an upgrade to the character models. It is complemented by SHTUP, the Shock Texture Upgrade Project. These two in tandem make the game look absolutely fantastic, and don’t mess with the game play at all.
There are so many of these, it can make your brain hurt. BRAIN HURT! If you just want to browse, almost everything is hosted on the DoomWorld archive. But because we love you, here are a few highlights to start you off.
Many of these maps require ZDoom. Again: GZDoom is ZDoom with some added features and hardware rendering, so anything Z supports, GZ should do too.
An additional technical tip: to run external WAD or PK3 files, a quick and easy way of doing so is just dragging and dropping them onto ZDoom/GZDoom/Skulltag.exe, and picking whatever game they’re meant to run on.
Type: Singleplayer Megamashup – a pretty unique effort.
Probably the weirdest and most ambitious Doom mod out there. Through clever spawning scripts, it randomly replaces all enemies and items in any given level (with almost all maps supported) with equivalent but randomly chosen items from the history of the FPS genre. A shotgun zombie may be replaced by a crazy old coot from Redneck Rampage, or an uzi-toting demon ninja from Shadow Warrior, for instance. Sometimes even sprite-ified versions of Quake and Quake 2 enemies! There are hundreds of enemy types, and almost as many weapons. It’s relatively well balanced, though, and is in active development.
Type: Singleplayer (and co-op?)
Doom, Contra/Metal Slug style. One hit kills and chunky pixellated bullets floating through the air. A lot of fun, if a bit unbalanced/unfair, especially near the end. A bonus final challenge for those who play on Contra difficulty, too.
Action Doom 2: Urban Brawl
Type: Singleplayer Standalone Game
If Action Doom 1 was Contra, this is Streets of Rage. A totally new game made in the ZDoom engine. A Sin City-inspired story, lots of expendable thugs to punch out, multiple routes, secrets aplenty and well-done production values. If you want to support these guys, you send them some money or buy the fancy ‘special edition’.
You got your Xenomorphs in my zDoom! One of the most famous mods ever, and the one that brought us the term ‘foxed‘, as it was so high-profile and high-quality that 20th Century Fox sent cease-and-desist letters to get it pulled from the early web. Made back in a time before easy editing of anything the fact that Aliens TC is as good as it is… well, it was pretty amazing. It’s not that technologically impressive now, sure, but it’s a great museum piece, and still fun and occasionally scary.
Type: Singleplayer/co-op megaWAD
One of the best megaWADs out there. 32 of the best levels. Be warned – it’ll kick your ass on UV difficulty.
BGPA – Liberation
Type: Singleplayer semi-TC
Weird little one, this. Semi-realistic, semi-tactical, with some puzzle solving and Wolfensteiny sprites. Still, it’s pretty fun.
Chex Quest Trilogy
Type: Singleplayer (Co-op?) Standalone Game
The famous cereal-box giveaway game recently got a third and final episode. For those not familiar with it, it’s basically classic Doom in kid-friendly form. You’re not killing the baddies, just sending them back to their home dimension! Isn’t that cuuuute?. And hey, it’s free.
City of the Damned: Apocalypse
Doom meets Blood, with a lot of survival horror elements, and a fair bit of of puzzle solving and exploration. It may only be a single map, but it’s gigantic, and you’ll be doing a lot of exploring and working things out. The only downside is a slightly lackluster final boss battle.
Cold As Hell
Type: Singleplayer, story-driven horror style
A relatively recent release, patched up and relatively bug-free, this one has a more survival horror-esque take on Doom. Set in the 1950s, you’re a soldier who’s crash-landed at an arctic base. Before long, everything goes predictably to hell and you’re counting bullets and running as fast as you can. Some nice features, like a wounds/bandaging system, and some clever jump-scares in the level design. Large and non-linear, with exploration required.
Community Chest Project 1, CCP2 & CCP3
Type: Singleplayer/co-op megaWADs
Size: 4, 9 & 13mb respectively
Three mish-mash megaWADs, bringing together the best and the brightest in the Doom mapping community. 96 levels in all – more than enough to keep you tied up for a while.
YET EVEN MORE YES MORE DOOM MODS AND MAPS
Demon Eclipse Episodes 1 & 2
Two episodes (of a planned 5-episode series), 18 new weapons, 24 new monsters. Pretty crazy stuff – the two episodes have radically different feels from one another – while the first is largely classic Doom sci-fi stuff, the second episode feels almost more like Hexen, and most of the weapons are magical in nature. Requires GZDoom.
Type: Singleplayer/co-op megaWAD
Size: Under 1mb
32 more levels of the old ultra-violence.
Deus Vult 2
Type: Singleplayer/co-op (some maps disagree with Skulltag netcode though)
A ‘pure’ WAD for the most part. No new features from newer engines required. While there’s a lot of new textures, music and some new enemies, they don’t do anything the old original engine couldn’t. What makes Deus Vult 2 so impressive is that it genuinely feels epic. The levels are large, and have absolutely ridiculous numbers of enemies later on. If you’ve playing on Ultra-Violence difficulty, expect to die. A lot.
Type: Mashup/gameplay enhancements.
Similar in a lot of ways to Aeons of Death but focused on balance and coherency, rather than AEoD’s absurdly random and often-unbalanced randomness. Worth a look if you like the AEoD concept but want something a bit more restrained and down-to-earth. It’s based around a more real-worldish, tactical style, so there’s generally fewer monsters, and more new human enemies.
Doom 64: Absolution
Type: Port/TC of the (excellent) Doom 64
Doom 64 was a bit of a surprise. They completely remade the game – every enemy sprite was new (a lot of them better than the originals), the graphics were better, the weapons were cooler, and all the levels were brand spanking new. While not completely accurate (it uses a hacked version of the PC engine, rather than the N64 one), it’s a great choice for those who want to try it out. An expansion, The Outcast Levels, is also on the site. Well worth checking out.
Type: Audiovisual enhancement mod
This one adds Rise of The Triad style gibs, blood sprays, more particle and lighting effects, more sounds, a few new death animations for common enemies and other such goodies. Doesn’t change gameplay at all, and is compatible with almost all WADs, and a few more complex mods as well. No high-res textures or 3D models, just additional details on the original materials.
Hell Revealed & Hell Revealed 2
Type: Singleplayer/co-op megaWADs
Size: 2/2.5mb respectively
Two more 32-level packs for Doom 2, for those who just can’t get enough of that original vanilla flavour! Like many megaWADs, these are geared towards experts. You have been warned.
Type: Singleplayer/co-op megaWAD
32 more levels of blood and guts and thumping MIDI.
Knee Deep in ZDoom
The entirety of Doom 1 Episode 1 remade using every feature of the ZDoom engine. Levels are long and involving, with tons of new areas in between the familiar looking rooms. Many new enemies, a few really cool bosses, and some especially impressive effects cribbed from Doom 3 – the areas where Hell starts ‘bleeding through’ into the base are excellent.
Memento Mori & Memento Mori 2
Size: 3 & 4mb
Another pair of megawads. Two more sets of 32 levels of pure, no-frills demon-slaying fun.
Scythe & Scythe 2
Size: 2 & 8mb
Just plain old megawads – a pair of 32-level packs, but two of the best packs out there. Lots of cool design, lots of fun fights. No frills, but if you want to add more to it, there’s always Scoredoom, Doom Enhanced or Aeons of Death.
Type: Random level generator for Doom 1, 2 & Heretic
Size: Under 1mb
Now here’s an oddity – while it won’t produce anything even close to as good as hand-made maps, ObHack will randomly generate you new levels to play. Not much reason to use it, as there’s already more hand-made levels than you could ever play in your lifetime, but it’s an entertaining enough curiosity.
Type: Single/co-op megaWAD
Another 32-level pack, and widely considered one of the best. An oldie, though.
Stronghold – Currently Alpha version only
Type: Singleplayer (Co-op?)
Doom meets Tower Defense. Monsters are closing in on your base – if they get in, you lose. Kill them, pick up the money they drop, and spend it on useful fortifications, equipment, buddies and other such stuff. After each level, shop around for more gear to bring into the next battle. Currently in heavy development, but when it’s done it’ll have 5 difficulty tiers of several maps each, providing a nice semi-linear campaign.
Ultimate Torment & Torture
Probably my all-time favourite. If id had released this instead of Doom 3, I probably would have bought it perfectly happily. It’s comparatively short (a handful of huge levels), but the amount of detail and polish is astounding. Great art, music, tons of new enemies and a lot of content impressively and convincingly ported from Quake 1. Fantastic level design.
Ultimate Torment & Torture: Invasion
Type: Singleplayer/Co-op Invasion (Skulltag required)
A neat little spinoff project of UT&T. This is a pack of five excellent levels for Skulltags Invasion gameplay mode. Fend off increasingly dangerous waves of enemies as the level grows around you, and more weapons and ammo are dropped in. Based on the best areas from UT&T, this expands them into arenas perfect for epic-scale violence. Works great with graphical mods like Beautiful Doom, too. UT&T isn’t required to run this – it’s standalone.
7 excellent levels – shorter than a megawad, but arguably much sweeter.
Type: Singleplayer/Co-op new campaign.
A really impressive little one, this. 9 maps (2 secret, and worth finding) of semi-sequelish Doom action. The main gimmick is there are tons of new enemy types, and every weapon is new as well, most have altfires, and all the guns are magazine-loaded. Make sure you’ve bound buttons to Fire2 and Reload. While the maps themselves aren’t amazing, they have catchy chiptune music, and the weapons are great fun to use. I especially like the magnum revolver pistol, which – to paraphrase from another game – has a rather exhilarating reload time, and an altfire that empties all six barrels in one blast.
So, friends: there’s a couple hundred hours of old school fun for you. Share and enjoy!