• Final Doom Review - Sony PlayStation PS1

    Doom made a revolutionary impact when it hit PCs in 1993. One that few games can credibly claim to match. This wasn’t simply because it was a technical showcase, but because it changed the makeup of hardware going forwards. It’s heavy reliance on the strength on 486 processors dealt a fatal blow to the Amiga and Atari ST whose hardware couldn’t be much less suitable, as well as pushing 16-bit sprite-pushing consoles aside for the next wave of hardware. This wave of consoles would see numerous Doom ports, yet the PlayStation port of Final Doom is rarely mentioned despite being one of the more interesting. Let’s look at why.

    Final Doom was released on the PC in 1996 and actually wasn’t developed by id Software. A group of modders called Team TNT were set to release their TNT: Evilution expansion before id Software picked up the rights to make it an official release. Dario Casali was then brought on board to create another expansion named The Plutonia Experiment, and both expansions were packaged together as Final Doom. The critical and commercial success of the PlayStation port of Doom meant that porting Final Doom was a no-brainer.

    There are two things that make the PlayStation version of Final Doom interesting. Firstly, Final Doom was not ported to any other console and remained unported until the release of Doom Classics Collection for the PlayStation 3. Secondly, it’s not really Final Doom! Despite running on the Doom II version of the engine, Final Doom was a fair bit more demanding than its predecessor. The maps were designed for players who had already completed Doom II thus are sprawling and packed with enemies. Memory limitations meant the larger maps had to be dropped and those that survived the cull were modified and also had a lower enemy count with the Nightmare mode missing entirely. This left a rather megre number of maps, so the remaining maps were taken from Master Levels for Doom II, another official expansion full of user-made maps. The result is that we end up with more Master Levels maps in this port than actual Final Doom maps.

    This all sounds quite negative so far, but the compromises have resulted in a port that has its own strengths. For starters, the PC version of Final Doom is tough, with the creators themselves saying that if they found a stage too easy they’d make it even harder. The culling of the more grueling stages and reduction in enemy count have resulted in a port that’s much more accessible that the original game. This is also the only time that the Master Levels maps have been presented as a single cohesive campaign, whereas the PC version bundles these as individual maps which need to be loaded separately. Purists may argue that this ‘breaks’ the map as they’re designed to be played starting with just a pistol, but the greater sense of progression gained from playing through an actual campaign of maps is worth the trade-off and makes it feel less like a random bunch of unrelated maps. Being handled by the same team who brought the original Doom to the PlayStation, this game benefits from the same enhancements that featured in that original PlayStation Doom. The larger colour pallet of the PlayStation is put to good use with some excellent coloured ambient lighting (albeit toned down from the often-overdone implementation in the original game). Perhaps more divisive is the inclusion of Audrey Hodge’s spooky soundtrack, which is excellent but may not please fans of the original soundtrack by Bobby Prince used in The Plutonia Experiment, or the frankly excellent TNT: Evilution soundtrack. What we’re left with is a completely unique Doom game which is really unlike any other.

    There are some negatives which can mostly be attributed to the age of the port. The framerate is decent but quite noticeably lower than the original PlayStation Doom. It certainly stays at a decent level for they system, but it doesn’t take long to understand why so many maps didn’t make the cut. The control scheme is ‘of its time’ and may be difficult to get to grips with today due to lacking dual analogue input and instead relying on the D-Pad with strafing mapped to the shoulder buttons. Support for the PlayStation Mouse is a welcome improvement over the original game and strafing is present. However, those who aren’t precious about original hardware may have a better time using an emulator which allows them to remap the controls.

    What we’re left with is a rather unique Doom game. If taken as a straight port of Final Doom, technical constraints means the game comes up quite short. However, taken as a package of the more accessible Final Doom maps plus a fair chunk of maps from the Master Levels expansion (which remains without an official port to consoles to this day) along with the various embellishments that made the original PlayStation Doom such a compelling experience, we’re left with an entertaining Doom game which is often overlooked yet deserves a playthrough even for veterans of the series.