They say that the classics never die, but this isn’t always the case. I couldn’t honestly say that the lifeless photo-faces in Goldeneye hold up quite like they did back in the N64’s heyday, or that Wolfenstein 3D isn’t just a bit too basic to appeal to my sense of senses which has been conditioned to demand massive explosions, violence and a vast weapons arsenal with which to despatch vast hordes of enemies.
One of the main reasons I contemplated buying the BFG edition of Doom 3 was for the fact that it contained the classic Dooms, rather than for the half-assed revamp of the semi-dated Doom 3. As such, I was delighted when out of nowhere Doom Classic Collection appeared on PSN, allowing me to venture into the demon-filled abyss of retro goodness like never before.
For fans of the pixellated Doom games, this is the complete package, featuring (deep breath) Ultimate Doom (with ‘Thy Flesh Consumed’ episode), Doom II (with ‘No Rest for the Living’ and ‘Master Levels’) and Final Doom with all its joyously challenging episodes. The multiplayer function is fantastic, offering deathmatch and co-op modes on any of the levels spread across the games, supporting up to 4 people online or split-screen.
So on paper it’s fitting to say that this is one Hell of a package, but will playing the game give you fond flashbacks to the early 90s, or should this classic game have been left on its lofty perch in the gaming history books?
The answer is, well, neither really, as the Doom games can be hugely enjoyed on their own merits. This collection has come out at a time when when indie developers opt for developing games in pixels rather than polygons, because there is just something undyingly appealing about the simplicity of such visuals. Doom, with its gratuitous violence, gritty soundtrack and seemingly infinite variety of levels and enemies, proves with this collection why it’s one of the best-regarded games of all time.
The gameplay is simpley, refined by the fact that analog controls give you more direct control over the speed of your marine. The left shoulder buttons let your trooper sprint at what feels like warp speeds, which is convenient given that you’ll probably be doing a lot of back-and-forth running in search of that precious yellow keycard. The right shoulder buttons shoot as they should. My only issue with the controls is the weapon-changing, which lets you cycle through your weapons, but in what feels like an utterly incoherent order. If there is some kind of formula for the weapon-changing, it’s as simple to solve as a Rubix Cube.
The relentless pace of the game and the unforgiving save-game mechanics (no auto-save, so save often) hark back to the good old days when a lot rested on the player living or dying. Doom is a game that gets tough quickly, and isn’t always fair about it as enemies come out of secret doors behind you, invisible demons gnaw at your ankles, and you don’t have a convenient bloody splatter on your screen indicating where you’re being shot from. This is the grand-daddy of old-school shooters, and – strange though it may sound for a 20-year-old game – it’s hugely refreshing in its relentlessness.
There will be points where you’re sprinting around corpse-filled corridors and running along walls like a rocket-fuelled energiser bunny in search of a door that you haven’t yet gone through, and many of the puzzles are more a test of patience and chancing upon the solutions rather than actually using your brainpower. This type of ‘puzzle-solving’ does feel genuinely dated, and is the only aspect of the games which is not so much nostalgic as ‘thank f**k games aren’t like that any more.’
The multiplayer, which I never got the chance to indulge in when I was a young gamer in the 90s (no mates, you see), is the best part of this package. The experience of blasting your way co-operatively through Doom’s hellish dungeons matches up to any current co-op game out there, and you won’t need to waste precious game time explaining how to activate such banal tricks as time-slowing, or invisibility, or secondary, tertiary or quadrary firing modes. Here it’s very much pick up the controller, good luck with the weapon-changing mechanics, and blast away.
Doom Classic Complete Collection is the best package of the classic Doom games ever, and – with strong enough sales – should encourage other forgotten, first-person shooters to do the same. Where are the likes of Blood, Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior and Hexen? All would feel immediately at home in the PSN Store, and just need the right developer to come along and raise them from the ashes. The Doom Collection is evidence – if ever we needed it – that the classic FPSs have timeless appeal.