For those of you (which is likely all of you) who have already played Doom, skip three paragraphs. The Ultimate Doom is 3/4 the same as its original namesake, with a fourth adventure tacked on to the end.
So you haven't played Doom? Oh, you're the one.
Anyway, Doom and The Ultimate Doom are games long on action and short on plot. You're a marine sent to the moons of Mars to discover exactly what is happening up there. It appears that something really, really bad has crawled out of one of the experiments designed to allow mankind to travel interdimensionally. It's your job to put a stop to this.
And so you shall. Armed initially with only your fists and a pistol, you need to blast your way through level after level of marauding demons. Your former comrades have been turned into zombies and basically everything has gone, literally, to Hell. Shoot and kill everything you see, and shoot everything else just in case. That's Doom in a nutshell.
Everybody here again? Okay. Just like you skipped three paragraphs here, you're likely to skip the first three parts of The Ultimate Doom, because they are just the original game. The real draw here is the new fourth episode, called Thy Flesh Consumed. This contains the same mayhem and destruction of Doom, but on a much grander scale.
The Ultimate Doom is significantly more difficult than Doom itself. The levels have a much steeper curve and you'll be restarting frequently. It's a good idea to play the game at one difficulty level lower than you normally do at first, especially if you are out of practice.
Otherwise, this is essentially just Doom all over again, with new places to go and new scenery to look at. The monsters are the same, the controls are the same, and the weapons are the same.
That being said, this is sort of the definitive Doom collection. And can anyone say they are a real gamer without having played and beaten this game? Hunt this one down, if for no other reason than its historical value.
Graphics: Very good, creepy and interesting.
Sound: The music is great and the sound effects are better. Ambient noises will have you looking over your shoulder constantly.
Enjoyment: What's not to love about blowing the snot out of demons?
Replay Value: The only real reason to go back, other than pure cathartic enjoyment, is to find all of the secret areas.
I'm not going to cover the first three episodes, because they're simply re-releases of the original registered version. However, as extra incentive for both newcomers and Doom vets, Ultimate Doom contains a new fourth episode - Thy Flesh Consumed. It's the last group of levels id themselves would officially create before handing off mapmaking duties to the community in Final Doom, and it's an interesting look at how they chose to revisit the original campaign post Doom II.
Which is to say, they made it much harder. Whether from fan feedback, or their own personal opinion, id's focus at this point was clearly on giving a challenge to the game's vets. Presumably, they felt the original three episodes had newcomers well-covered. People who play more Doom than I do rank the first two levels among the hardest in the entire series. Final Doom would later take significant heat for its punishing difficulty, but everything seen there - from low supplies to boss monsters appearing in regular levels - was introduced in this campaign.
Some examples, you say? All right. The first level has no health kits on the highest difficulty, and only a scant few on lower ones. How tough a time you'll have is basically determined by when a large group of monsters in another room stumble into some teleporters - if you end up surrounded, it's over. Not to mention, your ammo supplies are extremely limited, as this is the first level. Level 2 puts you in a big, open fight right at the start with no cover and only lava ahead of you. You'll be trying to hold back five to six floating Cacodemons with nothing but whatever shotgun and pistol ammo you have left over from the first level.
Here, Doom starts to shift from the run-n-gun action most people know it for, to the kind of "combat puzzle" gameplay exemplified by The Plutonia Experiment. Luck starts to factor in, along with preparation earned from many, many deaths. This is the kind of episode where, after a series of difficult jumps and brutal fighting, you'll end up on a ledge surrounded by five Barons of Hell. Level 6 is based around a central teleporter surrounded by lava. If you don't precisely manage your environment suit pickups (hell, probably even if you do...) then you'll be forced to take continuing damage as you keep returning to the teleporter. Your reward will be a fight with a Cyberdemon blocking the level's exit.
Levels 3, 4, and 5 are surprisingly easy and most like a traditional Doom challenge, which makes me wonder why they stuffed them in the middle. Leading off with the episode's hardest levels has to be designed to make some kind of a point. And even though you will be able to take something of a breather, make no mistake that it picks back up at Level 6. Bluntly, if you're not going to enjoy dying, reloading, and retrying until you eventually kludge through the level's current challenge, then you're going to want to skip the fourth episode.
To be fair though, it's not exclusively about the difficulty. As this is their final episode, these are some of the best-looking and best-designed levels id put out. Level 7 is a particular highlight of Doom gameplay - an excellent and balanced mix of maze, combat, and traps. Light and shadow feel perfectly used here, both in creating general atmosphere, and creating dangerous corridors. There are no new textures in the pack, save for an omnipresent orange sky in all the new levels. The new campaign does feature entirely new music, which all sounds true to Doom's now-established style.
The Ultimate Doom engine also benefits from improvements made to Doom II, bumping the version up from original release Doom's 1.666 (oh, id...) to 1.9. None of the original levels benefit from this, but Thy Flesh Consumed will see things like switches that require keys, monster-only teleporters, and doors that open instantly - naturally, with monsters behind to give you a good scare.
If you've downloaded Doom since 1996, this is almost certainly the version you've come out with, making this review almost entirely academic. If you've been wondering about that fourth episode though, well, now you know. Its stunning difficulty spike is due to a few years of Doom development between it and the first three, and it is entirely built for and intended for the fans that took down Doom and Doom II and still wanted more. Even id seems to suggest that the episode is strictly optional with a throwaway gag plot, but hey... those demons had to pay for what they did to Daisy.
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