id release their FPS Horror classic, and like a fine wine this vintage seems to get better with age…
Watching id play with the iPhone and iPod Touch as a gaming platform is almost exciting as watching their progress back in the day during the creation of their now legendary FPS games. After each Appstore release they creep closer and closer to finding the ingredients to the perfect FPS experience for players of Apple’s iDevices.
With Wolfenstein 3D they experimented with various schemes, each not quite working to full potential, but good enough not to break the original experience to the point of frustration (a problem that continues to plague Machine Works’ port of Duke Nukem 3D). Next was DOOM Resurrection, an experiment that took the forward and back motion control away from the player, in favour of an on rails shooter with great results in both immersion and action, but still falling short of delivering the full FPS experience.
Now, here we are with the original DOOM, carrying the ‘classic’ moniker, and delivering the closest experience yet for retro FPS goodness.
I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of DOOM, as this is pretty much a perfect port. So if you havn’t played Doom before then here’s a link to the Wikipedia page. Instead I’m going to outline how it plays on the device. In this case an iPhone 3GS.
From the start screen you have links to the main options, such as ‘New Game’, ‘Options’ and ‘Multiplayer’. This is laid out in a touch friendly manor, instead of the classic list view with skull selector that not DOOM fans will remember. It doesn’t have that DOOM look about it, but it works perfectly well. From here you can start a new game, and select from any level of the four episodes, or resume where you last played. A Wifi multiplayer option is available that allows you to play four on four deathmatches or cop-op play via local WiFi only. The lack of online play is a shame, but forgivable. The lack of Bluetooth is also missed, as this would allow true on the go multiplayer goodness without the need to be tethered to a wireless network.
The options menu is the other main section. Here you can tweak the games features, but you’ll mainly come here to customise your control method. If you are a new comer to the FPS genre you are going to want to play with the default setup. This gives you a single thumbstick configuration that allows you to move forward, back and turn left to right (much like Wolfenstein 3D, there is no up/down look in DOOM). A fire button is present on the right for that all important Whoopass can opening!
The second option is a dual stick configuration, this adds strafing ability to the left stick, by making your right stick take control of turning. Die-hard DOOM players will cite that strafing is the only way to successfully play the game, and on the harder difficulty levels they would be right. But in the case of the iPhone and iPod Touch this extra ability comes at the cost of a harder to reach fire button which moves up to the top right corner of the screen. id’s John Carmack toyed with the idea of using the volume control as a fire button, but as this would alienate users of early models of iPod Touch, which lacks the volume buttons, the idea was scrapped… at least for now.
Third is a strange hybrid of dual stick, combined with a wheel control. The wheel is used for turning, and I can only see this as a bonus experimental mode for players of racing games to feel at home. This mode just doesn’t work well for me.
Overall, the default single thumbstick option, in my opinion, is far more comfortable and the best way to experience the game.
In whichever mode you choose though, the area where id have improved FPS controls is in how your thumb interacts with the thumbstick. Instead of it being locked to the screen, the stick moves with your thumb. So gone are those moments where your thumb can slip off the control area into a dead zone. Whenever you lay down your thumb on the screen, the game sets that as your centre position. It works a treat and almost replicates mouse control. This lets the action flow seemlessly and un-interupted.
Graphically a retro game such as DOOM is not going to win any prizes in this day and age. But what I can say is that it’s one of the best looking versions of the game. Maybe it’s the smaller screen, but it seems to look better than the Xbox Live Arcade edition. Sound is great too, replicating the original music and sounds we remember so fondly.
Overall this is another stellar effort in retro FPS gaming from id. But while it is an almost perfect rendition of the game, the strafing problem with the default controls will annoy die-hard fans, making this version of DOOM more of a mobile companion piece, than the definitive version.
DOOM Classic is out now for $6.99 (£3.99)