This was inevitable. We all knew it would happen sooner or later. After reviewing numerous 3DO titles, Doom had to get a look in at some point. How could it not? As famous as the PC original is, it was the numerous console conversions that hammered home to those who couldn’t afford a suitable PC at the time what a great game Doom could be. At least, they should have.
The story of the 3DO conversion of Doom is the stuff of legend. From the publisher who believed that porting a game was a simple task, to Rebecca Heineman who managed, in ten weeks from near scratch, to get a port for the console that ran, this is a tale of how not to do things in the world of software development. Indeed, Heineman deserves recognition for her achievement, delivering against the clock and with naff all support. Hell, there wasn’t time for any optimisation so what you see here is all there is. You can find the full story elsewhere online but suffice to say, this port, based on the Atari Jaguar conversion with some additions from the PC source, is the most critically derided and fan-hated version of Doom ever. Yet if you were ever to meet Rebecca, buy her a drink in congratulations, because she delivered something that is at least playable, in the worst of circumstances.
Story-wise, this is Doom. You’re a marine on your own, facing the hordes of hell. Imagine being a QA tester in a room full of developers (kidding!). There is the usual selection of weaponry although in this conversion, a couple of the enemies didn’t make it from the PC original. Other than that, off you tootle for a spot of gentle shooting.
Graphically, there is good and bad news. The good is that it looks like Doom, albeit at a lower resolution. The bad is that the frame rate is choppy as hell and it’s a very brown game. The standard view uses a boxed window effect to speed the game up a bit but in reality, it’s not very playable at the default (biggest) size. You can reduce that letterbox in game to one of three smaller windows to speed things up but then you lose the ability to clearly see what’s going on. The floaty handling becomes a hinderance as the smaller viewing area makes aiming that much more difficult. There is a cheat to expand the window to one of two larger sizes but that’s only for players who like slide shows. To be fair, it was put there for when the 3DO follow-up, the M2, hit the market. It never did. Having said all of that, the second largest of the standard selection is probably the best compromise, giving you just enough space to see what’s going on and moving a tad more smoothly.
Sound is a much different story. Heineman made the decision to include the music as a simple playback file as this was less resource intensive and there wasn’t time to code up anything more complicated. Thus, the soundtrack was re-recorded by the publisher’s band. This actually works really well and sounds much better than any other contemporary port (or, indeed the PC original in my humble opinion). The music is punchy and brings the game to life, as much as it can when the game itself runs so slowly. As for sound effects, well, they do the job which is about as good a thing as you can say.
Gameplay, and as noted above, it’s Doom. You run, shoot things and find keys, also collecting items and ammunition to keep you going. The levels are still fun to explore, even if they are based on the truncated Atari Jaguar port. However, features like low-light goggles, crusher ceilings and the aforementioned enemies (Cyberdemons and Spider Masterminds) are missing. Level count is also reduced, again based on the Jag version. There is no multiplayer either, though that’s not surprising considering the shortened development timescale. Weapons are cycled via the B-button and d-pad, whilst the C-button and d-pad provides “fast” movement… ahem. You still get strafing via the shoulder buttons but there is so much input lag anyway, no control scheme could improve matters.
It must be said that Doom for the 3DO is not a fun game to play. It’s challenging, yes, but not enjoyable, and that’s almost all down to the poor graphical performance and the input lag. Movement often feels like you’re wading through treacle and running doesn’t help much. The frame-rate often tanks and if you try the smallest viewing window on a 14-inch TV, you’ll have eyesight like Mr Magoo by the end of E1M1.
Given the development drama, Doom for the 3DO is probably better than expected but this was a rushed port of an already old game. It didn’t help at the time that the technically (and critically) superior PlayStation port had already been out a year by the time this hit the shelves. 3DO owners had very little to shout about. Could it have been better? Of course, but if it had landed in 1994, people would have compared it to the Jag/32X/SNES ports, rather than the much better PlayStation release. It also needed a longer period of development but money talked.
Doom for the 3DO is a testament to publisher hubris and sheer coding skill and effort. It’s a curio rather than an essential game to play but it should still be in your 3DO collection. Why? To appreciate both the story behind its creation and Doom as a console title. It’s complete pants, but you have to give it a go just to see how bad things could get.
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It’s a poor port of a great game, the responsibility of which lies purely at the feet of the publisher. A wasted opportunity.
Quiet guy enjoying videogames (both retro and modern), military history, historical wargaming, sci-fi and fantasy. Run my own blog at tantobieinternettattler.blogspot.com which covers most of my hobbies and interests.